Wu Jianghao, assistant foreign minister
Wu Peng, director-general of the Department of African Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Shou Xiaoli, deputy director general of the Press Bureau of the State Council Information Office (SCIO) and SCIO spokesperson
Nov. 26, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference being held by the State Council Information Office (SCIO). Today, the SCIO issued a new white paper titled "China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals." We are holding this press conference to introduce and interpret the white paper.
Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, the white paper documents the progress in China-Africa cooperation achieved since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), presents China's policy position on relations with African countries in the new era, and looks forward to the bright prospects for cooperation between the two sides and a China-Africa community of shared future in the new era. At around 21,000 Chinese characters, the white paper consists of foreword, main body and conclusion. The main text is divided into four parts: Building an Even Stronger China-Africa Community of Shared Future, All-Round China-Africa Cooperation in the New Era, Strengthening Mutual Support, and Breaking New Ground in China-Africa Relations.
The white paper is published in eight languages — Chinese, English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese — by the People's Publishing House and the Foreign Languages Press. It is available at Xinhua Bookstore outlets across the country.
In order to help you gain a better understanding of the white paper, we have invited Mr. Wu Jianghao, assistant foreign minister, and Mr. Wu Peng, director-general of the Department of African Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attend today's press conference. They will introduce relevant information and answer your questions. Now, I will give the floor to Mr. Wu Jianghao.
Friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Thank you, Ms. Shou. I am very glad to introduce to you the newly released white paper "China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals." This is the first white paper issued by the Chinese government on China-Africa cooperation, and the first of its kind released since the 18th CPC National Congress on China's cooperation with a specific region. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you, friends from the media, for your long-term care and support for China's diplomacy and in particular China-Africa relations. China is the world's largest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. Shared past experiences and similar development course and targets have brought China and Africa closer together. China and Africa's traditional friendship has gained strong public support, and occupies a special historical position in China's overall diplomatic landscape.
Developing solidarity and cooperation with African countries has been a cornerstone of China's foreign policy, as well as a firm and longstanding strategy. China has firmly supported African countries in realizing their national independence and liberation, following development paths that fit their national conditions, and has made its due contribution to Africa's economic and social development, improvement of people's wellbeing, and its regional integration. African countries have provided firm support in the international arena for China's endeavors to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. The two sides have enjoyed win-win cooperation and common development through pragmatic cooperation. China and Africa have always been a community of shared future.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, President Xi Jinping has attached great importance to China-Africa relations, and personally drawn up a blueprint for China-Africa cooperation. At the Johannesburg Summit in 2015 and the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2018, President Xi Jinping and African leaders unanimously agreed to upgrade China-Africa relations to a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, and build a China-Africa community of shared future characterized by joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, cultural prosperity, common security, and harmony between humanity and nature. This has led China-Africa relations into a new era, pushed China-Africa cooperation to new and unprecedented heights, and set an example for building a global community of shared future. China and Africa have supported each other in confronting the grave challenges posed by COVID-19. The two sides jointly hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19, writing a new chapter in China-Africa solidarity and friendship in times of crisis.
The white paper offers a comprehensive and systematic summary of new guiding ideas, practices and outcomes of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy regarding China-Africa relations, and elaborates on the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, the principles of pursuing the greater good and shared interests, and the six-sphere integrated plan of building a China-Africa community of shared future proposed by President Xi Jinping. With a large amount of data and facts, the white paper showcases an omni-dimensional and wide-ranging framework of China-Africa cooperation, and the journey of the Chinese and African people working together and providing mutual assistance in the new era.
In two days, the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC will open in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony via video link and deliver a keynote speech. In this context, we have released the white paper in order to explain China's policy toward Africa, showcase practices and outcomes of China-Africa cooperation in the new era, greet the Dakar conference, help the international community deepen its understanding of China-Africa cooperation, and offer China's experience and wisdom for international cooperation with Africa and global development cooperation.
