Speech by Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China at the Opening Ceremony of the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
Your Excellency President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak,
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency Mr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the AU Commission,
Your Excellencies Heads of Delegation, Ministers and Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you in the beautiful coastal city of Sharm El Sheikh on the occasion of the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). This conference gives us the opportunity to renew friendship and explore ways to further cooperation. As the Premier of the co-chair country of the conference, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese government, a warm welcome to all the participants and express sincere thanks to the government of Egypt for the thoughtful preparations and arrangements it has made for the conference.
Since its founding nine years ago, FOCAC has played a major role in guiding and promoting the development of China-Africa relations and become a bridge of friendship and a platform of cooperation between China and Africa. In the three years since the Beijing Summit in particular, the two sides have worked together to build the new type of strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges. Together, we have opened a new chapter in China-Africa cooperation.
– We have enhanced political mutual trust. The two sides have had more frequent high-level exchanges and stepped up diplomatic consultations and strategic dialogue. African countries have given even stronger support to China on issues concerning China’s core interests. China and Africa have cooperated and coordinated with each other on major international and regional issues and jointly safeguarded and expanded the common interests of developing countries.
– We have strengthened economic cooperation and trade. Last year, China-Africa trade exceeded 100 billion U.S. dollars and the number of African countries trading with China grew to 53. China has begun construction of the six economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa. Nearly 1,600 Chinese enterprises have started business in African countries with a direct investment stock of 7.8 billion U.S. dollars. Project contracting and labor services cooperation between the two sides have been expanding, and financial cooperation is gaining momentum.
– The increase in China’s assistance to Africa has produced practical results. Despite the impact of the international financial crisis and the many difficulties we face at home, we have honored the commitments we made at the Beijing Summit in an all-round way. Our assistance to Africa has been doubled. The plan to cancel 168 debts owed by 33 African countries is near completion. The 5 billion U.S. dollars of concessional loans will be fully in place soon. The China-Africa Development Fund, whose first tranche reached 1 billion U.S. dollars, has become operational as scheduled. These measures have not only added to Africa’s capacity for self-development but also helped African countries in their effort to counter the financial crisis.
– We have witnessed vigorous people-to-people exchanges. Exchanges and cooperation between China and Africa in culture, education, health and human resources training have grown rapidly. By the end of this year, China will train a total of 15,000 people of different professions for African countries. Interactions among the youth, women and sister provinces and cities have been more frequent. All these developments have led to deeper mutual understanding and stronger traditional friendship between China and Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The rapidly growing relations and cooperation between China and Africa have attracted the world’s attention in recent years. I would like to point out that it was not just a few years ago that China suddenly started its presence in Africa or Africa started its support for China. As early as in the 1950s and ’60s, China and Africa fought shoulder to shoulder in the historic struggle against imperialism, colonialism and hegemony and worked side by side in the hard endeavor to revive our respective national economies. The Tanzania-Zambia Railway, the Chinese medical teams and the young Chinese volunteers in Africa are vivid examples of China’s selfless assistance to this continent, while Africa’s tremendous effort in helping restore China’s seat in the United Nations, the successful Beijing Olympic torch relay in Africa and Africa’s generous donations to the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake in China give full expression to the friendship of the African people toward the Chinese people. The Chinese government and people respect the right of African countries to independently choose their social systems and support the African people in exploring development paths that suit their national conditions. We firmly believe that Africa is fully capable of solving its own problems in an African way. The economic cooperation and trade between China and Africa are based on mutual benefit, win-win progress, openness and transparency. China has never attached any political strings to its support and assistance to Africa, and nor will it do so in the future. China welcomes the active involvement of other countries and international organizations in Africa’s development so that we can jointly promote peace, development and progress in Africa.
China-Africa relations have withstood the test of international vicissitudes and maintained the momentum of robust growth. Our relationship is based on mutual support, particularly during times of adversity. It is guided by the core principle of mutual respect and equality. It is driven by our joint endeavor to pursue mutually-beneficial cooperation and common development. The world today is undergoing unprecedented changes and adjustments. We are all developing countries and face both rare historic opportunities for faster development and complex global challenges. We should enhance mutually beneficial cooperation. Cooperation between us will enable us to bring out our respective strengths and achieve common development. Cooperation between us will encourage the international community to pay greater attention to Africa and help it attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at an early date. Cooperation between us will catalyze South-South cooperation and enhance the collective standing of developing countries in the international political and economic architecture. Cooperation between us will promote democracy in international relations and justice in the international order and contribute to the effort of building a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Like other parts of the world, Africa is faced with various global challenges, including the financial crisis and climate change. Your task of meeting the MDGs has been made more difficultby the financial market volatility, sharp economic slowdown, drastic decline in foreign capital and the turmoil in some countries and regions in Africa. And your effort to achieve sustainable development has been seriously threatened by the frequent floods and droughts, the spread of desertification, extinction of some species, drop in food production and environmental degradation caused by climate change.
Africa is home to one seventh of the world’s population and has more developing countries than any other continent. Africa’ s development is indispensable to development of the world economy. As a true and tested friend, China fully understands the difficulties and challenges facing Africa. We call upon the international community to have a greater sense of urgency and take more concrete steps to support Africa’s development. First, the international community should not waver in its resolve or weaken its effort to help Africa meet the MDGs. It should take credible steps to honor the commitment of assistance to Africa and actively foster an enabling external environment of international economy, trade and finance. Second, the international community should have a keen appreciation of African countries’ pressing need for stronger capacity in adapting to climate change, understand and support their legitimate concerns and demands, and help them better meet the climate challenge in the larger context of enhancing Africa’ s ability for achieving sustainable development. Such a holistic approach will help Africa realize all-round and balanced development. Third, the international community should show more understanding of the special difficulties facing Africa in addressing such global issues as food security, energy security and epidemic diseases, and render them greater support and assistance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Under the new circumstances, China is ready to deepen practical cooperation with African countries in diverse areas and push forward in an all-round way the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership. I wish to make, in this connection, the following proposals:
First, strengthen strategic coordination to uphold common interests. The two sides should maintain high-level exchanges, engage in closer political dialogue and consultations and step up coordination and cooperation on major global issues of mutual interest, so as to increase the voice and representation of developing countries in the international system and jointly build a more just and reasonable international political and economic order. China will, as always, speak up for Africa and safeguard the interests of African countries on international occasions. We will make greater effort to share strategies and experience with African countries in meeting global challenges and help them enhance capacities and achieve self-development.
