By Lin Songtian
(Secretary-General of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Director-General of the African Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Former Chinese Ambassador to Liberia and Malawi)
Recently, industrial capacity cooperation has become a catchword in China-Africa cooperation. Many African countries are eager to embrace the historic opportunity brought about by China’s economic transformation and upgrading, and become the first places to host Chinese investors, so as to add fuel to their own industrialization strategies. There are mutual needs and complementarity between China and Africa to carry out industrial capacity cooperation and a rare historic opportunity has come for the two sides, which can help China and Africa to achieve win-win cooperation for common development, make the world more balanced, stable and prosperous, and benefit the people of China, Africa and around the world.
Industrial capacity cooperation between China and Africa is the urgent need for Africa to realize independent and sustainable development. Since the middle of the last century, African countries have achieved national independence one after another, and sought to promote economic development through international cooperation. However, some countries outside the region are only willing give Africa “fish” instead of “teaching Africa how to fish”. Many African countries still suffer from hunger and under-development.
It is impossible to realize real political independence without economic independence. By giving others fish, one might help to address the immediate needs of others. Only after “learning how to fish” can Africa sets up its own industrial system, move out of the disadvantage of exporting raw materials at a low price and importing expensive finished products, thus realizing independent and sustainable development and controlling their own destiny.
Industrial capacity cooperation is to “let African countries know how to fish”, helping Africa to get rid of the two persistent bottleneck constraints hindering its development and industrialization, i.e., insufficiency in infrastructure and talent. The Chinese government encourages Chinese businesses to invest in Africa, transfer their technologies bring more job opportunities, foreign exchange, tax revenue and added value of primary products to the local people, thus translating Africa’s abundant natural and human resources into real development results .
Industrial capacity cooperation between China and Africa is the natural trend of China’s economic transformation and upgrading. After more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China has developed a large number of leading industries which provide advanced equipments and products to the world, and numerous internationally competitive businesses have grown in China. At the same time, due to increase of labor cost, a large number of labor-intensive businesses in China need to move overseas for new development. China can and need to bring its industrial capacity overseas, and help other countries to develop while achieving China’s own development. This is also in line with the rule of world economic development. Japan and the four Asian tigers all realized economic takeoff after taking over industrial capacity from overseas, and later became source countries to export industrial capacity to overseas markets.
Africa has a population of close to 1.1 billion, which might reach 1.4 billion by 2025. The huge demographic dividend will make it one of the most ideal locations for investments from other parts of the world. In order to realize industrialization, Africa needs advantageous industrial capacity from countries such as China. The Chinese government is sincere in helping Africa to improve both “software” and “hardware” of investment, assisting them to “build a nest to attract phoenix”, and creating better environment for industrial capacity transfer. It is fair to say that China and Africa have respective advantages and mutual need for industrial capacity cooperation, helping Africa is helping China itself.
Industrial capacity cooperation between China and Africa is the objective need to safeguard world peace and prosperity. African refugees are flooding to Europe. Poverty and underdevelopment have always been the root causes of instability and unrest in Africa, which also provide the breeding ground for terrorism. Stability and development in Africa bear on sustained peace and prosperity of the world.
By investing in Africa and developing industrial capacity cooperation, especially helping African countries to develop labor-intensive industries, the Chinese businesses will create a large number of job opportunities for the local people, improve their living, and enable more African youth to go to factories, workshops, farms and office buildings to work. In that case, no one would move to the jungles to join terrorist organizations or leave their homelands to become refugees, thus Africa and the world will become more harmonious and stable.
Chinese leaders attach high importance to developing a new type of partnership with Africa featuring win-win cooperation. The essence of the policy of the new Chinese leadership is that China is willing to integrate its own development with independent and sustainable development of African countries, so as to realize common development and make the world more balanced, harmonious and prosperous.
Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized the four principles China adheres to in international industrial capacity cooperation, which are “the right approach to righteousness and benefit, win-win cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, and market-based operation”. Wang Yi stressed that China’s industrial capacity cooperation with other countries will not come at the cost of environment and long-term interests of others. China will never take the old colonial path of looting and damaging others’ resources. So China says, so China does.
Ethiopia does not have rich oil and other energy resources, but China is committed to developing mutually beneficial cooperation with Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, the first city ring road, the first express way, the first city light rail, the first electrified railway, and the first wind power generation project are all financed by China, which have created good conditions for Ethiopia to attract foreign investment and the rapid growth of local industries and economy.
The Oriental Industrial Park built with private investment from China is the first industrial park in Ethiopia, which has attracted a host of Chinese investors. Among them, Huajian Group, a large shoe maker, with only 35 Chinese employees, offers more than 3500 jobs for local people, and contributes over US$10 million to Ethiopia every year.
China is Angola’s biggest crude oil exporting destination. Over the past 10 years and more, through the model of a package cooperation, China has helped Angola to build 39 hospitals, 78 schools, 14 power transformation stations, 20 water processing factories, 7500 hectares of agricultural irrigation projects, upgrade 223 community networks, construct 1343 kilometers of railway, 892 kilometers of roads, 736 kilometers of power transmission and transformation lines, making important contribution to Angola’s national reconstruction and economic development.
The oil and mineral resources of African countries like Nigeria and Chad are monopolized by western countries. It’s only natural to wonder whether western countries are also sincere in helping African countries to develop as China does for Angola and Ethiopia.
To help and support African countries to realize lasting peace and sustainable development is in line with the common interests of people across the world, and is a common responsibility of the international community. It is a pity that some countries still take Africa as their zone of influence or “back garden”, and try to rely on their traditional influence and practical deterrence to rudely interfere in Africa’s internal and external affairs, including with whom African countries should make friends and develop cooperation. They themselves are not sincere in helping African countries to develop, and try every means to disturb others’ cooperation with Africa.
While China-Africa industrial capacity cooperation is about to set sail, some western media, far away from Africa and with their eyes closed, claim that China will transfer unwanted industrial capacity and pollution to Africa. They appear to be concerned about the ecological environment of Africa, but actually are worried that Africa might advance its industrialization and realize real political and economic independence.
China has accumulated successful experience in the process of its fast growth, and also paid a hard price for environment. As a sincere friend and reliable partner of Africa, we never want to see African countries follow the path of “pollution first and cleaning up later”. The Chinese government will give full support to African countries to set up industrial access standards and environmental threshold and will regulate Chinese businesses to abide by the four principles of industrial capacity cooperation. Jidong Development, a company from China, takes the lead in applying cement surplus heat power generation technology in its cement factory in South Africa, which can save 17,000 tons of industrial coal consumption every year, thus setting the highest standard for the cement sector in South Africa. This also serves as the model for industrial capacity cooperation, which welcomes international oversight.
Tide rises and falls. Colonial time has ended and “zero-sum” mentality must be abandoned. Africa belongs to the African people, and is an important member of the international community. Only by giving up bias and selfishness and taking off “coloured glasses” can the international partners work in concert, African countries get more benefits and the world become better and more harmonious.