The sixth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee was successfully convened. China is implementing the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, and marching toward the second centenary goal of building a modern socialist country. Africa is currently trying to overcome the impact of the pandemic and advance its economic recovery and regional integration. The two sides will enjoy broader cooperation space. In the face of new opportunities and challenges, China will work with African countries to steadfastly reinforce their traditional friendship, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, and safeguard common interests. The two sides will step up efforts to build an even stronger China-Africa community of shared future, and make a greater contribution to a global community of shared future.
Thank you. Next, my colleague and I are willing to answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Jiang, for your introduction. The floor is now open for questions. Please identify your media outlet before asking your questions.
As you said just now, the white paper is the first of its kind issued by the Chinese government since the 18th CPC National Congress on China's cooperation with a specific region. Why was China-Africa cooperation chosen as the subject? Thank you.
I think many of you may have the same question. We have chosen to issue a white paper on China-Africa cooperation because China-Africa relations are very special. This is mainly reflected in the following three aspects.
First, African countries and China are all developing countries. China and Africa enjoy a long-lasting friendship, and our relations grow closer with time. The Chinese and African peoples have forged a strong friendship as we struggled for national independence and liberation and carried out mutual support and wholehearted cooperation in seeking national rejuvenation and development. The two sides have been firmly supporting each other on issues involving each other's core interests and major concerns. Chairman Mao once said, "It's our African brothers who got the People's Republic of China back into the United Nations." No matter how the international situation changes in the future, I believe we will remain true to the original aspiration of China-Africa win-win cooperation and common development. China and Africa will always be the most reliable friends and sincere partners.
Second, China-Africa cooperation has become a distinct symbol in South-South cooperation and in international cooperation with Africa. Entering the new century, especially since the founding of FOCAC in 2000, practical cooperation between China and African countries has developed rapidly. China helped African countries build more than 80 large-scale power facilities and funded over 130 medical facilities, 45 sports venues, and over 170 schools. It also trained more than 160,000 personnel for Africa and built a series of flagship projects, including the AU Conference Center. Chinese companies have utilized various funds to help African countries build and upgrade more than 10,000 km of railways, nearly 100,000 km of highways, nearly 1,000 bridges and 100 ports. They have also helped build an installed power-generating capacity of 120 million kW, a communications backbone network of 150,000 km, and a network service covering nearly 700 million user terminals. The two sides have also seen expanded cooperation in emerging industries such as the digital economy, aerospace, clean energy, and new infrastructure. The fruitful results of China-Africa cooperation can be seen across the continent. It has improved the conditions for economic and social development in Africa and enhanced Africa's development capabilities, which brought tangible benefits to people in both China and Africa and created more favorable conditions for others in the international community to conduct cooperation with Africa.
Third, China and Africa set an exemplary model for building a global community of shared future. The overall objective in pursuing China's major country diplomacy is to promote the building of a new type of international relations and a global community of shared future. The future of our people is closely linked, and we share very similar views on major issues such as promoting the change of the international landscape and making international relations more democratic. The concept of a global community of shared future is highly compatible with Africa's goal of building a stronger African continent through unity, prosperity and rejuvenation, which is well received and supported by African countries. When China-Africa cooperation thrives, South-South cooperation will flourish. When China and Africa are fully developed, the world will be a better place. Cooperation in the new era will lay more solid foundations for building an even stronger China-Africa community of shared future and promote China-Africa relations to be at the forefront of building a global community of shared future. Thank you.
We just noticed that you mentioned the upcoming ministerial conference of the FOCAC that is scheduled to take place in Senegal. Please detail this conference. In addition, we also want to know what new measures China will propose for cooperation with Africa at this conference? Thank you.
Thank you, and let me answer your questions. The Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC will be held on Nov. 29 and 30 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the African co-chair of FOCAC. On Nov. 28, there will be a senior official meeting to prepare for this forum, and I will also go to Dakar to attend this meeting.
You know the FOCAC is held every three years and serves as a major event between China and Africa. This forum is another grand meeting of our friendly China-Africa family since the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit. It is also the largest in-person diplomatic event jointly organized by China and overseas countries since the emergence of COVID-19. As we mentioned earlier, President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC and deliver a keynote speech through video link in Beijing. The Chinese government will also send a high-level delegation to Dakar to attend the conference. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Africa will still hold the conference as scheduled, reflecting the mutual trust and support of the two sides, as well as our determination and responsibility to jointly address the questions of the times and respond to changes in the world.
With the theme of "Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community of Shared Future in the New Era," the conference will review and assess the follow-up implementation of the outcomes of the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit as well as the joint China-Africa response to COVID-19, and chart the course for China-Africa relations for the next three years and more to come.
At this conference, China will elaborate on important policies on building a China-Africa community of shared future in the new era and announce new major measures for cooperation with Africa in the next three years. As I just said, President Xi Jinping will give a keynote speech. The main new measures of China's cooperation with Africa will be announced by President Xi Jinping. I won't say too much here, but I would like to share some information with you. For example, in the health sector, President Xi will announce major measures to help Africa fight against COVID-19. China will also introduce some new measures in the field of trade and investment at the request of the African side. Indeed, the FOCAC needs to improve its quality and efficiency and promote the transformation and upgrading in the next stage. Therefore, we will also jointly expand cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as digital innovation and green development. Climate change is now a major challenge for all mankind, and China and Africa will do their part. The two sides will issue a special declaration on addressing climate change.
I would like to thank all journalists present here for your attention to this grand China-Africa cooperation event and welcome your reports.
Southern Metropolis Daily:
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major global cooperation initiative proposed by China. What is the attitude of Africa towards the BRI? Has China-Africa cooperation under the BRI achieved results? Thanks.
Thank you for your questions. Indeed, the BRI is a public product offered by China to the world, and it is very popular in Africa. Africa is a natural and historical extension of the BRI. Around 600 years ago, the Ming Dynasty admiral Zheng He's fleet once reached the east coast of Africa, near Malindi Island in Kenya. It is believed that the wrecked ship in one village there must be one of Zheng He's fleets. The Palace Museum also sent archaeologists there for excavations and found many examples of Ming Dynasty porcelain left by Zheng He's fleet. These are all archaeological evidence of the fleet's presence there.
The Maritime Silk Road has opened the road of business for China and Africa. The Belt and Road Initiative has earned active support and participation from African countries since its inception. To date, 52 of 53 African countries that have established diplomatic ties with China, as well as the African Union, have signed agreements on cooperation with China to promote the Belt and Road Initiative. Africa is now one of the most important cooperation parties under the initiative. That is to say, almost all African countries have joined in cooperation under the initiative.
In recent years, connectivity between China and Africa under the Belt and Road Initiative has also expanded at a faster pace. A number of transport infrastructure projects have opened to traffic, including the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, the famous Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, and the No. 1 National Highway of the Republic of the Congo. Projects such as the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port in Djibouti and the Lome Container Terminal in Togo have been successful in increasing entrepot trade. Innumerable major projects under the initiative play an important role in boosting regional connectivity and integration.
Currently, both China and Africa have entered a new development stage. China is promoting a new development paradigm with the domestic economy and international engagement providing mutual reinforcement, with the former as the mainstay. China's development will create more opportunities for Africa's development. With the official launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area on Jan. 1, 2021, Africa's economic integration is accelerating, providing more room for growth in China-Africa cooperation. The two sides will focus on boosting quality development and further align the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative with those of the AU's Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China and Africa will deepen practical cooperation in all fields and promote the sustainable and high-standard development of the Belt and Road that is beneficial to the people. Thank you.
My question is about the cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. There is a saying that China has caused debt traps for Africa. How much debt does Africa owe to China? How to solve the debt issue? Another question is more specific. Why is this FOCAC a ministerial conference instead of a summit? Will there be a summit in 2021? Thank you.
I will answer the questions from Kyodo News. First, I will explain why it is a ministerial conference. We all know that the FOCAC was established in 2000, which was designed to be a ministerial conference when the mechanism started. In 2006, 2015, and 2018, we held three summits and ministerial conferences, respectively. Therefore, the forum mechanism is a ministerial conference. As Mr. Wu Jianghao introduced just now, Chinese President Xi Jinping will participate in the opening ceremony of this ministerial conference in Beijing via video link, which demonstrates the importance that the Chinese government has attached to China-Africa cooperation. This ministerial conference is the activity of FOCAC, which is held every three years.
As for the question about debt that you mentioned, first of all, the so-called debt trap is already a cliché in my view, which has been disproved by a wide range of research conducted by governments, scholars, and institutes across the globe. The basic logic of the debt trap is that China provided unaffordable loans to Africa and would confiscate or take physical assets of African countries when they were unable to pay back the debts. I suggest that the journalist from Kyodo News research if there has been any project that was confiscated by China because African countries can't repay the debts. You won't find a single one.
Not a single developing country has fallen into a so-called trap due to owing debts to China. The fact and statistics also prove that this saying is totally untenable. I can introduce to you China's attitude towards Africa's debt issue and the reasons.
In recent years, Africa has actively promoted social development. However, capital deficiency remained a major bottleneck in reviving Africa. As a sincere and friendly partner of Africa, China has attached much importance to Africa's capital needs and the sustainability of their debts. China sticks to the intensive development philosophy and fully respects the will of the African people. Based on the realities in Africa, China has conducted practical and effective investment and financing cooperation with Africa, which is widely welcomed by African countries.
Indeed, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, some African countries have been confronted with temporary difficulties. China supports reducing the debt burden on African countries and is actively implementing the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). Among G20 members, China ranks first in terms of the amount of deferred debt, having signed debt service suspension agreements or reached consensus with 19 African countries. China supports extending the DSSI until the end of 2021, and is working with relevant members to implement the common framework for debt treatments beyond DSSI. The creditor committees of Chad and Ethiopia have already been set up under the common framework, with China and France serving as co-chairs of the Ethiopian Creditor Committee.
China works with relevant parties in supporting the debt reduction and suspension for countries facing an extremely serious epidemic and under severe pressure case by case. China has announced an exemption from debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due to mature by the end of 2018. It will apply to Africa's least developed countries, heavily indebted and poor countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing countries that have diplomatic relations with China. During the COVID-19 pandemic, China canceled the outstanding debts of 15 African countries in the form of interest-free loans that matured at the end of 2020. I think that China remains committed to making its contribution.
Africa has achieved remarkable development results over recent years. It is of vital importance to restore and continue the development momentum in the face of the pandemic. China stands ready to work with the international community, stick to the principle of "joint action and fair burden sharing," and implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the common framework for debt treatments beyond DSSI. China supports that those rich countries lend a proportion of their allocation of International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights to African countries in need. We also hope that multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors will take active and concrete actions in expanding investment in Africa and support Africa to achieve economic independence and sustainable development, and eradicate the root causes of debt issues.
It must rely on development to solve Africa's debt issues. African countries are confident in their development prospects. Therefore, we believe that both China and Africa are resolute in solving temporary difficulties that face Africa.
The "debt trap" rhetoric, which has been frequently hyped in recent years, is actually untenable. Developing countries have their needs for development, and funds are crucial to ensure their development. It is not reasonable to consider the money offered by the Western countries and Japan to developing countries as "official development assistance (ODA)," while those offered by China create a "debt trap." This is untenable. The attitude of recipient countries should not be neglected as well. Has any Western media outlet found a developing country that has accused China of making them fall into a "debt trap"? I don't think so. The "debt trap" rhetoric is fabricated by Western governments and media outlets.
Japan used the loans from the World Bank to implement its Shinkansen project many years ago, and its debts were not paid off until a few years ago. Is it reasonable to argue that the World Bank created a debt trap for Japan? With fairness and justice, it would be easy for us to tell how untenable this argument is. Thank you.
Red Star News:
The COVID-19 pandemic is still ravaging the world and hampering international cooperation. What measures have China and African countries adopted to deal with challenges brought about by the pandemic? Thank you.
Thank you for your question. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, and how to address the challenge is something that concerns all countries. Confronted by COVID-19, China and Africa have withstood a severe challenge, helping each other and fighting side by side to defeat the pandemic through solidarity and cooperation.
In June 2020, the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 was held via video link, making China the first country in the world to convene an anti-pandemic summit with Africa. At the summit, President Xi Jinping called for the accelerated implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, with greater priority to be given to cooperation in the areas of public health, economic reopening, and people's livelihoods. He also announced a series of measures regarding anti-pandemic assistance to Africa, debt relief, debt service suspension, and economic reopening, which have been highly praised and widely welcomed in Africa. Since the summit, the two sides have closely worked together on pandemic prevention and control, resuming economic activity, and progressing China-Africa anti-pandemic cooperation.
Nearly 100,000 Chinese technicians and service workers stood fast at their posts, and a lot of China-invested companies went to Africa to facilitate the reopening of the plants and the projects there, which, therefore, ensured more than 1,100 China-Africa cooperation projects operating despite the pandemic. Thanks to the joint efforts of China and African countries, many major projects have been completed and made important progress, making a great contribution to the local fight against COVID-19 and ensuring people's livelihood improvement and economic recovery. Despite the pandemic, China-Africa cooperation has achieved remarkable results and has been resilient.
After COVID-19 struck Africa, China immediately offered humanitarian assistance, the largest such program in scale and the most difficult to implement since the founding of the PRC. It is challenging to ensure the delivery of the anti-pandemic materials to Africa due to the long distance and inconvenient transportation. Despite this, we have overcome the difficulties.
In coordination with local governments, enterprises, and social organizations, the Central Government of China has provided emergency anti-pandemic supplies to 53 African countries and the AU based on their respective needs, with these emergency supplies reaching almost all areas across the continent. China has also actively shared its anti-epidemic experience with African countries and dispatched anti-epidemic medical expert groups or short-term anti-epidemic medical teams to 17 African countries to fight the epidemic alongside local people. At the beginning of this year, it pushed for the earlier start of the construction of the headquarters of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a project assisted by China. The project is undergoing rapid progress, and we are confident that it will be completed in about two years. To help African countries cope with the pandemic and overcome temporary difficulties, China has actively implemented the G20's Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which I have provided some information about.
Moreover, China actively honors its commitment to making vaccines a global public good and has taken the lead to supply vaccines to Africa. So far, China has provided nearly 200 million doses of vaccine to Africa. Chinese enterprises are actively engaging in joint vaccine production in Africa with local firms, which is something Africa really needs.
The pandemic is still raging, posing challenges to socio-economic development in Africa and disrupting the people-to-people exchange between China and Africa. As such, cooperation on public health will be one of the major focuses at the Ministerial Conference of FOCAC in Dakar. As I mentioned earlier, China is ready to continue its support for African countries in their fight against the pandemic in accordance with the pandemic situation and the willingness of relevant countries. China and Africa are confident that we will beat the virus, and promote China-Africa cooperation to ensure high-quality development. Thank you.
China News Service:
The international community is paying more attention to Africa's development. Many countries outside the region are actively engaging in cooperation with African countries. What do you think of the competition and cooperation between China and other countries in Africa? Thank you.
