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by Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
August 6, 2012 (TSR) – When I made my first official overseas visit as China’s premier in 2003, I went to Africa. During that visit, I attended the opening ceremony of the Second Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and visited Ethiopia. My visit to seven African countries in 2006 took me across the African continent, and the moving scenes of that visit still remain fresh in my mind. During the visit, I wrote a poem entitled I Have Come Home. In 2009, I visited Africa again and attended the opening ceremony of the Fourth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC. At that time, Africa had been hit by the international financial crisis. On behalf of the Chinese government, I announced eight new measures to strengthen China-Africa cooperation and support Africa’s development. It demonstrated China’s firm resolve to jointly meet the challenge with Africa.
Despite volatilities in the international situation in recent years, friendly cooperation between China and Africa, like a towering tree, has weathered the storms and continued to grow. It has not only yielded rich fruit, but also enhanced our friendship and mutual trust, which is more precious than gold. History has shown time and again that China and Africa are forever good friends, good partners and good brothers.
China-Africa business ties have seen exciting growth both in size and in structure.
Bilateral trade has grown rapidly with improved trade mix. For three years in a row, China has been Africa’ s biggest trading partner country. In 2011, bilateral trade rose to US$166.3 billion, up 83% over 2009. Africa’ s exports to China doubled in three years with increasing varieties. African steel and copper products, fertilizers and other finished industrial products and more and more African agricultural products are available on China’ s market.
Notable progress has been made in cooperation in financing, and cooperation projects launched by China better meet Africa’ s development needs. The international financial crisis has put African countries under huge pressure of funding shortage. The Chinese government delivered on its commitment of providing US$10 billion of lending of a preferential nature to Africa and supported Chinese financial institutions in increasing commercial loans to Africa. In launching cooperation projects, while ensuring economic returns, we give higher priority to their social benefits. We have completed a number of projects to increase production capacity and improve people’ s well-being. These projects have enhanced Africa’ s capacity for self-development.
Chinese investment in Africa, made in increasingly diversified areas and ways, has registered strong growth. By June 2012, China had invested US$45 billion in Africa, including over US$15 billion of direct investment. Manufacturing, the financial sector and construction account for 60% and mining about 25% of Chinese investment in Africa. Over 2,000 Chinese companies of different types are operating in 50 African countries, and more than 85% of their staff are Africans. The building of China-Africa trade and economic cooperation zones is making smooth headway, driving Africa’ s industrial growth.
China has stepped up assistance to Africa, with greater emphasis on promoting sustainable development. In the past three years, China’ s assistance to Africa has almost doubled. More assistance has been made in improving the well-being of the people, poverty reduction, disaster preparedness and mitigation and capacity building. China has built new schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and water supply facilities for Africa. We have sent a large number of agricultural specialists and medical personnel to Africa. We have trained a total of 21,000 African personnel in various fields. China provided emergency food aid several times to countries hit by famine in the Horn of Africa and other parts of Africa. We offered assistance to and have completed a group of agricultural demonstration centers and nearly 100 clean energy projects in Africa. These efforts have boosted Africa’ s capacity to meet challenges such as food security and climate change.
At the same time, we need to be aware that in the process of the rapid growth of China-Africa economic cooperation, some long-standing issues are yet to be thoroughly resolved and some new problems have emerged. I know that you hope that China will buy more finished products made in Africa and high value-added products from Africa, make more investment in broader areas, provide more funding, step up technology transfer and better address the concerns of African businesses. These hopes and concerns are justified, and the Chinese government takes them very seriously. We are working with African countries to find effective solutions to these issues. We have full confidence in China-Africa business cooperation, and I am sure that the future holds ever greater promise for our business ties.
Facing up to the international financial crisis, the African countries have endeavored to promote integration and strengthen international cooperation. Africa has maintained stability and growth and has become an important force in promoting changes and adjustment in the international arena. China hails what Africa has achieved and has full confidence in Africa. Today, China and Africa enjoy growing common interests and have a stronger foundation for cooperation. Guided by the principle of sincere friendship, equality, mutual benefit and common development, China will continue to work with African countries to grow even closer economic and trade relations.
We should strengthen inter-governmental consultation and coordination. This is important for our efforts to achieve sustained and sound growth of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. China is ready to work with governments of African countries to adopt feasible mid and long-term cooperation programs in keeping with our respective national conditions and development strategies so that our industries will be in a better position to complement and work with each other. We should improve related laws and regulations as well as channels of communication and dialogue so as to provide a legal framework to ensure deepening of cooperation.
We should promote balanced development of trade between China and Africa. China has decided to implement a special plan on trade with Africa. We will send investment and trade promotion missions to Africa in due course and increase imports from Africa. We support the holding of more product fairs to help African companies promote their best products. China will further open its market to African countries, and give zero-tariff treatment to more products of tariff-lines from the least developed African countries having diplomatic ties with China.
We should further intensify investment cooperation. China will follow a government-guided, business-led and market-driven approach for win-win progress. We will lay greater emphasis on the need to improve people’ s well-being, create jobs, protect Africa’ s eco-environment and respect local cultures and customs. We will pay more attention to project management and examination and raise the efficiency and quality of investment. We will continue to encourage established and reputable Chinese companies to make investment in Africa. We encourage them to invest more in the manufacturing sector. We support Chinese companies and financial institutions in participating in various ways in the development of infrastructure such as transport, telecommunications, power generation and water conservancy, setting up more joint ventures or cooperative ventures, scaling up technology transfer, and helping African countries enhance their self-development capacity. China will fully deliver on its commitment to providing lending of a preferential nature to Africa before the end of the year and, on that basis, provide new lending of a preferential nature and commercial loans.
We should jointly manage food crisis. We should continue to take agriculture and food security as a priority in China-Africa cooperation to lay a solid foundation to ensure economic and social development in Africa. China will, as called for by Africa, help African countries improve capacity for food production and processing by increasing trade, investment, aid and technological cooperation. We will build more agricultural demonstration centers for Africa, continue to send agro-technical groups to share technology and experience of agricultural production with African countries, and provide emergency food aid to African countries to the best of our ability.
We should promote international cooperation on sustainable development. China congratulates South Africa on the success of the Durban Climate Change Conference and appreciates the UN Conference on Sustainable Development’ s focus on sustainable development in Africa. China will deepen China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change and intensify policy dialogue and cooperation on climate change with Africa. We will give stronger support to Africa in forest protection, disaster preparedness and mitigation, desertification control, preservation of ecosystem and management of the environment. We will increase aid to Africa, and carry out more projects to help Africa improve living conditions and raise capacity for sustainable development. We call on the international community to address the issue of insufficiency of means of implementation in sustainable development and urge developed countries to fulfill their assistance commitments to African countries.
China is committed to peaceful development. We call for the establishment of a more just and equitable international political and economic order, oppose inequalities in all forms, and support the independent choice of development paths made by African countries. China pursues an open, inclusive and win-win approach in carrying out cooperation with Africa. We will work with both Africa and the entire international community to contribute more to world peace and development and the well-being of mankind.
AUTHOR: Wen Jiabao
Wen Jiabao is the sixth and current Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, serving as China’s head of government and leading its cabinet. In his capacity as Premier, Wen is regarded as the leading figure behind China’s economic policy. He also holds membership in the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, the country’s de facto top power organ, where he is ranked third out of nine members. Since taking office as Premier of the State Council in 2003, Wen, along with President Hu Jintao, has been a key part of the fourth generation of leadership in the Communist Party of China. Soft-spoken and known for his strong work ethic, Wen has been one of the most visible members of the incumbent Chinese administration, and has been dubbed “the people’s premier” by both domestic and foreign media. Described as having a commoner background and a populist approach to policy, Wen’s domestic agenda marked a considerable shift from the previous administration. Instead of concentrating on GDP growth in large cities and rich coastal areas, Wen advocated for a more balanced approach in developing China’s hinterland regions, and advancing policies considered more favourable towards farmers and migrant workers. Internationally, Wen played a key role in China’s response to the global financial crisis and subsequent stimulus program. Wen has played a prominent role advancing China’s foreign policy positions and has become increasingly visible on the world stage as China’s economic power expanded. Wen is known for his adept use of Chinese poetry to convey political and diplomatic messages, to respond to journalists, or simply to begin a speech. Together with Hu, Wen has zero tolerance to abuse of power and corruption that he has sought to divorce his wife, a jewellery expert and investor, out of “disgust” by how she has used his name to extract huge commissions in the diamond trade according to a U.S. diplomatic cable posted in Wikileaks.