The 8th Senior Officials Meeting of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on October 26 and October 27 this year. On the eve of this event, Xinhua News Agency reporter interviewed Lu Shaye, Secretary-General of Chinese Follow-Up Committee of FOCAC and Director-General of Department of African Affairs at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Lu Shaye, at the turn of the century, China and friendly African countries jointly established FOCAC to actively respond to global changes and developments, strengthen traditional China-Africa friendship and facilitate cooperation for mutual benefits. In the eleven years since then, FOCAC has witnessed four Ministerial Conferences and one Summit, as well as the establishment of ministerial meetings, political consultations between Chinese and African foreign ministers at the United Nations General Assembly, senior officials meetings, consultations between the Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-Up Committee of FOCAC and African diplomatic envoys to China etc. These multi-level and multi-layer dialogue mechanisms have formed an all-round cooperation framework covering political, economic, social, cultural and other areas, and they have become an important platform for China-Africa collective dialogues and effective mechanism for pragmatic cooperation between both sides. In the meantime, FOCAC results have become convincingly demonstrative, driving the international community to focus on and invest more in Africa. FOCAC has become a great example for cooperation with Africa within the international community.
The upcoming 8th Senior Officials Meeting of FOCAC is an important one, as it will make a mid-term review on implementing the consensus of the 4th Ministerial Conference held in 2009, and make preparations for the 5th Ministerial Conference to be held next year. This is also the first important meeting to be held by the Chinese side in a city other than Beijing. The meeting will be attended by senior officials from China and 50 African FOCAC member countries, representatives from African Union Commission and certain African regional organizations, as well as African diplomatic envoys to China. The two co-chairpersons of the Chinese Follow-Up Committee, Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun and Deputy Commerce Minister Fu Ziying, will attend and address the opening ceremony and closing ceremony respectively. Currently, various preparations for the meeting are mostly completed. With the joint efforts of China and Africa as well as strong support and cooperation from Zhejiang province, the meeting will be a great success, Lu Shaye said.
He noted the 4th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC was held successfully in November 2009 at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. At the conference, Premier Wen Jiabao announced eight new measures to fully strengthen China-Africa pragmatic cooperation on behalf of the Chinese government. These measures cover climate change, environmental protection, debt relief, investment promotion, market access expansion, agriculture, science and technology, medical care and educational cooperation and other areas, broadly outlining the future direction and key areas of China-Africa relations under the new circumstances. In the past two years under the joint efforts of China and Africa, the implementation of the consensus of the 4th Ministerial Conference has been moving forward steadily, and having achieved some initial results.
1. China-Africa exchanges on various levels are becoming more frequent, and political mutual trust has been steadily enhanced. Since Premier Wen Jiabao attended the 4th Ministerial Conference and visited Egypt in November 2009, other top Chinese leaders of state and party such as Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Hui Liangyu, Wang Qishan and Dai Bingguo have subsequently visited Africa, while 29 African heads of state or government, 8 parliament speakers and 16 vice presidents or vice prime ministers have visited China or come to China to attend important events. Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi continues to follow the tradition of making Africa the first destination of his overseas visits each year and has visited 10 African countries in two years, while 28 African foreign ministers have visited China. The various forms of consultations and dialogues between China and Africa continue to be increased. The second round of political consultations between Chinese and African foreign ministers at the United Nations General Assembly was held successfully in September 2010. China has conducted two strategic dialogues and one diplomatic policy consultation with the African Union. China has also completed strategic dialogues or political consultations at foreign ministry level with 8 African countries. Similarly, China has held meetings at joint economic and trade commission level with 14 African countries. The exchanges between Chinese and African legislatures, political parties and local governments have been gaining momentum as well.
