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China Opens a new Door, World Enters a New Africa

2010/07/12, FOCAC website, Source: CNPC Press Centre

Editor's Note: Following the "Going Global" strategy for the past 17 years, CNPC has invested in 81 projects in 29 countries, and formed 4 major oil and gas strategic channels and 5 oil and gas cooperation areas.

The 2010 Shanghai World Expo has brought together the most advanced and sophisticated economic, cultural, scientific and technological achievements from all over the world and is showcasing models for the future of human civilization.

During the Expo, China Oil News will release a series of reports on the theme "Micro-Expo: Huge Energy, Small World" to share with readers the civilizations along the foot steps of CNPC overseas ventures. The first stop is the starting point of CNPC's overseas ventures– Africa.

Pavilion Introduction: Joint African Pavilion is the largest joint pavilion at Shanghai World Expo, with 43 independent pavilions for 42 African countries and African Union, the biggest number in World Expo history. African Pavilion has four major features: the first is to explore the ancient and mysterious origin of human civilization; the second is to showcase the rich, multicultural and harmonious character of Africa; the third is to share the energetic and rhythmic nature of Africa; and the fourth is to realize together the beautiful dream of modern man returning to nature. The picture above shows the large "African Smiles" relief wall.

On Africa's exploration paths for self-development, the helping hands of their Chinese friends cannot be ignored.

More than a decade ago, the friends from the East came, and Chinese enterprises entered Africa.

As China and Africa treated each other equally, created opportunities together, and cooperated for mutual benefit, Chinese enterprises have flourished in Africa. But as some Western countries are nervous about the deepening development of China-Africa relations, accusations of "China Threat" and "China's Neo-colonialism" are frequently seen on the press.

In this context, the questions of how to view China-Africa economic cooperation and change the Western misunderstandings and bias have become an unavoidable issue for China in its participation in global market competition. With these questions, this reporter interviewed Dr. He Wenping, Director of African Studies of Institute of Western Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Reporter: Regarding the high-profile international events such as World Cup and World Expo, what kind of influences would African participation in these events bring to the development of Africa?

He Wenping: Africa is an unavoidable force on the world's political stage, and Africa hopes to gain more clout in the world. Playing host to World Cup and participating in World Expo are valuable opportunities to showcase the "New Africa"to the world and attract global investment, as these grand international events attract global media and public attention.

Granted that during World Cup something negative in Africa could be magnified by the press, it is also undeniable that World Cup in South Africa would bring obvious benefits in raising the global profile and influence of Africa.

Reporter: In your view, what does China-Africa economic cooperation bring to the two sides?

He Wenping: China-Africa economic cooperation is a partnership based on complementary advantages, mutual benefit and win-win outcome. Politically, China has been resolute in non-interference in other countries' affairs, and economically China does not seek to monopolize economies of African countries. Rather, China puts emphasis on cooperation for mutual benefit, complementary win-win, and joint development. Also China-Africa trade and investment are all based on bilateral negotiations with both sides on equal footing, and with full consent from African countries. Some cooperation initiatives are even proposed first by African countries. Therefore, China-Africa economic cooperation is obviously nothing about the so-called "neo-colonialism".

Taking oil exploration and production as an example, the oilfields contracted by Chinese enterprises do not pose any threats to Western oil companies in any possible way. Also through capital injection and technology transfer, China has facilitated staff localization and helped Africa to realize investment source and exploration technology diversification. This allows Africa to gain more power in the decision-making for oil industry. From a South-South cooperation perspective, the strengthening of China-Africa consultations, unity and cooperation helps to increase the global influence of developing countries as a whole, fortify the clout of developing countries in dialogues with the developed countries, and advance the establishment of a new, just and reasonable international political and economic order.

Reporter: You have taken numerous research and observation trips to Africa. What is your view on the polarizing attitudes of the coverage by Chinese and Western media?

He Wenping: Regarding reasons why there is talk about "China Threat" and "China Neo-colonialism" in the Western media, I think aside from some obvious malevolent intentions, Chinese enterprises also have some flaws and shortcomings in the area of public relations.

The Chinese media have a lot of coverage on the activities of Chinese enterprises in Africa, while I rarely see such coverage in western media and hardly any in English media at all. Also the websites of some Chinese enterprises or consulates are almost never updated or simply non-existent. So sometimes there is not even a channel for communication to be found. I think the biggest problem for the Chinese enterprises in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility is not that they do not do well, but rather they do not say enough.

Reporter:How do Chinese enterprises mitigate risks in Africa?

He Wenping: Chinese enterprises must strengthen their research on possible risks before they enter Africa.

I remember there was a Chinese glass company building a factory in Ethiopia. After performing market analysis, they thought they would surely make a profit. But after the factory was built, they found the reality was not quite the same. Why? They neglected at least two issues. First the factory was located on a plateau without railroad access, therefore glass was difficult to transport due to its brittleness. Secondly, Ethiopia was in a tense situation with its neighboring countries back then, obviously limiting the market potential.

So for Chinese enterprises in Africa, risk assessment should cover political, diplomatic, economic aspects as well as relations with China and neighboring countries. Sometimes even the personality and hobbies of the national leaders need to be studied, because many minute details in many different areas may influence African countries' policy directions for Chinese enterprises and thus pose risks.

Reporter:Some people believe, "oil is the major reason why the United States treats the Darfur issue and Somali piracy issue differently". Do you agree?

He Wenping:I agree with that. The United States' government is always concerned with and continues to consolidate its oil interests and advance its influence in Africa. Because of the rapid growth of Chinese enterprises in Africa and deepening of China-Africa relations, the United States feels its vested interests may be under threat.

Another important reason on the Darfur issue is that the United States and Sudan have religious and cultural differences. These differences were more acute during the former Bush (Junior) administration.

Of course, the current U.S. President Obama has a multicultural background with Kenyan and Indonesian cultural elements, and has shown little interest in Africa since his inauguration. I think there are two reasons for this: first, the U.S. government is a bit too stretched to worry about Africa, and instead is busy with Afghanistan and Gulf oil spill, plus some domestic issues; secondly, we can be certain that the U.S. Africa policy will not change dramatically, as its oil interests will always be based there!

Expo Highlight: Presenting the Real Africa

This summer, the world is looking south – to Africa.

The 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa is a play of the power game that reflects the global political order. And by the Huangpu River in the East, through the confluence of Chinese civilization and internationalism, the Joint African Pavilion is welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Africa is no longer a continent plagued by poverty, disease and warfare a long time ago, and yet the world still sticks to the old memories.

Having entered into 21stcentury, the African GDP growth has exceeded the average global rate every year. Even under the impact of global financial crisis, African GDP growth reached 6.2% in 2008.

An ancient civilization with rich mineral resources and diverse species, Africa always hints at more than the world can imagine.

Even though the self-development path for Africa is still difficult and long, yet no one can deny that the rise of the African continent is overwhelming and unstoppable.

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