“Opportunities of Sino-Africa Cooperation in the New era of China’s development,” being a paper for an international seminar, organized by the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) from the 15th – 19th of January, 2018, in Beijing, P.R China.
China-Africa cooperation and engagement is potentially on the cusp of a new breakthroughs and major leap forward. Its momentum in the past few decades has been steadily accelerating even as the scope has continued to widen. However, the new era of China’s development would undoubtedly mark a game-changing experience in the trajectory of Sino-Africa cooperation, inject it with fresh impetus and vigour and release new vitality with prospects to opening new opportunities in the foremost and pace-setting strand of international cooperation.
China and Africa has already become an exemplary model of international cooperation, absorbing its finest attributes of mutual respect and win-win framework as the dual carriage that propels forward the relationship. The challenges of the engagement are many and varying but are usually engaged through the elaborate framework of consultative and follow-up mechanisms that forms the fabric of Sino-African cooperation.
The current historical turning point of Sino-Africa is corollary of both the specific national condition of China, under by leadership of the Communist Party of China, whose outstanding insight, profound theoretical explorations, derived from the interrogation of the country’s existential realities opened pathway, courageously navigated with the advanced scientific compass ofMarxist-Leninist theory. Africa in the current context of her historic realities brims with opportunities, derived from immerse availability of natural and human resources and externally favoured by an international framework in which China is a major interlocutor. China-Africa cooperation is not just a key strand of contemporary international relations, whose inputs are not only decisive on the global stage but evokes wild scholarly imaginations and even political paranoia in some circles.
The U.S President, Mr. Donald Trump in a major speech on “National security strategy of the U.S, last December, claimed that the reason “we will offer American goods and services,” To Africa is because it is profitable to us and because it serves as an alternative to China’s often extractive economic footprint on the continent.” Notwithstanding, the misjudgment of “extractive economic footprint,” which president Trump alluded to, if United States is led by China’s involvement in Africa, to engage in the continent as a responsible partner for mutually beneficial cooperation, without the usual political grandstanding, then China-Africa cooperation would have succeeded in changing some long-held perspectives about Africa in western policy circles.
However, it’s China’s own transformation from the context of her enigmatic reforms and also the theoretical grasp of the Communist Party of the key fundamental issues of her national reality, that have opened fresh vista of opportunities and challenges for China as a major power in the global arena. In providing context to China current national condition and her impact on the global arena and also the global impact on its domestic condition, the Communist party of China, recently concluded 19th national Congress offered a profound insight to the historical context of the broad national conditions and reality, examined the social content of the existing national contradictions, reached a significant political judgment on historical juncture of the country’s development trajectory, with an outstanding verdict that the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics is on sure-footed transit to a new era. Drawing from the report of the 18th central committee, delivered d by the General Secretary of the party, President Xi Jinping, the 19th national congress in its resolution affirmed not only “that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era,” but also elaborated on the party’s historical mission in the new era and establishes the historical position of Xi Jinping thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.” With the benefit of advanced theory of Marxism-Leninism, for which Rosa Luxemburg, presciently characterized as “a revolutionary worldview that must always struggle for new revelations,” the Communist party of China is historically distinguished for its exploration and innovations, tapping the scientific vigour and the theoretical vitality of the Marxist-Leninist worldview, enriching it with fresh revelation of different historical points and social contexts, establishing a tradition of creative thought for specific condition and time. In a tribute to the revolutionary tradition of fresh insight and thinking to grasp the reality and fact of the specific time, in which the party has struggled and evolved since its founding in 1921, the resolution of the 19th national congress vowed to hold high, the banner of Socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and is guided by Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook of Development and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with the Chinese characteristics for a New Era. These lines of revolutionary thoughts formed a continuum in the collective experience and distilled wisdom of the party in its practical engagement with reality and China’s specific condition to win and advance the course of better life for the Chinese people. The party has interpreted accurately that the current condition to advance the well-being and better life for Chinese people must include the major role on global stage.