2. China and Africa continue to support and coordinate with each other on issues concerning their key interests as well as major global and regional issues. China consistently supports African countries on their right to choose their own development paths and on their quest for unity, self-improvement and integration, and China continues to be a strong advocate for African interests on various international occasions. China actively participates in global economic governance, and through concrete actions, helps developing countries, especially African countries, to improve their capacity for self-reliant development and promote resolution of North-South economic imbalance. Similarly, African countries consistently and firmly support China in its positions and propositions on issues concerning Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights. When faced with natural disasters and special difficulties, China and Africa always lend each other a helping hand in the most prompt manner. After China's Yushu and Zhouqu were hit by natural disasters, many African countries immediately expressed their deep sympathy and compassion, and supported China's relief efforts in various ways. The Horn of Africa is suffering a severe drought and famine recently. In response, China quickly delivered donations worth a total of RMB 443.2 million, which was the single largest grain donation to foreign countries ever delivered by Chinese government since the founding of the People's Republic.
3. Implementation of the FOCAC follow-up actions focusing on the eight new measures has seen steady progress. Among initiatives in the new measures, debt cancellations, tariff exemptions, preferential loans and special loans for small and medium-sized African enterprises have been completed one after another. Initiatives such as dispatch of agricultural technology teams to Africa, construction of agricultural demonstration centers and China-Africa friendship schools, donations of medical equipment and anti-malaria supplies are currently moving forward smoothly. China and Africa continue to strengthen their dialogues and cooperation on climate change, with China actively pushing forward on 100 clean-energy projects for Africa. China continues to increase its assistance to Africa. From the end of 2009 to August 2011, China delivered 113 end-to-end projects, 137 batches of supplies and 13 cash donations to African countries, and launched 66 technical cooperation projects. China-Africa trade volume again surpassed 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, and reached 79 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of this year, growing by 29.1% over the previous year. China's investment in Africa has grown rapidly, and Africa is the fourth largest investment destination for China. In the last two years, China also helped to train 12,950 professionals of various fields for Africa, contributing to African countries' initiative to strengthen their own capacity of self-reliant development.
4. China-Africa people-to-people exchanges have yielded remarkable results and China-Africa friendship has scaled to a new height. China-Africa cultural exchanges and cooperation are moving ahead rapidly, highlighted by a series of programs known as "Focusing on Culture". China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Program is moving forward smoothly, and China-Africa academic exchanges and cooperation are booming as well. China-Africa University 20+20 Cooperation Program has been launched, while one-to-one intercollegiate exchanges and cooperation are also expanding. China-Africa Youth Leadership Forum and China-Africa People's Forum have been held successfully, providing an effective platform for exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and African youths and non-government organizations. During the academic years of 2010 and 2011, China provides 5,710 government scholarships to African countries, fulfilling the pledge of 5,500 scholarships announced by China at the 4th Ministerial Conference two years ahead of schedule. China opens more Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in Africa, numbering a total of 28 and spreading to 21 African countries. Currently, 27 African countries have become overseas destinations for Chinese tourists groups, with the number of visitors rising rapidly on both sides.
In addition, FOCAC has continued to make new progress in building dialogue mechanisms in the last two years, with various dialogue and consultation mechanisms running efficiently and smoothly. A series of China-Africa forums on agriculture, laws, youths, people and think-tanks have been launched one after another under FOCAC framework, some of which have been institutionalised. These forums further expanded and enriched the cooperation between China and Africa. In 2010, on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of FOCAC, China and Africa held high-profile celebrations, applauding FOCAC's important role in promoting China-Africa relations, and set forth new goals and expectations for its future development.
Lu Shaye pointed out the next key step for FOCAC is to complete all follow-up actions for the 4th Ministerial Conference on time while meeting all qualitative and quantitative goals, so as to present a satisfactory report of achievement to the Chinese and African peoples at the next Ministerial Conference. As FOCAC is moving into its second decade, the question of how to further solidify and expand the results of FOCAC and how to improve the role of FOCAC in guiding the development of China-Africa relations, are now important issues facing both China and Africa. With new developments in the international landscape, we need to respond to the new issues and new challenges facing China-Africa relations, explore new ideas and new measures to the development of FOCAC and make full use of the energy and creativity of both China and Africa and thus jointly build FOCAC into a reliable mechanism for strengthening of China-Africa political mutual trust, a major engine for developing pragmatic cooperation and a bridge for expanding people-to-people exchanges with the view to promoting the new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa.