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China attaches importance to Africa's concerns, interests: FM

By China - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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BEIJING, China, January 6, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -6 China attaches importance to Africa's concerns, interests: FM

1. Foreign Minister Yang, how would you characterize your visit to the three African countries? What impressed you the most during this African trip at the beginning of the new year?

I have visited the three African countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Niger and Namibia upon invitation at the beginning of the new year. During the visit, I had sincere and in-depth exchange of views with leaders and foreign ministers of the three countries on bilateral relations and international and regional issues of shared interest. We also held discussions and reached broad consensus on implementing the outcomes of the fourth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and on issues concerning the fifth FOCAC Ministerial Conference to be held in China this year. The visit has achieved the goal of enhancing political mutual trust, promoting practical cooperation and carrying forward traditional friendship.

Three things have impressed me the most. First, the African countries have always taken it as their fundamental task to pursue stability, development and solidarity. Over the past year, Africa has maintained peace, stability and development on the whole. At the same time, there have been growing destabilizing factors and uncertainties, and hotspot issues in Africa have become more pronounced. The increased external intervention has affected peace and stability in Africa. African countries cherish their hard-won peace and stability, and they are focusing on growing the economy and improving people's livelihood. They have an even stronger desire to seek strength through unity and resolve regional issues on their own. Second, while African countries need to rely on themselves to achieve development, the international community should continue to offer help and support to Africa. Africa is rich in resources and energy, and has a huge market and great development potential. The African economy is getting onto the track of steady and fast growth, as the majority of countries have restored the level of development prior to the international financial crisis. African countries and people are demonstrating greater confidence about their development prospects. Though the impact of the international financial crisis is still being felt, the international community, particularly Western developed countries, should not reduce help to and input in Africa. Instead, they should make greater effort to help Africa maintain sound development and create a more favorable external environment for Africa. Third, African countries share a stronger wish to strengthen cooperation with China, and have proposed to broaden the scope, increase the scale and upgrade the level of our cooperation. This will go a long way in boosting China-Africa cooperation.

As a true friend and partner of Africa, China will, as always, attach importance to Africa's concerns and interests. We will support African countries in their efforts to independently resolve African issues, seek balanced economic and social development and uphold their own legitimate rights and interests in international affairs through unity. We will make even greater contribution to peace and development in Africa and to the common development of China and Africa.

2. How would you comment on the development of China-Africa relations in 2011? And how do you see the strategic significance of China-Africa relations under the current international situation?

In recent years, China-Africa relations have maintained the sound momentum of comprehensive and in-depth development, and displayed strong vitality and great potential. Our traditional friendship has been strengthened, our mutual understanding and trust have been deepened and our interests have become more closely interconnected. Over the past year, China has made vigorous efforts to step up exchanges and cooperation with African countries in various fields and achieved fresh progress in advancing the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership.

The two sides have further enhanced political mutual trust and maintained frequent high-level exchanges. More than ten Party and state leaders of China, including Mr. Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the National People's Congress, and Mr. Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, visited Africa. Over ten African heads of state or government visited China or attended important events in China. China intensified dialogue, exchanges and cooperation at various levels with African countries, the African Union (AU) and other sub-regional organizations in Africa. The two sides maintained close communication and coordination on peace and security in Africa as well as on climate change, the WTO Doha Round negotiations, reform of the international financial system and other major global issues, with a view to jointly safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and making the international political and economic order more just and equitable.

China-Africa trade and economic cooperation have made new progress. China continued to provide assistance to African countries within its capability. The AU Convention Center built by China was completed at the end of last year. This is the largest project that China has built for Africa. The Chinese government offered emergency food aid to the Horn of Africa to help the region cope with the famine. China is now Africa's largest trading partner. Chinese investment in Africa is growing rapidly. There are a total of more than 2,000 Chinese enterprises of various types in Africa. The eighth Senior Officials Meeting of FOCAC was successfully held. African countries speak highly of the implementation of the follow-up actions to the fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference. The joining of two new members, the AU Commission and the newly independent Republic of South Sudan, has made the FOCAC even more representative.