China and Africa have a long history of cooperation, such as the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA). China-Africa cooperation has witnessed rapid progress over the past decade, and areas of cooperation have also been expanded. With China's increased investment, remarkable outcomes have been made. In this regard, such cooperation is driving more countries to invest in Africa. I think it is a good thing for Africa to get more investment. As a friend of Africa, we are also very delighted to see that. It is the common responsibility of the international community to support Africa's development. China has an open and welcoming attitude toward cooperation that the international community and countries around the world would like to develop with African countries. We believe that Africa is a broad stage for international cooperation rather than an arena for competition among major countries. Moreover, we believe that cooperation with African countries should be carried out on the basis of respecting their sovereignty and true needs, listening to their voice, and give full play to our respective strengths so as to bring tangible benefits to the African people.
President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative at the general debate of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly this September in an effort to speed up the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The initiative has received broad welcome and support from Africa countries as Africa will be one of the main beneficiaries of the initiative. This May, China and African countries jointly launched the Initiative on Partnership for Africa's Development, aiming to build consensus and add new impetuses to an early victory against COVID-19 and the realization of sustainable development in Africa. China will continue to enhance cooperation with African countries based on the correct concept of upholding justice and joint interests, and wishes to carry out dialogues, exchanges, and cooperation with various parties in this regard.
When we carry forward the joint building of the Belt and Road, an important aspect is triangular cooperation, which, of course, also applies in Africa. At the same time, we welcome more countries and international organizations to join in the Global Development Initiative and the Initiative on Partnership for Africa's Development to form international synergy in supporting African development and helping African countries in their pursuit of stronger, greener, and healthier development. Thank you.
Would you please introduce the China-Africa infrastructure cooperation? Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected cooperation? Are you considering new models for future cooperation? Thanks.
I will take your questions, thank you. Indeed, infrastructure is a traditional and much-watched area in China-Africa economic and trade cooperation, which indicates infrastructure cooperation has made great gains. The projects implemented by China's enterprises have effectively improved infrastructure connectivity in Africa and boosted local social and economic development. Just now, we listed relative data and projects, showing what we have achieved there. For example, since the FOCAC was set up, China has used various funds to help African countries build more than 10,000 km of railway and 100,000 km of highway. We mentioned this just now.
It is true that COVID-19 has disrupted China-Africa personnel exchanges and cooperation. However, we didn't press the "pause button" and managed to continue the implementation of China-Africa projects amid the pandemic, and a batch of major projects have made great progress. For example, the passenger flows and cargo volumes of the Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya and the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway have increased sharply amid the pandemic, as the flow of personnel and trucks was inconveniently limited due to cross-border COVID-19 measures. This proves that infrastructure plays the role of the artery amid the COVID-19 pandemic and makes a great contribution to the economic development and pandemic prevention and control in the two countries and in Africa. China's government encourages enterprises to enhance infrastructure cooperation with African countries, and to seize new opportunities to extend industrial chains and cultivate new models based on the consolidation of traditional advantages. For instance, given the strained financial situation in some African countries, many Chinese enterprises launched infrastructure projects under PPP (public-private partnership) and BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) models, such as Nigeria's Lekki Deep Sea Port and Kenya's airport expressway. Thus, China encourages and supports its enterprises to transform and upgrade cooperation via new models.
At the upcoming FOCAC conference, we will roll out new measures for cooperation in our traditional area of infrastructure to further promote mutually beneficial and win-win China-Africa cooperation. Thank you.
China Youth Daily:
Nowadays, the world is increasingly polarized, and separatism is on the rise. The white paper was issued against such a backdrop. My question is, what is the significance of holding the FOCAC conference and highlighting China-Africa cooperation against such a backdrop?
