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China - Africa Relations

2004/01/01

Both China and Africa were origins of human civilization, and both have made positive contributions to the advancement and progress of human society. Although separated by vast oceans, China and Africa have had close friendship since ancient times. China and Africa began direct contacts by sea route as early as in the 7th century. Since then, trade and cultural exchanges between China and Africa have expanded. In the 15th century, Zheng He, a well-known Chinese navigator, led fleets to the east coast of Africa four times, and visited places where Somalia and Kenya are located today. Chinese envoys introduced China to Africa, broadened their knowledge about Africa and the African people, and set up friendly ties with the African people. As Teobaldo Filesi, a western historian put it in his book China and Africa in the Middle Ages (published in 1972), the visits paid by the Chinese fleet testified that the Chinese were not invaders, and they did not impose their ideas upon others. After these voyages, envoys from a number of African countries also visited China.
China and Africa shared similar experiences in modern and contemporary history, both having suffered from invasion, plunder and enslavement by colonialists. Therefore, the Chinese people and the people of Africa have all along given sympathy and support to each other in their struggles against colonialism and for national independence and liberation. A profound friendship has thus been cemented. The birth of new China in 1949 opened up a new chapter in Sino-African relations. Since 1950s and 1960s, a great number of newly independent African countries have established diplomatic relations with China, and Sino-African relationship has ushered into a new era of all-round development.
The friendship between China and Africa was jointly forged and nurtured by leaders of the older generation of China and Africa in the course of long-term mutual sympathy, understanding, help and support. In the past half century, under the care of the leaders of several generations from both sides, this friendship has remained unchanged and our cooperation has further deepened despite fluctuations in the international situation and the tremendous changes in our respective countries. Since 1950s, the Chinese government and people have shown deep sympathy and given firm moral and material support to the African people in their struggles to win and maintain national independence, have actively voiced their support to the just cause of their brothers in Africa, and have trained large numbers of personnel for Africa who later became the mainstay in the struggle for national independence. Some of them continued to play an important role in domestic and international arena after independence. Although China had great difficulties in its own economy and suffered blockade and pressure from the imperialists, it offered to African countries a lot of selfless assistance including over 700 engineering projects. The most well-known project was the Tanzania-Zambia Railway. Under the heat of the burning sun, the engineering staff from China, Tanzania and Zambia together overcame tremendous difficulties and built this railway which stretches for 1860 kilometers. It is called “the road to freedom”. This road not only promoted the development of the local economy, but also played an important role in the national liberation movement and anti-apartheid struggle in Southern Africa. Over 100 engineering and technical staff members from China sacrificed their precious lives for this project. The Tanzania-Zambia Railway has become a monument to Sino-African friendship.
In the past 50 years, China and Africa have maintained close political relations through frequent exchanges of high level visits. Our mutual understanding and trust have been enhanced, and our friendly cooperation has yielded abundant fruits. So far, heads of state from more than 50 African countries and heads of government from over 20 African countries have paid more than 200 visits to China. The successive leaders of China have all attached great importance to the development of friendly relations between China and African countries. They and the leaders from Africa have exchanged friendly visits, treated each other with sincerity, cemented profound friendship between them, and made positive contributions to the promotion of Sino-African friendly relations and cooperation.
Late Chinese leaders including Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Mr. Deng Xiaoping all regarded Africa as of great importance to China. They often met with visiting leaders and delegations from Africa. In 1960, when Chairman Mao Zedong met with the delegation of 12 African countries, he said that hundreds of millions of Chinese people wish to express absolute sympathy and support to the African people for their brave struggle against imperialism and colonialism. In 1974, Chairman Mao Zedong put forward the theory of the “three worlds” in his meeting with the then Zambian President Kaunda. In the 1960s, late Premier Zhou Enlai visited Africa three times. His first visit to Africa at the end of 1963 and the beginning of 1964 was applauded as a trip “seeking friendship, peace and knowledge”. His delegation were accorded with warm welcome and hospitality everywhere they went, leaving with us pictures of so many moving moments. During that visit, Premier Zhou Enlai elaborated on the five principles of China in developing its relations with African and Arab countries, and put forward the eight principles in foreign aid of the Chinese government. These principles later became the guiding principles for China in handling its relations with African countries, offering economic assistance, and carrying out economic and technological cooperation. The late Chinese leader Mr. Deng Xiaoping devoted a great deal of attention to the development and progress of African countries and other developing countries. During his meetings with late President Nyrere, President Mugabe, President Chissano, President Dos Santos, President Museveni and other African leaders and delegations from Africa, Mr. Deng shared with them both the positive and the negative experiences of China in its revolution movements and nation building. He encouraged African countries to search for their own political system and path of development suited to their own respective national conditions and to avoid blind copying of other countries’ models.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Africa four times, during which he made a number of important comments and suggestions on issues such as how to strengthen Sino-African relations in the new era. The incumbent Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Africa twice when he was Vice President. Former Chinese leaders including Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Mr. Li Peng, Premier of the State Council Mr. Zhu Rongji, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Mr. Li Ruihuan, and others all paid many visits to Africa. State Councilor Mr. Tang Jiaxuan made 9 trips to Africa when he was the Foreign Minister, covering as many as 29 African countries.  
In the economic field, both China and African countries belong to the developing world and face the common task of developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood. Our economies are highly complementary to each other. In the new situation, the mutually beneficial Sino-African economic and trade cooperation is showing good momentum. Gratifying results have been achieved in the further expanded and more diversified cooperation. In the fields of South-South cooperation and in efforts to change the current irrational international economic order, we share common views on many issues and have a sound basis for good cooperation.
The cooperation between China and Africa in the fields of culture, education and health has also achieved satisfactory results. By the end of 2002, the Chinese Government had signed with 45 African countries cultural agreements and 118 implementation plans for cultural exchange. China has offered scholarships to 12384 students from 50 African countries. In 2002, 1646 African students were studying in China. Inter-college contacts have been established between 18 Chinese universities and 27 universities in over 19 African countries. 520 Chinese teachers have worked in Africa and have students all over the continent. Over 15,000 Chinese medical workers have worked in 47 African countries and regions since the first dispatch of them arrived in Algeria in 1963. They have treated more than 170 million cases, and have been praised as the “angels in white”. 30 hospitals have been built in Africa with Chinese assistance.
China and African countries have always supported each other and cooperated closely with each other in international affairs. We don't have any problems between us left over from history. What we have between us are the common strategic interests. We share identical or similar positions on many major international and regional issues. In the UN and other international arena, we have always maintained consultations, cooperated closely, and have worked together to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the developing countries. Since the 1990s western countries headed by the United States have interfered in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of the so called human rights issue. With the support of many African countries and other developing countries, China has defeated ten times the anti-China resolutions tabled by some western countries at the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Chinese Government and people will never forget about the support offered to us by the African governments and peoples. We have, on our part, spared no efforts in supporting and helping Africa. For all issues involving African interests, China has always taken into consideration and given support to the views and positions of African countries. China has actively carried out its cooperation with the African Union and other regional organizations in Africa, and supported their efforts in seeking stability and development in Africa through the implementation of NEPAD (“New Partnership for Africa’s Development”).




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