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Joys of a relationship with no strings

Updated: 2013-06-14 11:04
By Zhang Qizuo ( China Daily)

African ventures give a fillip to the continent and enhance China's Global image

China's growing engagements in Africa have helped create a strong alliance framework for the future and played a key role in espousing its peaceful global development goals.

Though the initial focus of China's engagements in Africa were mostly centered on political and economic interests, it has since become more broad-based and now includes a wide range of areas like poverty alleviation and climate change.

A significant feature of the Chinese assistance to Africa has been the role it has played in creating important and essential infrastructure like bridges, roads, hospitals and other public facilities. By focusing on these types of investments in Africa, China has not only been able to enhance its image and soft power abroad, but also enabled African countries to expand their economic cooperation and sharpen international competitiveness.

China, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has also focused on diplomatic activities and friendly engagements with an emphasis on Africa recently. During the past few decades, many African countries have benefited immensely from China's economic assistance.

China has been providing interest-free or low-interest loans to build basic projects such as roads, power plants, schools, bridges and ports in Africa. These projects have helped many African countries create the broad framework for foreign investment in large-scale infrastructure projects. The programs have also helped create a modern way of life especially for the young people in Africa.

Reliant largely on exports of raw materials to Western nations, the African economy has been searching for solutions to reduce overall costs on the continent. The engagements with China have helped Africa find several new ways to achieve many of these goals. Due to years of excessive urbanization and export-oriented economic policies, many African countries have also struggled to find solutions to poverty challenges.

The Chinese government's agricultural and medical assistance has helped reduce these pressures on several African governments and extended the benefits of the programs to rural areas of Africa.

In terms of political ideology and socio-economic development, China is often seen as a close ally of African countries.

Many African governments and leaders have openly admitted that China is the best possible ally for Africa in the Far East.

For many African leaders, the "China model" is attractive not only because of the foreign direct investment or the expansion of export-oriented industries, but also due to the fact that the assistance comes without any strings attached. Unlike the Western nations, China does not impose any political demands on African nations and is more than willing to help them achieve their industrialization goals.

China's involvement in Africa has been gaining considerably, and this is evident in the broader strategic commitment and economic, geographic engagements between the two sides. The Chinese government this year will focus mainly on African agriculture, market access expansion, climate change, health, education and environmental protection.

Africa has also been a strong supporter of China on the international stage. China's successful bid to host the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is an ideal example of Africa whole-heartedly supporting China during the bidding process.

Yet another important outcome of China's engagements has been the change in global perception that Africa is no longer an under-developed region. China's entry into the African market has been fueled by its desire for sustainable development and not for competition with Western nations.

China and Africa have several complementary advantages, prominent among them being mutual benefit through diversified modes of cooperation.

At the same time due to the weakness in the Western markets, Africa has also been facing several global challenges like the international financial crisis and climate change. These challenges have helped enhance the bonds between China and Africa.

As the most underdeveloped continent, Africa suffers from the increasing adverse global environmental consequences, while China as the largest developing nation also faces the heat.

China's initiative to create a "China-Africa partnership to address climate change" to cooperate with Africa in satellite weather monitoring, development and utilization of new energy sources, desertification prevention and urban environmental protection, are all excellent examples of bilateral consultation and coordination.

China will also help Africa build 100 solar, biogas, and small hydro clean energy projects, so that Africa can move on to a new development path with green energy-saving production methods.

At the same time, Sino-African relations also face many adjustments. Small-scale, low-level projects and even projects that are in direct competition with their African counterparts will be constantly upgraded, while the African economy evolves into maturity.

In addition, the China-African bilateral economic cooperation is being promoted to a broader platform such as the BRICS. China has integrated its African plan into its cooperation with Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa and other emerging market economies.

The recent BRICS summit established a $100 billion contingency reserve fund, and the BRIC countries are negotiating the possibility of a BRICS development bank. These mechanisms will also play a positive role in future China-Africa cooperation.

The author is a professor of economics and vice-president at Chengdu University who specializes in China-Africa trade and investment. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(China Daily Africa Weekly 06/14/2013 page9)

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