You posed a very big question. I think what you are referring to is what is the significance of China-Africa cooperation and FOCAC in terms of international relations. I will follow what Mr. Wu Jianghao has said just now. We always hold that demands from Africa should be the core consideration of China-Africa cooperation or other international cooperation with African countries. As Mr. Wu Jianghao said, Africa should be a stage for international cooperation, not an arena for competition among major countries. As the head of the department of African affairs of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I am occupied with considering the needs of African countries and China-Africa cooperative projects every day. I barely have time to think about how other countries see China-Africa cooperation. You asked about the significance of FOCAC. Africa has encountered serious but temporary difficulties. The pandemic caused the most serious economic recession in half a century in Africa in 2020, but in 2021 the economy has recovered with good momentum. The impact of COVID-19 will not disappear in the short term, there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve sustainable development, but African countries and China have the confidence to overcome these difficulties.
What's the significance of China-Africa cooperation and the FOCAC? I think that, for one thing, China and Africa have entered new development stages, and the advantages of their economic complementarity have become more obvious. China is accelerating the fostering of a new development paradigm and is dedicated to advancing opening-up to a higher level. The newly-established African Continental Free Trade Area also taps into the vast market potential of the continent's 1.3 billion people and its $3.4 trillion economy. We must be aware of the situation and hold a long-term and progressive point of view when cooperating with Africa. Africa has made significant progress seeking economic strength through unity and promoting economic integration, and this has achieved substantial growth momentum into its economy. As a result, China and Africa's development has become even more complementary, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides has even brighter prospects.
In addition, the latest round of the worldwide sci-tech revolution and industrial transformation has created opportunities for us to deepen China-Africa cooperation. Currently, China-Africa cooperation is seeing sound momentum and is transitioning from a government-led approach to a market-oriented model, from commodity trade to industrial capacity cooperation, and from project contracting to investment operations. Moreover, the pandemic has created new opportunities for collaboration in the internet economy, 5G, healthcare, the supply of industrial chains and other areas both within Africa and between the continent and China, bringing about massive potential for China-Africa cooperation.
China's resolve to enhance cooperation with Africa will not change due to the pandemic or temporary economic recession. The direction of our partnership will remain unchanged, and the actions we take will not be weakened. China will continue upholding the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, as well as the principles of pursuing the greater good and shared interests, so as to work with our African friends to properly tackle challenges facing China-Africa cooperation under the new circumstances. Looking beyond the pandemic, China will keep its relations with Africa abreast of the times and forge ahead to inject new vitality into the cooperation between the two sides and bring tangible benefits to people in China and Africa.
Hong Kong Bauhinia Magazine:
What achievements have been made in people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa in recent years? How can we make further progress in this aspect? Thank you.
Thank you for your questions. People-to-people exchanges are among the essential parts of China-Africa cooperation, because it is the public support for exchanging between the two sides. Therefore, China has always attached great importance to interacting with people in Africa, speaking with them, listening to them, responding to their concerns and implementing China-Africa cooperation in a way that helps fulfill their dreams.
As an old Chinese saying goes, "State-to-state relations thrive when there is a friendship between the peoples." "Cultural prosperity" is one of the critical aspects of building a China-Africa community of shared future. The two sides have seen diverse people-to-people exchange activities in recent years. We have held many "Year of an African Country" events, "Year of Culture" programs and "Chinese and Africa Cultures in Focus" projects. Other programs include the China-Africa Youth Festival, think tank forums, media cooperation forums, and joint exchanges projects, to name a few. There are also Confucius Institutes and cultural centers. The two sides have established 61 Confucius Institutes and 48 Confucius Classrooms in Africa, and the numbers keep growing. There are also 160 pairings of sister provinces or cities between China and African countries. It's fair to say that the two sides have an increasingly profound understanding of each other.
Given the upcoming meeting of the FOCAC, we have launched an online campaign collecting video and photographic works from people in Africa. I am very impressed by some of the pieces collected. These works reflect ordinary people's point of view on China-Africa cooperation and tell stories about how these people benefit from the cooperation. I find them very touching. I recommend our friends from the media to take a look at these works, which, together with news information, are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. You may find some exciting news topics from them.
