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Sharing the gains of cooperation

Updated: 2013-08-30 13:05
By By Pu Zhendong ( China Daily)

 Sharing the gains of cooperation

Liu Guijin, former Chinese diplomat and leading expert on African affairs, says that the Chinese government will continue to increase its input in Africa. Provided to China Daily

Sharing the gains of cooperation

Chinese enterprises must forge closer links with African communities to ensure sustained growth

Sharing benefits with the local communities and being more involved in local activities are the best strategies for Chinese companies to ensure sustained gains in Africa, says a former Chinese diplomat and leading expert on African affairs.

Liu Guijin, China's former ambassador to Zimbabwe and South Africa and current president of the Asia-Africa Society of China, says mutual benefits and win-win results should be the cornerstones of all Chinese economic activities in Africa.

"Even in a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship, there is still the problem of who gets more and who gets less," he says, adding that it is important for Chinese business communities to device projects that significantly improve the economic well-being of local people.

Liu, who retired last year after a diplomatic career of more than 40 years, was also the special representative of the Chinese government on African affairs. He has handled several important assignments in Africa, with the most notable being his role as special envoy of the Chinese government in Darfur in 2007.

"As the special representative of China in Africa, I was responsible for clarifying China's stance on several important topics of interest, mostly through public diplomacy and conflict mediation measures. It was not only a reflection of China's new diplomatic stance in Africa, but also of the way forward," Liu says.

During his six-year stint as the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Liu says he had several opportunities to meet and talk to former president Nelson Mandela.

"Mandela knew so much about China and was one of the visionaries who had anticipated China's success in the long run. For him, China's success was an inspiration to the anti-suppression and anti-racism movements that were sweeping Africa in the 1990s," Liu says.

"Africa needs more of the Mandela spirit, which upholds ethnic tolerance and reconciliation, and persuades people to leave hatred behind and forge ahead," he says.

In July, Liu led a five-member Chinese delegation to Zimbabwe to observe the country's presidential election, won by the incumbent President Robert Mugabe. Liu says that after visiting 60 polling booths, the Chinese team was convinced that the election process was fair.

"Based on the information collected from people on the ground, we can safely say that the entire process was peaceful and without any major wrongdoing," he says.

"The peaceful and non-violent elections in Kenya, Mali and Zimbabwe have all reflected the growing determination of African nations to pursue peace and development in a democratic manner."

China in July also sent a 395-member peacekeeping force to Mali. The peacekeepers have been tasked with repairing roads and bridges, and ensuring peace and stability along with medical assistance.

This mission marked China's 30th UN peacekeeping mission and the first to Africa since the country started sending peacekeepers in 1989. To date, China has been the largest troop and police contributor among UN member states.

"The international community expects China, the world's second-largest economy and permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, to play a much bigger and more pro-active role in Africa," Liu says.

According to Liu, China should consider sending more combat troops to Africa within the UN framework, given the mounting demand for peacekeepers and local countries' reluctance to accept troops from the West.

Liu says robust trade, expanding investment and service contracts between China and Africa have led to growth rates in excess of 20 percent in Africa during the past decade. China has been Africa's largest trade partner since 2009, with bilateral trade volumes hitting $200 billion in 2012. China's direct investment in Africa had soared to $20 billion by the end of 2012.

President Xi Jinping had earlier this year said in a speech in Tanzania that China and Africa have always been places with a shared destiny.

"China and Africa share similar anti-invasion experiences in history, face similar development challenges and have always supported each other firmly on issues of core interest," Liu says.

"The Chinese government will continue to increase its input to Africa, but it should also be noted that small and medium-sized enterprises are gradually becoming major actors within Sino-African relations, which are more complicated than before," he says.

Liu says there is too much attention paid to China's economic activities in Africa by the Western world, which often perceives Africa as a strategic backyard and China as a latecomer and a challenger to their vested interests.

"Europe, due to its convenient geographic position and historic connections, has always been a traditional power in Africa. The United States has of late been backing Africa, as it fears that an Africa in chaos would become another haven for terrorism. Japan, which wants to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is increasing its stake in Africa to canvass support," Liu says.

"The US and Europe are not at all comfortable with China's stance of non-interference in African internal affairs."

China has been expanding slowly in Africa, with Sino-African trade volume still limited and unbalanced. Liu says that the current economic climate gives enough room to strengthen relations between the two sides.

"China is considering transferring its excess capacity overseas due to rising labor costs. This provides Africa a favorable opportunity to realize its industrialization goals," Liu says.

"Chinese business communities should consider more investments in Africa, where despite the small market and inadequate laws, the average rate of return is over 36 percent, much higher than many developed nations".

Liu, however, feels that China should not transfer industries that are characterized by high-energy consumption, high contamination and high emissions to Africa, as this would destroy the continent's fragile environment and result in local resentment.

"Excess capacity is not something that is restricted to manufacturing. Emerging industries like photovoltaic are also facing excess capacity issues," Liu says.

"what Africa needs is technology and sustainable development."


(China Daily Africa Weekly 08/30/2013 page32)

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