In the profuse and in-depth report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC, last October, General Secretary, Xi Jinping explained that the party is “committed to examining ourself in the mirror, tidyng our attire, taking a bath and treating our ailment,” in line with the fine revolutionary tradition in which Rosa Luxemburg adjudged “self-criticism, cruel, unsparing criticism that goes to the very root of evil, as the life and breath for the proletarian movement.” Given insight to the inner strength of the party, General Secretary, Xi Jinping explained that to “have the courage to carry out self-reform and strict governance, is the most distinctive part of our party’s character.” Further highlighting, the inner dynamic of the party and its motive force, the General Secretary noted that “just that there are no bound to practice, there is no end to theoretical exploration. The world is changing with every second, every moment, and China’s too, is changing with every second, every moment.
We must ensure that our theory evolve with times, deepen our appreciation of our objective laws and advance theoretical, practical, institutional, cultural and other explorations,” and emphasized for real effect that “the era is the mother of thought; practice is the fount of theory,” and exhorted that congress that “if we respond to the call of our times and have the courage to uphold truth and correct errors, the Marxism of the 21century China will, without doubt, emanate more mightily, more compelling power of truth.”
To understand the theoretical insight of the worldview of the governing party of China and its method and approach to engaging the reality of its national condition will provide a better and more accurate compass to track and comprehend China’s bold engagement in issue of global development and governance and her predictable stance on key global affairs.
China and Africa cooperation is significant in its evolution from the strategic context of each other’s historical phase in their broad development and have objectively corresponded to the requirements and needs of each side to complement their respective national aggregates. The major characteristic of China-Africa cooperation is the uncommon vigour, transparent sincerity and courage with which the leadership of both sides has invested to drive the objective and complimentary process in the growth and development of the cooperation. Each phase of the cooperation has brought unique insight to address its challenges, uncommon resolve to surmount obstacles and creative imagination to bring and add value to it.
Given an outline to mankind’s common destiny and shared future, General Secretary Xi Jinping in the report to the 19th national congress of the CPC said “the dream of the Chinese people is closely connected with the dreams of the people of other countries: the Chinese dream can be realized in a peaceful international environment and under a stable international order.” He further urged the congress delegates that “we must keep in mind both our internal and international imperative, stay on the path of peaceful development and continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, uphold justice while pursuing shared interests, foster new thinking on common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security…,pursue open, innovative and inclusive development that benefits everyone, boost cross-cultural exchanges characterized by harmony within diversity, inclusiveness and mutual learning, cultivate ecosystems based on respect for nature and green developments,” and added that “China will continue its efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development and uphold international order.”
The new era of China’s development is inextricably linked to new opportunities of integrated global development in which a shared future for humanity is the trend of the time. The implicit political imperative of a common aspiration for global order based on a community with a shared future for mankind is to construct an international governance system driven by wider participation and under the core principles of the United Nations.
In establishing the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era, China and the world is opened to new horizon of immense opportunities. The national content of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era has manifested in the inner strength and vitality of the Communist party of China to drive theoretical innovations, the bolder resolve of the government to deepen reform and launch further structural transformation of the Chinese economy and with greater impetus to advance China’s major country diplomacy in order to shoulder more international responsibilities.
The imperative of China’s major country diplomacy is not the vain pursuit of power and hegemony geared to harass, intimidate or bully nations of lesser endowment on the international circuit. The character and nature of Chinese State under the leadership of a proletarian party does not brook internal social parasitism and therefore would never extrapolate to the world community, a socially malignant state that must depend on predatory plunder abroad through hegemonic designs and imperialist arrogance to maintain its internal character. It is therefore in the social nature of Chinese state under the leadership of the proletarian party of the Communist party of China that the country’s worldview and outlook in the emergence and development of the new era can be studied and understood.
To understand contemporary China as a major power on the global arena, requires a thorough and critical inquiry into the social nature and political orientation of the state as a transitional category, that is evolving and maturing in its proletarian outlook, and only in this specific context, will it be properly understood that no matter and not withstanding its development and eminence in status, China will never become hegemonic, colonialist, imperialist or even a super power. The recent brash academic theory, the so called Thucydides trap, in which a rising China is inevitably locked in conflict with the established super power, the United States of America, with a possibility of war, the 15th of similar clash in five hundred years history of confrontation, between a rising and established power, did reckon with the political outlook of a Chinese state and its unique social character under the leadership of a proletarian party.