Under the current circumstance, people-to-people exchanges, especially exchanges with people from all walks of life in Africa, is still an essential aspect of our work. We need to expand the public support of the development of China and Africa and strengthen the bond between the people of the two sides. Thank you.
Next will be the last question due to time constraints.
In recent years, Chinese and African companies have jointly built many cross-border e-commerce platforms, via which African products like coffee can enter ordinary Chinese families. Will the digital economy become a new highlight of China-Africa cooperation? What is your view on the prospects for this area of cooperation? Thank you.
You must have closely followed the situation of China-Africa cooperation. The questions are well to the point. Indeed, the digital economy has become a new highlight of China-Africa cooperation. In recent years, China has made great efforts in promoting China-Africa cooperation in the digital economy. By doing so, China is helping African countries eliminate the digital divide and seize the opportunity of an information revolution.
First of all, infrastructure is essential in the development of the digital economy and e-commerce. Here I'm talking about the "new types of infrastructure." China has made significant contributions to building digital infrastructure in Africa. Our companies have utilized various funds to help African countries with fiber-optic cable projects and wireless telecommunications projects. Instead of just sitting in the office, our engineers and technicians have kept working in the wild, including valleys, fields, and mountains. Kilometer by kilometer, they have worked together with their African peers to build plenty of digital infrastructure projects on the continent.
A possible stereotype about Africa is that the continent is less advanced in developing the digital economy. Well, this is true. However, with a large young population and relatively high internet and mobile phone coverage, Africa has enormous potential in this area. As for the need of African countries for infrastructure such as the servers providing cloud services, China has developed many digital centers and intelligent cities in response to their requests.
Another concern of African countries is how to advance China-Africa cooperation via the digital economy and e-commerce platforms. This September, we launched the African Products Online Promoting Season. The three-month campaign has achieved satisfying results. Many ambassadors of African countries to China promoted their local products on e-commerce platforms, such as oranges from South Africa, coffee from Ethiopia and Tanzania, and chili peppers from Rwanda. Such promotional activities have stimulated a surge in consumption, though the volume may not be as massive as during the Singles' Day shopping spree, yet good enough considering the economic sizes of those countries. In my view, significant progress has already been made.
E-commerce platforms have also helped featured products from Africa to access the Chinese market gradually. I once saw Tanzanian coffee served at a Starbucks in Beijing. For me, it was a delightful surprise. What's more, Hunan, a Chinese province where local dishes are quite spicy and full of chili peppers, has signed an agreement with Rwanda in Africa on trade in dried chili peppers. Rwanda is a small country by area, and its chili peppers have a unique flavor. In addition to planting chili peppers on its land, Rwanda has also rented more fields in neighboring countries to supply Hunan with enough chili peppers. The need for chili peppers in a single province in China is beyond the capacity of Rwanda. All the above are examples of new business opportunities triggered by new types of the digital economy for African countries. Of course, the digital economy covers many other areas, including digital currency and online payments. Chinese companies have also contributed a lot in these areas in Africa. As far as I know, 60% to 70% of the mobile payment services of one African country are provided by a platform jointly launched by African and Chinese companies. More and more new business forms, including mobile payment systems and digital currency services, have developed in Africa, making here a continent full of hope and potential to give play to its late starter's advantage and achieve leapfrog development in new areas.
Thank you, Mr. Wu Jianghao and Mr. Wu Peng. And thank you to all journalists for their participation. Today's press conference is hereby concluded. Goodbye.
Translated and edited by Zhang Liying, Wang Qian, Wang Yiming, Zhang Rui, Liu Jianing, Huang Shan, Gong Yingchun, Ma Yujia, Wang Yanfang, Yuan Fang, Zhu Bochen, Chen Xia, Li Xiao, Li Huiru, David Ball, Jay Birbeck, and Tom Arnstein. In case of any discrepancy between the English and Chinese texts, the Chinese version is deemed to prevail.