Chinese president’s Africa tour gives fresh impetus to traditional friendship

Hu Jintao

Via Xinhua

BEIJING, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — After a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia beginning Feb. 10, Chinese President Hu Jintao started an Africa tour aimed at enhancing China’s friendship with developing countries in the region.

The trip, which took Hu to Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius from Feb. 12 to 17, has given new impetus to the traditional friendship between China and Africa.

The time-honored friendship between China and Africa can be traced back to as early as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when Chinese navigator Zheng He traveled to the African continent during his seven epic voyages.

In the 1960s, when most African countries launched a wave of independence struggles, late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai had also visited Africa to express his country’s staunch support for its African brothers.

The fates of the Chinese and African peoples are closely interrelated as they share a similar history and similar developmental tasks, and the two sides have carried out various forms of cooperation based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit.

“Every time I come, it’s like coming back home,” Hu said while delivering a key speech in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam on Monday.

So far, China has provided aid to the best of its ability to 53 African countries under the framework of “South-South cooperation,” aiming to help the countries achieve independent development and socio-economic progress.

China-Africa relations entered a new stage of comprehensive development at the Beijing Summit of China-Africa Cooperation Forum in 2006, when they established a new type of strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges.

Hu’s latest visit to Africa, his sixth in all and second since the Beijing Summit, opens a new chapter in the China-Africa friendship.

The tour also brings new opportunities to review the results of the China-Africa friendly cooperation.

The Chinese president announced an eight-measure policy designed to strengthen pragmatic cooperation with Africa at the Beijing Summit in November 2006. Several months later, he paid a visit to Africa, during which a series of cooperation agreements were signed with an aim to implement the policy.

Now in 2009, the concluding year for implementation of the package, the Chinese president visited Africa again to exchange views with the leaders of African countries on the fulfillment of the commitments made at the Beijing Summit.

During the visit, Hu also discussed with them the preparatory work for the fourth ministerial conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum later this year in an effort to enhance the China-Africa strategic partnership.

The swift and efficient implementation of the eight measures has brought tangible benefits, and the measures have thus been well received by the governments and people of Africa and the international community.

Chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, Jean Ping, said in late January that China is Africa’s key cooperative partner.

The AU chief also spoken highly of China’s role in Africa’s infrastructure development, saying “China has played a fundamental part in the improvement of infrastructure facilities across African countries.”

The World Bank has said China has made major contributions to promoting the development of Africa, and expressed the hope that African countries would combine China’s developmental experiences with their own national conditions.

Moreover, President Hu’s trip this time brings new commitments for the future development of friendly and cooperative ties between China and Africa.

Countries around the world currently face grave challenges amid the ongoing global financial downturn, with the impact of the crisis spreading to emerging-market countries as well as developing nations.

Under such circumstances, Hu made a solemn pledge during his Africa tour that China will continue to implement its commitments made at the Beijing Summit in a timely and reliable manner, despite all the challenges his country faces in its own economic development.

China will by no means cut assistance to Africa, said Hu. Instead, it will do its best to continue to increase aid to the continent, offer debt relief to African countries, and expand trade and investment with them.

Hu’s commitments were warmly applauded by the leaders of the African countries, who pledged to join hands with China in facing the impact of the financial crisis.

A Gabonese newspaper commented that China, which had pledged to honor its earlier commitments and not to reduce aid to Africa despite the economic pressure from the ongoing crisis, had indeed exercised the responsibilities of a big country.

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