|China's Aid to Africa: Enters Institutionalized New Stage|
By Zhang Haibing
Looking back, China's aid to Africa has featured differently in different stages along with the changes of times and international environment. Such staged features reflect the international environment of the time on the one hand, and on the other, are closely associated with China's development in itself.
1. Early Stage (1956-1978)
The early stage of China's aid to Africa began on 30th May, 1956 when China established diplomatic relations with Egypt, and ended towards the end of 1970s. In this stage, China rendered gratuitous aid to African countries with political concerns as top priority, newly independent African countries as main aid objects, infrastructural constructions like Friendship Palaces and Gymnasiums as the way of aid. From the very beginning, China attaches great importance to "equality", "mutual respect of each other's sovereignty" and "no strings attached" in providing aid to Africa, which laid down the long-term foundation for the value of Chinese aid to Africa. Between 1963 and 1965, Premier Zhou Enlai paid three visits to Africa and put forward the Five Principles for international relations between China, African and Arabic countries and Eight Principles for China's aid to other countries, which have since become the core of China's foreign aid policy.
2. Exploring and Adjustment Stage (1978-1990)
The Reform and Opening up policies implemented since 1978 have created positive and profound impact on China's domestic development and relations with the international community. China has accumulated increasingly more experiences in self-development, and so in the ways of aid to Africa, paying growing attention to building Africa's self-development capability at that time. The ways of aid to Africa and kinds of projects were diversified. For example, gratuitous gifts, interest-free loans, interest subsidy loans, technical assistance, project construction, whole plant construction, expertise guidance, labour service, personnel training, technical training, etc. gradually became the ways of aid and cooperation. Both the needs for African countries' development and experiences of China's exploration and development are taken into account, reflecting flexibility and compatibility in China's Africa aid. On the one hand, aid sources to Africa were expanded; and on the other, the width and depth of the all-round China-Africa cooperation were broadened and deepened in an effective manner. In the early 1980s, China presented Four Principles for cooperation with African countries in terms of economic and technological cooperation, i.e. "equality, mutual benefit, diversity, effectiveness, and common development", which have since become the guiding doctrine in China's aid to Africa.
3. Comprehensive Reform Stage(1990-2000)
Since 1990s, with all-round advancement of the reforms of its economic system, China has also carried out comprehensive reforms in foreign aid strategy. China's aid to Africa entered a new stage of reform and policy adjustment, focusing on diversifying the sources and means of funding. In 1993, the Chinese government set up the foreign aid fund for joint ventures and cooperation projects with part of interest-free loans being repaid to China by developing countries. The fund was chiefly used to support China's small and medium-sized firms to build joint ventures or enter into cooperation with the recipient countries in production and operation areas. In 1995, China effectively expanded the source of foreign aid funding by providing developing countries with medium-and-long-term low-interest preferential loans via Import and Export Bank of China. Meanwhile, China began giving greater attention to supporting capability building of the recipient countries, enlarging the technical training scale constantly. Recipient countries' officials taking training in China gradually became an important part in the human resources development cooperation between China and other developing countries.
4. Institutionalized Stage(2000-)
In 2000, China's aid to Africa entered a new stage of institutionalized development, with the establishment of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). China's African Policy and China's Foreign Aid were released in 2006 and April 2011 respectively. These noticeable documents are symbols that China's aid to Africa is entering a new stage of institutionalization and system construction. FOCAC is an effective mechanism for China and friendly African countries to have collective consultation and dialogue, and offers a long-term and permanent institutionalized platform for the ways of aid, with promoting Africa's economic development as the core. Since the FOCAC establishment, the Chinese government has issued a series of policies, measures and documents concerning China's aid to Africa, with the "Three Pointed Proposals", "Four Principles", "Five Pointed Measures" and "Eight Pointed Measures" as core contents. The "Three Pointed Proposals" explains in detail the four guiding principles for the development of China-Africa cooperation; the "Five Pointed Measures" are the specific implementation plan for the Three Pointed Proposals and Four Principles; the "Eight Pointed Measures" were put forward in 2006 and 2009 respectively, aiming to advancing the development of new China-Africa strategic partnership and promoting China-Africa cooperation on a larger scale, in a wider scope and at higher levels. The principles, proposals and measures have all come to formulate an organic and continuous entirety.
(The author is Director of World Economy Institution of Institute of International Studies of Shanghai)