China-Africa cooperation, whose trajectories have maintained a steady momentum of development since early sixties, after the founding of modern China and the decolonization of most African states, can be understood from the political context of shared imperialist and colonial plunder suffered by both sides from external aggression. The opportunities of China-Africa cooperation in the New Era of China development aggregates a solid background of shared history and common aspiration for a peaceful international system.
The process of the Forum on China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC) mechanism launched in 2000 to provide institutional framework of consultative and cooperative engagement have proved a resilient and foremost international multilateral framework in advancing understanding and have become formidable vehicle to drive development. As a platform for dialogue, FOCAC has been distinguished for practical results especially in fostering keys areas of economic complimentarity. For Africa, the value of the FOCAC process is the strategic and reliable international partnership in addressing its core concerns of inclusive and sustainable development and concomitantly, the Africa’s window of China’s international outreach has been Beijing’s most reliable and enduring partner. In reclaiming her seat at the United Nations, in which the U.S erected several procedural obstacles, Africa stood up strongly to be counted in Beijing’s struggle to return to the United Nations. In the 1980s and 1990s, when the U.S and her western allies attempted to use the platform of the United Nations Human Rights commission to politically undermine China, African countries rallied round Beijing to defeat the several attempts. Save for the hold-out of the tiny Swaziland, the one China policy is a core fundamental of Africa’s diplomatic practice and Africa’s foreign policy consensus that there is only “one China” in the world and the Island of Taiwan is an integral part of China.
The FOCAC process has in the main embodied the political trust and mutual respect between China and Africa and also laid out a framework of economic win-win cooperation. The existential challenge of Africa in addressing the question of infrastructure deficit and connectivity has received enormous support through the mechanism of the FOCAC process. Africa’s development trajectories have been traditionally vitiated by the huge deficit in infrastructure, shortage of critical manpower and paucity of funds. The place of infrastructure in contributing to economic activities cannot be over emphasized because its centrality in lowering the cost of doing business, improving the competitiveness of local production and facilitating trade and direct investment is critically self evident. No doubt, firms with reliable power supply are to produce more, those with access to world-class high-way network can reach their customer cheaper and faster, while those with easy port access are able to source their inputs and export their finished products at lower cost. The gain of the full benefits of economies of scale and comparative advantage and integrate into the global value chain; key infrastructure network is a fundamental requirement.
And yet, this is where Africa is mostly exposed to the inadequacy of modern economy. In a recent study on the challenge of infrastructure in Africa, it observed that “Africa suffers from a critical shortage of infrastructure,” and that its infrastructure coverage lags behind that of other developing countries, particularly regarding access to electricity, transportation networks, water and sanitation, irrigation, and information and communication technology (ICT). Noting that power deficits are the continent’s biggest infrastructure challenge, the study observed dismally that “per capita power generation is less than half the rest of the developing world’s and declining. Not only has electricity access stagnated, but supply has become less stable, with regular outages reported in at least 30 countries. Power outages are estimated to cost Africa between 1% and 2% of GDP.”
The study observed that “transportation bottlenecks are equally critical; with road, rail, maritime and air transport still considerably far behind other developing countries. Its Rail Transport is by comparison, far less developed.” The study however, observed variations in availability and performance across the sub-region of the continent and noted that “although, Africa’s infrastructure has improved during recent years, the region’s infrastructure gap is more observable in low income countries than the medium income countries, or (Mics). The international partnership with China has been critical in changing the story of Africa’s infrastructure deficits in recent times.
