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New world order

Updated: 2013-02-22 11:35
By He Jingtong ( China Daily)

Sino-African relations are not just mutually beneficial, they are a sign of coming change

The increasing influence of African countries is testament to the continued growth of bilateral trade between China and Africa. In turn, this has prompted China to focus on the revival of the African economy, politics and people's livelihood.

In addition to maintaining their traditional bilateral cooperation, China is now more poised to cooperate with the African continent as a whole. A mutually beneficial and interactive cooperation pattern has formed, ushering the traditional friendship between the two into a new era.

In recent years, the rise of the African Union has provided a direct and unified platform for deepening the mutual political trust between China and African countries. As the main driving force of African integration, the AU plays an increasingly important role in regional affairs, and has been drawing increasing attention for the similar role it plays with the international community.

China is active in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and has been helping the AU play a big role in the forum as well as actively exploring new means of cooperation with Africa's regional organizations.

In the long term, China also supports the leadership of the AU and other important African regional organizations in the African renaissance, and is intensifying its efforts to cooperate with them in order to safeguard its strategic interests. China is also paying attention to its relationship with regional African organizations in the United Nations and other international platforms.

In this context, the AU, the Southern African Development Community, the Economic Community of West African States and other African regional organizations are increasingly keen to become not just the main recipients of Chinese aid and development cooperation, but also organizers and leaders during the development process. Therefore, they very much hope that China attaches great importance and concern to their roles in the African renaissance.

The economy and people's livelihoods are two important areas of cooperation between China and African countries. They fit the region's economic development needs, and are also areas where China's economic growth can magnify its advantage.

The AU report clearly pointed out that poor infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports, aviation and communications is a major bottleneck restricting African regional integration and economic growth.

Although Western countries have been aiding Africa for 40 years, poor infrastructure still plagues the development of African countries. China is becoming an important partner of Africa in this area; the past 12 years have seen China construct infrastructure in many African countries. This has greatly improved the situation there, which is also conducive to regional integration in Africa.

In comparison, cooperation between the European Union and the African Union is focused on peace and security. Although trade, the Millennium Development Goals, energy and climate change are mentioned in the action plan of the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, such cooperation has been inevitably ignored, so strategic cooperation between Africa and Europe seems to come out of concern for European security but not for Africa's development and African security.

During the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC in 2012, China announced that in the next three years the Chinese government will expand its cooperation in African investment and finance and provide the impetus for sustainable development in Africa.

China will provide a $20 billion line of credit to African countries, focusing on support for African infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. This shows that China is now taking practical action to promote the African renaissance.

Current China-Africa cooperation is of great global significance. African countries are also raising their expectations, hoping the rapid development of China can benefit the African renaissance, and that China will play a greater role on the international stage to help African countries maintain their political and economic interests.

As a developing country, China can put itself in the same shoes as African countries. China's foreign policy, international reputation and economic strength can be used as assets to address current international issues, so that the two sides can support each other in the international arena.

China can also speed up its economic development by resorting to Africa's resources and markets. With the support of African countries as a whole, China can balance or even offset Western countries' influence in many areas, so as to ease the structural contradictions between China's emergence and the existing world order. Currently, the deepening China-Africa relations have greatly shaken the international order established by Western powers.

The international political balance has begun to change, and Europe and the US can no longer expect their relations with Africa to revert to the old pattern. African leaders view China as a "trump card" to ensure their position in the new world order, and use China to express their confidence, sometimes even as a form of revenge for past European oppression. African's dependent status in the international political situation is undergoing historic change.

China's economic influence has weakened the monopolistic interests of the Western powers that have existed in Africa for hundreds of years. Driven by the economic cooperation between China and Africa, Africa is more valuable than ever, which has led many African countries to look east.

The author is a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin, who specializes in China-Africa political and trade policies. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(China Daily 02/22/2013 page7)

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