China-Africa people-to-people and cultural exchanges have notably increased. China-Africa Young Leaders Forum, People's Forum, the Think-Tank Forum and the Science and Technology Forum have been established respectively, ushering a new phase of China-Africa people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

To strengthen friendly relations and cooperation with Africa is not only in in keeping with the profound traditional friendship between the two sides, but also a long-term and firm strategic choice made by China. Sincere friendship, equality and mutual benefit are the defining features of China-Africa relationship. They are characteristic of the relations between developing countries, namely, mutual support and common development. Based on these principles, China-Africa relations have withstood the test of international vicissitudes and continued to forge ahead over the past 50 years and more. We will be firmly committed to these principles in the years ahead. Given the major changes in the international situation and international relations, to further enhance unity and cooperation between China and Africa is of strategic importance. It will not only serve the common interest of China and Africa, but also contribute to the development of developing countries as a whole and make international relations more democratic.

3. How do you see the prospects of China-Africa relations? What will be the highlights of China-Africa relations this year?

This year is an important year for China and Africa to build on past achievements and strive for new progress in our relations. We will have new opportunities for strengthening cooperation. In the meantime, the profound and complex changes in the international landscape will also bring challenges to China-Africa relations. China stands ready to work with African countries to remove interference from the outside and address the various problems constraining the development of China-Africa relations. We will push forward the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership with the following efforts.

First, we will maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges between China and Africa. Second, we will continue to give full play to the leading role of FOCAC. Third, we will take a more active part in affairs crucial to Africa's peace and security. We will continue to firmly support African countries in their endeavor to independently choose development paths suited to their national conditions. Fourth, we will further strengthen unity and cooperation with Africa in international affairs.

4. This year is the "wrap-up year" for implementing the outcomes of the fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Could you shed some light on the progress made in this regard? What are your considerations for the fifth Ministerial Conference to be held in China this year?

Building on the full implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2006, Premier Wen Jiabao announced eight new measures for advancing China-Africa practical cooperation at the fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference in 2009, covering such areas as climate change, environmental protection, investment promotion, debt relief, expanded market access, people-to-people and cultural exchanges as well as cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, education, health and other fields. This has charted the course for China-Africa relations and mapped out the priority areas of China-Africa cooperation under the new circumstances.

Over the past two years and more, the two sides have made joint and vigorous efforts to push forward the implementation of the follow-up actions of the fourth Ministerial Conference on all fronts. Cooperation programs such as China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership Plan and China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Plan have made steady progress. Debt cancellation, tariff exemption, preferential loans, special loans for African SME development and other related measures are being implemented. Agreements to send agricultural technology teams, build agricultural technology demonstration centers, China-Africa friendship schools and clean energy projects, and provide medical equipments and malaria-fighting materials are being carried out in an orderly way. Training programs in science and technology, agriculture, education and health are being conducted, and the number of African students coming to China on Chinese scholarships has notably increased. China-African Agriculture Cooperation Forum, the first and second FOCAC Legal Forum, African Culture in Focus, Cooperation Plan for Chinese and African Institutions of Higher Learning and other major activities and programs have been held. Follow-up actions in other fields are also being carried out. All these have ensured the all-round development of China-Africa cooperation.

The fifth FOCAC Ministerial Conference will be held in China this year. The conference will make a full review of the implementation of the follow-up actions of the fourth Ministerial Conference, and map out plans for China-Africa cooperation in the next phase. This will be the first ministerial conference since FOCAC entered its second decade. It will be of special importance for us to build on past achievements and seek new progress. As the host of the conference, China will maintain close consultation and coordination with the African members of the Forum. We will work together to fully implement the follow-up actions of the fourth Ministerial Conference and make good preparations for the fifth Ministerial Conference to ensure its success. In this way, we will further push forward the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership