Although China-Africa relations and economic cooperation between the two parts of the world have been developing in a healthy and stable way, some fuss-makers in the West tend to point their fingers and make irresponsible remarks from time to time. The fact is, the people who watch China-Africa relationship closely and academics studying China and Africa in the West seem to outnumber their counterparts in China and Africa, the former's number of published works surpassing that in China and Africa combined and the influence covering almost the entire world.
Although there are some relatively objective works, some of the western authors distort the facts by "looking at things through colored spectacles" with the inherent "mindset". Consequently, China and African countries are in urgent need of strengthening joint researches. By using first-hand materials and facts, we can work together to repudiate the false accusations from the West. In this way, China and Africa will help the world learn more about them and help themselves better understand their own selves and each other, at the same time.
Compared with the trade and economic exchanges between China and Africa, the bilateral academic research and cultural exchanges have lagged behind. Geographic distance, inaccessibility in the past and numerous internal or external factors in the modern times have placed restraints on the frequency and scope of China-Africa exchanges and the two sides are still not quite familiar with each other even today. While the majority of the Chinese people still see Africa as what it was decades ago, the African people's notion of China is kind of hazy and conceptual.
At present, both China and Africa have a number of experts and academics who focus on China-Africa relations and conduct researches on each other. However they are scattered and have not joined their forces. Institutions or individuals carrying out joint researches are still rare on either side. This is the major reason for the lack of quantity and quality in researches on the two sides.
Then again, constrained by the circumstances, Chinese and African scholars have little opportunity to conduct in-depth and on-site studies on each other. Take the Chinese side for example, almost all the researchers have to rely on second-hand or third-hand materials in their African studies for having not the means to get in touch with the dynamic changes in Africa and having to put up with the roundabout way over a long period of time.
Talking about his trip to China, South African tourist Astrid Men said, "I prepared for 30 years for my trip to China, having tried to understand everything about the country through reading. However when I really arrived there, I found I only knew so little about China." When even a tourist has feelings like that, let alone the researchers. Taking this as a starting point, China and Africa should join forces in their studies, upgrade the out of dated approaches and elevate the level of the studies.
In addition, funding has always been a sticky issue for the China-Africa relation researches, which happens to be an extremely urgent problem needing solution by researchers on the two sides. Premier Wen Jiabao proposed to launch a China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Program on the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and it will provide a new platform for the exchanges between Chinese and African academics and think-tanks and a powerful financial support to China-Africa joint researches, which will integrate the collective wisdom of Chinese and African scholars. China and Africa need to strengthen joint research to achieve academic results of high quality in the future. Basing on this and with appropriate publicity, the Chinese and African researchers should make concerted efforts to enhance the importance of China-African academic research in the world and have a bigger say in international affairs and a stronger voice on China-Africa relations and China and Africa issues.
Author: Li Xinfeng
Researcher of Institute of West Asian and African Studies
ChineseAcademyof Social Sciences
Source: Global Times
31st March 2010