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FOCAC IS A PLATFORM FOR DIALOGUE BETWEEN CHINESE
 

Speech by Ambassador Shu Zhan at a seminar in South Africa

2010/08/23

Dear friends,

I am thrilled to come back to the beautiful city of Cape Town for this meeting. Time flies. In November of 1989, I came here with one of Christian leaders from China invited by the late Dame Suzman. We met the Reverend Allan Boesak, some leaders of UDF and MDM, as well as Walter Sisulu and 7 heroes just out of Robben Island. We even drove by Victor Verster Presion nearby, wishing Madiba could soon walk out there free.

After that trip, I came back to this country several times, working with some other Africanists on the first monograph in Chinese on South Africa at the end of 1994, titled "A Nation Undergoing Historical Changes: South Africa Political & Economic Development".

People-to-People exchange is an important feature of new China's foreign policy right from the beginning. We invited Japanese business people, American table tennis players and European film director to China. When our late Premier Zhou Enlai first visited 10 newly independent African countries in 1963-64, Tunis and Ethiopia had no diplomatic relations with us yet.

We have upheld this tradition. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is not only a platform for cooperation between governments of China and African countries, but also for people-to-people dialogue and discourse.

Starting from the first Ministerial Conference in the year 2000, we have always invited journalists and scholars from both sides to participate in the conferences. Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs, China-Africa Youth Festival, FOCAC Science and Technology Forum, Culture Forum, Women's Forum, Legal Forum and other sub-forums within the FOCAC framework are the parallel mechanisms for the participation of civil society.

Africa has always been one of the top priorities on China's foreign policy agenda as there are not only converged interests, but more importantly, emotional bonds between the Chinese and African peoples forged over the past centuries. This deep empathy with the Africans came from our similar miserable past and valuable mutual support in fighting for freedom and development.

Though both China and Africa have undergone a sea change in the last 55 years, we inherit the distinctive traits of Sino-Africa partnership, that is, mutual understanding, mutual trust, mutual benefit and mutual learning.

For over 50 years, China continued its south-south cooperation with Africa to the best of its capability. By the end of 2009, China had built nearly 900 infrastructure and public welfare projects, sent 18,000 doctors to 47 African countries treating more than 200 million patients, provided over 20,000 scholarships, plus 7600 self-funding students from Africa in 2009. We had also invited 33,000 Africans to China for seminars and short-term training. And 35,000 Chinese experts, extensionists, teachers, technicians and 200 young volunteers had worked for technology transfer in Africa. All these have brought about tangible benefits to hundreds of millions of local people.

Apart from 3,400 km of roads, 2,200 km of railways and hundreds of school, colleges and hospitals, we have helped build 2,000 processing projects where African countries have comparative advantage for export and potential for job creation. My father took part in designing and building of textile mills in five medium and small African countries from 1960s to 1980s for their first round of industrialization. We can joint hands now for reindustrialization in Africa now.

FOCAC is an innovative product of the collective wisdom of both Africa and China. It has provided a platform for expanding trade, investment and technology transfer, not relying on "aid" solely.

China-Africa trade has grown rapidly in recent years. In early 1950s, the total trade between us was just a little over 12 million US dollars. It took China and Africa 40 years to reach 1 billion dollars at the end of 1980s, and then only 10 years later, we pass 10 billion dollars in the year of 2000. The trade grew to nearly 107 billion dollars in 2008, it took us only 8 years. Last year saw a 15% drop due to the global economic downturn, however it was in US dollars, the actual quantity and quality continued growing. In the first 5 months this year, bilateral trade between China and Africa was 50 billion dollars, we hope it will recover to over 100 billion dollars by the end of the year. While Africa's trade with the whole world is shrinking, it is growing in case of China.

China's investment in Africa grew steadily both in terms of volume and sectors. In 2009, non-financial direct investment from Chinese enterprises to Africa was $1.36 billion, increased by 36%, against the backdrop of sharply declining FDI flows to the continent from other parts of the world.

In the aftermath of global economic crisis, while many multinationals left with flight capital, scaled down operations, laid off local workers. China promised not to reduce investment, production and local employees, so as to join hands with African friends to overcome difficulties.

We have a new eight-point plan to support Africa's sustainable development for the next 3 years. It aims at expanding China's trade and investment ties with Africa, enhancing practical cooperation in agriculture, health care, skill training, higher education and poverty alleviation.

For a sustainable and successful Sino-Africa cooperation in the 21st Century, we need to focus on mutually beneficial cooperation and a long-term strategic perspective.

For decades, China's assistance to Africa was never tied to political strings. When in Africa, we do as the Africans do.

We listen and comply with Africans' reasonable requirements, instead of imposing our own agenda. We build the water plants and telecom cables that local people need. We support the African ownership and leadership in our engagement with the continent. We support the development paths and models that African countries choose according to their own national conditions.

I have been working in and on Sub-Saharan Africa for 33 years now, still I cannot say that I know how Africans should do or what they need to do for development. And I am not sure whether the Chinese model is suitable to Africa, for Africans have their own cultures, you need to find your own way. A Chinese saying goes that sweet orange from the south turns sour when grown in the north.

Coincide with the genuine design of African side to expand Sino-African cooperation, we set up FOCAC in 2000. I was lucky to be part of the working teams for designing the Forum and preparing for its 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ministerial Conferences. Last October, I was involved in drafting Premier Wen Jiabo's speech at Sharm el Sheikh of Egypt. He urged us to make sure that our cooperation benefits the African grassroots. He also exhorted us to add a clause in our new 8-point plan. That is to expand people-to-people and inter-cultural exchanges, to develop a China-Africa joint research and exchange program, facilitating scholars and think tanks to have more exchange and cooperation, share development experience, and provide intellectual support for formulating better cooperation policies by the two sides. We launched the program last March, and so far two groups of Chinese researchers have visited several African countries and offered their suggestions to the government for closer cooperation between the two sides. I think, we also need to encourage news media of the two sides to step up objective and fair coverage on China and Africa, need to strengthen partnership between NGOs of two sides to help our governments to target relevant areas for achieving MDGs.

Thank you all.



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