Second, meet the MDGs and improve the livelihood of the African people. Economic development, poverty eradication and improvement of people’s lives are top priorities for African countries. China will continue to increase assistance to Africa and reduce or cancel debts owed by African countries within the realm of its capabilities. We will restructure our assistance programs to better meet the needs on the ground. We will put more emphasis on agriculture, education, health, poverty reduction and clean drinking water and other areas that are vital to people’s well-being when providing assistance, and help Africa attain the MDGs at an early date.
Third, enhance economic cooperation and trade to realize mutual benefit and win-win progress. The strong economic complementarity between China and Africa offers us broad prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation. We should work hard to increase trade, speedily reverse the trade downturn since the beginning of this year and increase export of African goods to China. China will encourage more enterprises to invest in Africa and ask them to shoulder more social responsibilities and live in amity with the local people. We will combine economic cooperation and trade with technology transfer and take active steps to train technical and managerial personnel for African countries.
Fourth, promote people-to-people exchanges to solidify China-Africa friendship. Both China and Africa have a rich and splendid culture. The two sides should step up cultural exchanges and mutual learning, encourage the organization of culture festivals, art exhibitions and sports events, and support closer interactions among non- governmental organizations, news media and academic institutions. China will continue to support Africa in developing education, health, science and technology and other social programs. We welcome African countries to participate in the Shanghai World Expo to showcase Africa’s development achievements in various fields.
Fifth, expand areas of cooperation and advance FOCAC institutional building. China is willing to increase involvement in the settlement of issues concerning peace and security in Africa, provide more support to African integration and expand cooperation with sub-regional organizations in Africa. We will work with you to promote FOCAC institutional building, strengthen cooperation between the functional departments of the two sides within the FOCAC framework, and enhance and expand FOCAC’s role in promoting and guiding China-Africa relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Chinese people cherish sincere friendship towards the African people, and China’s support to Africa’s development is concrete and real. Whatever change may take place in the world, our friendship with Africa will not change, our commitment to deepening mutually beneficial cooperation and achieving common development with Africa will not change, and our policy of supporting Africa’s economic and social development will not change. During the next three years, the Chinese government will take the following eight new measures to strengthen China-Africa cooperation:
First, we propose to establish a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change. We will hold senior officials’ consultations with African countries from time to time, and enhance cooperation on satellite weather monitoring, development and utilization of new energy sources, prevention and control of desertification and urban environmental protection. We have decided to build 100 clean energy projects for Africa covering solar power, bio-gas and small hydro-power.
Second, we will enhance cooperation with Africa in science and technology. We propose to launch a China-Africa science and technology partnership, under which we will carry out 100 joint demonstration projects on scientific and technological research, receive 100 African postdoctoral fellows to conduct scientific research in China and assist them in going back and serving their home countries.
Third, we will help Africa build up financing capacity. We will provide 10 billion U.S. dollars in concessional loans to African countries, and support Chinese financial institutions in setting up a 1 billion U.S. dollar special loan for small and medium-sized African businesses. For the heavily indebted poor countries and least developed countries in Africa having diplomatic relations with China, we will cancel their debts associated with interest-free government loans due to mature by the end of 2009.
Fourth, we will further open up China’s market to African products. We will phase in zero-tariff treatment to 95 percent of the products from the least developed African countries having diplomatic relations with China, starting with 60 percent of the products within 2010.
Fifth, we will further enhance cooperation with Africa in agriculture. We will increase the number of agricultural technology demonstration centers built by China in Africa to 20, send 50 agricultural technology teams to Africa and train 2,000 agricultural technology personnel for Africa, in order to help strengthen Africa’ s ability to ensure food security.
Sixth, we will deepen cooperation in medical care and health. We will provide medical equipments and anti-malaria materials worth 500 million yuan to the 30 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and treatment centers built by China and train 3,000 doctors and nurses for Africa.
Seventh, we will enhance cooperation in human resources development and education. We will build 50 China-Africa friendship schools and train 1,500 school principals and teachers for African countries. By 2012, we will increase the number of Chinese government scholarships to Africa to 5,500. And we will train a total of 20,000 professionals of various fields for Africa over the next three years.
Eighth, we will expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges. We propose to launch a China-Africa joint research and exchange program, which will enable scholars and think tanks to have more exchanges and cooperation, share development experience, and provide intellectual support for formulating better cooperation policies by the two sides.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Egypt was the first African country to enter into diplomatic relations with the People’ s Republic of China. The establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Egypt 53 years ago opened a new era in China-Africa relations. Today, Egypt is playing host to the 4th FOCAC Ministerial Conference, which will mark a new starting point in China-Africa relations. There is an African proverb which says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” There is also a Chinese saying that goes, “As distance can test a horse’s strength, so time can reveal a person’s heart.” I am convinced that as long as China and Africago hand in hand with an enterprising spirit and cooperate on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, we will seize opportunities and overcome challenges to take the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a new level, and make China-Africa friendship and cooperation even more fruitful.
In conclusion, I wish the 4th FOCAC Ministerial Conference a crowning success!