|China: Adding momentum to its Africa's policy|
By Charles Onunaiju
China's new leader, Mr. Xi Jinping elected early this month, by the country's supreme state organ, the National People's Congress has just flagged off his first state visit, a nine-day trip that would take in, four countries in two continents. The Chinese president has already touched down in Russia's capital Moscow where he met with President Vladmir Putin.
From available reports, both president Jinping and Putin have met and re-affirm
their commitment to international legality and upholding of the charter of the United Nations as the foundation of international intercourse.
Apart from affirming the traditional friendship that has existed between Beijing and Moscow, the two sides pledged to work together to improve international detente, strengthen their bilateral ties in the areas of trade, commercial co-operation and investment promotion.
China and Russia trade currently stands at about 60 billion U.S dollars. President Xi Jinping will from Moscow move straight to Durban, in South Africa to attend the fifth meeting of BRICS group, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. From South Africa, the Chinese leader will visit Tanzania and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) before returning to Beijing.
In Tanzania, president Xi Jinping will make a major speech, outlining and elaborating China's Africa policy. What is remarkable from China's leader first foreign tour is that Africa is clearly a priority in Beijing foreign policy and the new government unveiled just less than two weeks ago, is not letting up on the momentum of Sino-Africa co-operation, that was instituted through the mechanism of the China-Africa co-operation Forum (FOCAC) in 2000.
The mechanism or process of the FOCAC has established regular contacts at all levels of leadership interactions between China and Africa. The process which has produced astounding results in the strategic fields of trade, economic and political co-operation has seen China emerging as Africa largest trading partner with a staggering sum of 166 billion U.S dollars and set to grow in future. Political co-operation has resulted in the establishment of strategic partnership and the institution of political consultative mechanisms with several Africa countries to co-ordinate common positions on key international issues. At a regional level, China has played key role in enhancing the institutional capacity of the Africa Union (AU), and is currently involved in developing key infrastructure for intra-regional links and contacts. Last year at the fifth session of the FOCAC forum in Beijing, the then Chinese president, Hu Jintao, announced a 20 billion U.S dollar to support Africa countries.
As president Xi Jinping makes his way to Africa in his first visit to the continent China's newly appointed special envoy to Africa, Ambassador Zhong Jianhua has been on ground in the continent, engaged in what he called a frank dialogue in which he listens to African voices and at the same time, explains Beijing's African policy. At a press conference in Abuja, the special envoy in company of China's energetic ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Deng Boqing said that China's African policy is anchored on mutual respect and reciprocity, and disagreed with any suggestion that China/Africa relation has any "whiff of colonialism" as disingenuously suggested by the Nigeria's central bank governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in a short article he wrote for the London-based Financial Times newspaper. Mr. Sanusi has written in the article that "the days of the non-Align movement (NAM) that united us (African and China) after colonialism are gone.
Curiously, it seems that Mr. Sanusi Lamido did not even know that China never belonged to the non-aligned movement. From the founding of modern China in 1949, chairman Mao Zedong crafted its basic international outlook, which is based on "leaning on one side" and that is strictly taking side with the socialist camp led then by the Soviet Union which opposed colonialism, imperialism and big power bullying the small. Even after the Sino-soviet spilt in the 1970s and 1980s, China did not become non-aligned as it firmly opposed U.S and western imperialism, which while also denouncing what it called the social imperialism of the then Soviet Union.
Mr. Sanusi further wrote that "China takes our primary goods and sells to us manufactured ones, and that to him constitute "the essence of colonialism." After all according to him, "the British went to Africa and India to secure raw material…" Colonialism is not particularly innocuous as Mr. Sansi has sought to treat it, and except to justify his "whiff of colonialism" in Africa-China current relation, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Sanusi want to characterize Europe's violent and brutal colonial engagement with Africa as a mere 'love affair'. However, Sanusi warn of 'a romantic view of China' that is common in Africa is in order. However, while Africa is permitted to view China favorably, it is more appropriate to develop a policy paradigm to engage with China.
President Xi Jinping first foreign tour which takes him to three African countries in what is arguably his longest stay abroad since his election to the presidency at the beginning of the month is very significant. Last year, Egypt's president Mursi, went to China in his first foreign tour after election and Beijing's vigorous engagement with Africa and its determination to deepen it, comes in the symbolic visit of not just Africa, but its hearth land, the sub-saharan Africa, by the Chinese new leader. In contrast, the U.S president, Mr. Obama, whose Africa ancestry, evoked so much passion in the continent in his earlier four-year mandate made only a one stop-over visit to Ghana and in his second term, has indicated Washington's foreign policy priority with a visit to the Mid- East, where he proclaimed U.S 'eternal' bond with Israel. In addition, he managed to repair the long fractured relation between Israel and Turkey, restoring the hotline between Ankara and Jerusalem.
On the other hand, while the Chinese leader toil under the African sun to deepen engagement and co-operation with the continent in first ever foreign tour as president, Washington's middle cadre African policy minder, Mr. Johnnie Carson issues threats and rebuttals to the continent from his cool sanctuary in Washington through video conference, having earlier warned Kenyans to mind whom they vote in their presidential elections as their choice would carry 'consequences'. In a historic assertion of their sovereign rights to vote their leaders, Kenyans voted the Jubilee Alliance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictees, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, the duo that Washington has earlier threatened them to avoid.
As former premier of state council of China, Mr. Wen Jiabao said in his speech at the 4th ministerial conference of heads of states and government of China-Africa co-operation (FOCAC) in Sharma-el-Sheikh, Egypt in 2009, "whatever changes may take place in the world, our friendship with Africa will not change, our commitment to deepening mutually beneficial co-operation and achieving common development will not change". True to words, the Chinese new leadership has taken up the mantle of deepening co-operation with Africa, and president Xi's visit to the continent in his first ever foreign tour as Chinese leader has indicated Beijing's 'eternal' bond to Africa. China's new foreign minister, Mr. Wang Yi is a tested African hand, in spite of having been Chinese ambassador to Japan for five year. Mr. Wang Yi once served as a director of African affairs in the China's ministry of foreign affairs. With the first leg of his seminal foreign tour in Moscow followed in a quick stretch of the second leg to Africa, Beijing-African relation is set experience a warm spring for a long foreseeable future.