Following the successful convocation of the 2nd summit of the Forum on China-Africa cooperation, (FOCAC) in South Africa in 2015, key infrastructure are doting the landscape of Africa, including the first electrified railway linking the landlocked Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti. Given Ethiopia’s rising profile as industrial hub, the railway, is major catalyst to her growing economy. The momentum of China-Africa cooperation since the summit, when President Xi Jinping outlined ten cooperation plans, which included cooperation on infrastructure, industrialization, Agricultural modernization among others, has accelerated towards engaging the serious challenges of infrastructure, industrialization and agricultural modernization in Africa. However, as a study on China-Africa cooperation by two American scholars observed that as the “relationships among Chinese and Africans become increasingly mature, the future appears ripe with opportunity for both sides,” the phase of the cooperation in the new era of China’s development will engage the opportunities more practically, with Beijing profuse global outreach of a responsible major country determined to jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind through consultation and cooperation. The framework of the global network of cooperation and inclusive development most exemplified in the initiative of the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” and the “21st century maritime Silk Road,” otherwise known as the Belt and Road International Cooperation as Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi puts it “has become the most popular international public goods in today’s world.” The scope of China-Africa cooperation would be considerably expanded within the framework of the Belt and Road process and given that the core issues of the Belt and Road initiative, which is basically connectivity of physical, institutional and social infrastructure to advance cross-cultural and people to people contacts, are the most serious public goods desperately in great need in Africa. The mechanism of the Forum on China-Africa cooperation has already achieved a lot of mileage in fostering cooperation between the two sides and to synergize the FOCAC and the Belt and Road process would launch an unprecedented new opportunities for Sino-Africa cooperation in the new era.
As the cooperation between Chinese and Africa has become exponential and comprehensively strategic to the core national aggregates of the two sides, it is equally incumbent to explore new areas of likely convergence. Governance issues and processes of the two sides are currently treated as exclusive preserves of each side, but building and enhancing institutional capacity, transparent and accountable governance process are critically germane, if developmental strides recorded from the cooperation in Africa is to be sustained. China does not need to impose condition and terms or export her governance system but through peer review process, ensure that Africa’s own institutional process is not only meant to work but is seen to work transparently and efficiently, after all a governing proletarian party beyond the formalities of governing a formal state, must be seen to be concerned about the fate of the vast working and toiling people across the world.
As China-Africa cooperation enters a new era of opportunities, the clarion call of President Xi Jinping in his report to 19th National Congress of the CPC “on the people of all countries to work together to build a community with shared future for mankind, to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity,” admitting that to “make new and greater contribution for mankind is our party’s abiding mission, as “the Communist party of China strives for both the well-being of the Chinese people and human progress.” In calling for a new era of international cooperation, President Xi Jinping urged for the “respect of the diversity of civilization. In handling relations among civilizations, let us replace estrangement with exchange, clashes with mutual learning and superiority with coexistence.” In extending China’s hand of friendship, President Xi Jinping maintained that she “will actively develop global partnerships and expand the convergence of interest with other countries,” with a vow that “China will never pursue development at the expense of other’s interest” and that “no matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.”
These words are not empty, as the framework of the Belt and Road international cooperation strategy which has attested. This new era of international cooperation, meets with the long standing aspirations of Africa for a dignified international order characterized by consultations, mutual respect and win-win outcomes.
After just nearly two month that President Xi Jinping delivered the outlines of a new era international cooperation, President Donald Trump in his National Security strategy of the United States of America, last December, patronizingly claiming that “for decades, U.S policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hope China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others.” Not only is this toxic revisionism, a return to the cold war mentality but demonstrates uncanny naivety and historical denials.
First and foremost, modern China was founded against the wish and will of the United States of America and other western powers who only reconciled themselves to the reality of modern China, after expending so much resource to stop it from happening. To think and imagine how China or other country’s development can be managed and shaped by the United States of America is the supreme naivety of America policy circles, who are yet to pick the pieces of the grand illusion of state building in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The over-arching reach of the U.S hegemonic design has blown-back in its precipitate retreat from globalization, but as major power and the only world super, the United States of America is an indispensible partner to establish a more inclusive global order with shared prosperity to all mankind.
Centre for China Studies (CCS), Abuja,
“Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in all Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”— Report of the General Secretary, Xi Jinping to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, 18th October, 2017.