By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times
Next week will see leaders from across Africa gather in Beijing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The triennial summit, themed “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-win Cooperation,” will once again bring China-Africa cooperation onto the international agenda.
Even before the summit convenes, Western media have started to scrutinize the China-Africa relationship. An opinion article published by the Financial Times argued that China’s engagement in Africa and its infrastructure-driven economic model is “failing” this continent.
Nonetheless, such a tone fails to appreciate China’s evolving role in Africa.
In the early years of China’s engagement in Africa, Beijing emphasized exchanging raw materials for China-made products. This has now been supplemented by Chinese aid and investment projects that address the continent’s demands for infrastructure. As of now, China is the leading financier of infrastructure projects in Africa, averaging about annual $11.5 billion in investment over 2012-16.
China’s aid and development financing fills a void left by Western countries which sought to use aid to influence the domestic politics of African countries and extract political gains. Unlike the West, what China has been doing in Africa is not paying lip service. At the last forum in 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion for African development over the next three years.
China hopes to help Africa achieve better development by aiding its industrialization and infrastructure, through creating local jobs and mobilizing its labor force. China does not want African countries to copy its model. Rather, by lending its development experiences, China hopes that these countries can explore their own development path and become another young global economic locomotive and world factory.
Meanwhile, the intention of Chinese projects in Africa is not altruistic. Beyond strengthening ties with the continent, China is also looking for new export markets for its labor and goods and standardizing its technologies.
From this perspective, China’s engagement with Africa fits the very concept of win-win cooperation that China has been working on – China calls it “win-win” when countries work together for the common benefit of humanity. This is also the theme of the upcoming forum.
How Africa can develop is not up to outsiders to decide. What it needs is necessary support to facilitate development. With its size and demographic advantage, Africa should benefit from globalization. The West in the past took Africa as a place to plunder without any consideration of its infrastructure. It is now not able to provide what China is providing. The West has no grounds for criticizing China’s model in Africa.
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