On Dec. 4-5, Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Johannesburg to attend the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which is being held in Africa for the first time. Xi is expected to deliver a keynote speech, elaborating China's new stand, policy and concept towards Africa and Sino-Africa relations in future.
Sino-African relations have already stepped onto a new stage. The first stage came before China's reform and opening up, which featured mutual help between third world countries. During that period, Africa made an important contribution to China's regaining its legitimate seat in the United Nations (UN), while China provided a range of assistance to help Africa's development.
The second stage started after China's reform and opening up, especially in the past 15 years, during which the two sides entered an era of all-round cooperation and mutual benefit.
As bilateral economic cooperation deepens, especially in the energy and resource fields, investment and enterprises from China have to face a series of obstacles. Chinese cooperative projects in Africa became targets of criticism due to domestic political unrest in Africa, while Western countries have slandered China as a new colonial power in Africa.
The current problem is that trade relations between China and Africa are unbalanced. China's economy is now facing significant downward pressure, decreasing market demands and reducing commodity prices. As China imports less energy and agricultural products from Africa at lower prices, the deficit of Africa's trade with China has widened.
According to Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming, this year, China's exports to Africa have reached 80.9 billion U.S dollars, representing a 5.8 percent year on year growth. He said all these figures show that cooperation between China and Africa is looking optimistic but there are indeed imbalances in the Sino-African trade structure which need to be adjusted in the future.
The global economy won't linger in the "new mediocre" forever, and China will embrace its new hope for two-way expansion in the future.
Firstly, when it completes its structural adjustment, the Chinese economy will step onto a new stage. China's foreign trade will transform from an increase of quantity to quality promotion. Since Africa is an important trade partner of China, Sino-African trade will improve steadily.
Secondly, China will carry out its 13th five-year plan, highlighting ideas of innovation, coordination, green development, opening up and sharing to fulfill its goals. Recently, President Xi Jinping has introduced the plan to the international community during the G20 and APEC summits. Africa is China's all-weather friend, thus opening up and sharing will become the theme of bilateral cooperation.
Thirdly, Africa plays a very important role in China's "Belt and Road" initiative. Chinese investment and projects will help the continent improve its infrastructure and manufacturing capacity, optimize industrial structures, and expand a broader space for Sino-African economic and trade cooperation.
Fourthly, Africa has the second largest population in the world. The demographic dividend will release immeasurable potential and consumption demand for the continent. China holds advantages in capital, production capability and technology, which Africa needs badly. Africa's energy, resources and agriculture products are what China needs; bilateral trade will complement both.
In future, China could import more non-resource products from Africa, and help the continent to improve its single trade pattern and diversify its economic structure.
Actually, Sino-African cooperation has already embraced a range of new changes in recent years. China has provided African countries with loans worth over 20 billion U.S. dollars, rolled out about 900 assistance programs covering agriculture, health, education and other fields while offering training to over 30,000 local people since 2012.
Therefore, bilateral cooperation between China and Africa are actually focused not only on trade relations, but also on comprehensive strategic cooperation. Chinese President Xi Jinping's attendance of the upcoming FOCAC summit will surely lead Sino-Africa relations to a new era.
The writer is a researcher of The Charhar Institute.
The article was written in Chinese and translated by Lin Liyao.
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