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China and Africa strengthen cooperation

Published Nov 12, 2006 10:32 PM

China’s diplomatic greeters rolled out red carpets for 48 delegations from African countries arriving in Beijing on Nov. 3-5 for the “Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.”

Malawi, Swaziland, Burkina Faso, and Sao Tome and Principe—which have diplomatic relations with Taiwan—were invited but did not send delegations.

Throughout Beijing banners and billboards proclaimed the meeting and its intention to build solidarity between the Chinese and African peoples.

Thirty-five of the delegations were headed by the top official from that country. Thabo Mbeki from South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo from Nigeria, Hosni Mubarak from Egypt and Omar Bongo from Gabon were among the presidents who turned their trip to Beijing for the forum into a state visit.

During the conference, Chinese and African authorities announced 14 trade and investment deals totaling nearly $2 billion.

The final declaration at the Beijing forum was jointly delivered, read in turn by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak. It proclaimed a strategic partnership featuring “political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges.”

The statement called for increasing the representation and full participation of African countries in the United Nations Security Council and other UN agencies. “We urge the developed countries to increase official development assistance and honor their commitments to opening market and debt relief,” it read.

Priority should be given to cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, industry, fishing, information technology, public health and education, to draw on each other’s strengths for the benefit of the peoples, according to the declaration.

The declaration concluded that, “We hold that the establishment of a new type of strategic partnership is both the shared desire and independent choice of China and Africa, serves our common interests, and will help enhance solidarity, mutual support and assistance and unity of the developing countries and contribute to durable peace and harmonious development in the world.”

Africa runs surplus in Chinese trade balance

Bilateral trade between Africa and China amounted to $10 billion in the year 2000. Five years later, that amount grew to more than $40 billion. Projections at the recent Beijing summit estimate that in 2010 that annual trade will grow to roughly $80 billion to $100 billion, which would supplant European Union trade with Africa.

China imported 38 million tons of oil from Africa last year, making up about 30 percent of the country’s total oil imports. It also imports a significant amount of minerals, timber and other raw materials its economy needs.

Chinese investments in Africa in 2005 were mainly in building ports, railways, roads and dams.

In an Oct. 30 announcement made in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, China and Nigeria reported signing an $8.3 billion multi-year agreement. China is providing Nigeria a $2.3 billion “soft” loan. This will help finance a major power plant, improve and modernize the railway system, develop a rural telephone project, and help implement efficient communication systems.

Africa runs a slight surplus in its balance of trade with China, which destroys the foundation of the charge, common in the imperialist media, that these trade deals are just a refashioned version of 19th century Western mercantilism.

The 19th century colonial powers like Great Britain, France and Belgium also severely limited or denied access to higher education.

Today several hundred students from Gabon, for example, are in China studying medicine, engineering, science and finance.

The news service InfoPlus from the country of Gabon—which is a major West African oil producer with aging fields—explains that China “invests in petroleum fields that the Western majors judge only slightly profitable. Their policy is skillful: it is not a question of immediate profitability but of guaranteeing the future.”

It is telling that this event, so important for Africa’s development, received little notice in the U.S. media.

E-mail: [email protected]