Keynote Address by H.E. Deng Li, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, at the Opening Ceremony of the 14th Senior Officials Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
Your Excellency Ambassador Mamadou Ndiaye of Senegal, Co-chair of FOCAC,
Your Excellency Ambassador Martin Mpana of Cameroon and Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. Not long ago, we celebrated together the 20th anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC): President Xi Jinping and President Macky Sall of Senegal issued a joint congratulatory message, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi sent a video message to the commemoration reception. It is a great pleasure to see you again at this SOM meeting. I know you have a very important agenda today as you review the implementation of the outcomes of the Beijing Summit and discuss preparations for the FOCAC meeting next year. On behalf of the Foreign Ministry and the Chinese FOCAC Follow-up Committee, please allow me to express warm congratulations on the opening of the meeting and sincere thanks to Ambassador Ndiaye, Ambassador Mpana and all of you for your active involvement in the preparation for this meeting and your presence today. I also ask you to kindly relay my best regards to your FOCAC coordinators.
During the historic FOCAC Beijing Summit held in September 2018, our leaders unanimously agreed to forge an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future, marking a new milestone in China-Africa relations. Thanks to joint efforts from both sides over the past two years, important progress has been made in the follow-up actions of the Summit.
First, we have seen frequent high-level interactions. Since the Beijing Summit, 29 Chinese party or state leaders have visited Africa and 17 African leaders have come to China for visits or meetings. On the sidelines of the 2019 G20 Summit, President Xi held a small group meeting with leaders of South Africa, Senegal and Egypt. In response to the pandemic, the two sides convened the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 which was attended by President Xi and 14 African leaders; President Xi also had phone calls with seven of his African counterparts. All these are vivid examples of the China-Africa community with a shared future. Under the guidance of our leaders, China and Africa have firmly supported each other on issues of major concerns and further enhanced political mutual trust.
Second, we have seen fruitful practical cooperation. Implementation of the eight major initiatives is in full swing. A number of important events such as the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, and the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Agriculture concluded successfully. Over 70 percent of the US$60 billion of financing support pledged by China at the Beijing Summit has been either delivered or appropriated. The construction of major projects, including the Maputo-Katembe Bridge in Mozambique, phase I of the Nairobi-Malaba railway in Kenya, and the 10th of Ramadan City railway project in Egypt, is either completed or well underway, giving a strong boost to local economic and social development. In the first ten months of this year, China-Africa trade reached US$150 billion; China is on track to becoming Africa’s largest trading partner for the 12th year running.
Third, we have seen flourishing cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated. Four more Confucius Institutes and 11 Confucius Classrooms have been opened. Thirty-five cultural institutions from ten African countries have joined the Silk Road International League of Theaters, the International Alliance of Museums, the Network of Arts Festivals and the International Library Alliance. Altogether, 34 African countries have received Approved Destination Status for outbound Chinese tour groups. Last year, residents on the Chinese mainland made over 606,000 visits to Africa, and the number of sister cities increased by 11 pairs, bringing the total number to 150. China-Africa traditional friendship has taken a deeper root in our people’s heart.
In the face of the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, China and Africa have come up with an effective response and stood the test of the pandemic. When China faced its most difficult moment, we received invaluable support from our African friends, something we will never forget. When the pandemic broke out in Africa, China was among the first to offer help, and has sent multiple tranches of medical supplies to friends in Africa, covering all FOCAC members. Despite its own difficulties, China has fully honored its commitment under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative: it has signed debt suspension agreements with 12 African countries and decided to waive interest-free loans due to mature by the end of 2020 for 15 African countries. What’s more, China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year. Our joint epidemic response and mutual assistance shows to the world China and Africa’s determination to overcome the challenge together.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The international landscape is undergoing profound and complex changes. The pandemic is unprecedented and global challenges keep emerging. It is against this backdrop that FOCAC marks its 20th anniversary. Over the past two decades, the development and achievements of FOCAC have vindicated the distinct features of China-Africa cooperation, which include mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit, common development and mutual assistance. They also tell us that the more fluid and complex the international situation is, the greater the need for China and Africa to stand firmly together. As for the next step, we propose that efforts be made along the following three lines to strengthen China-Africa cooperation.
First, we need to forge strategic common understanding and stick to the goal of building a community with a shared future. Rising unilateralist, protectionist and bullying acts pose a challenge to the common interests of all developing countries. During the BRICS Summit, APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, G20 Summit and other international meetings President Xi attended last month, he called for greater international consensus and cooperation to advance economic and social development in the context of epidemic control, strengthen global economic governance, and jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind. His proposals reflect the common aspirations of the developing world and echo the long-held views and beliefs of African countries. In view of the current international landscape, we need to uphold multilateralism, continue to enhance our comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, and intensify the building of an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future, which may serve as a pacesetter for the global community with a shared future.
Second, we need to deepen practical cooperation and build a China-Africa community of win-win development. At the recently concluded Fifth Plenum of the 19th CPC Central Committee, China adopted recommendations for its 14th Five-Year Plan and long-range goals for 2035, and decided to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other and to build a new system of open economy of higher standards. These initiatives present more opportunities for Africa’s development. In recent years, African countries have worked together to launch the African Continental Free Trade Area and advance the first ten-year plan of Agenda 2063, which has further unleashed the development potential of Africa. China hopes to work with our African friends to identify complementarities between our development plans and foster new driving forces for China-Africa cooperation. We may launch a new batch of cooperation projects that promote employment and improve people’s lives, and tap into cooperation potential in free trade area, digital economy, poverty alleviation, connectivity of industrial and supply chains, and climate change.
Third, we need to strengthen joint epidemic response and work toward a China-Africa community of health for all. We need to fully implement the outcomes of the Extraordinary Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, enhance cooperation on epidemic response and economic reopening, ensure good progress in the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters, and contribute to international cooperation against the pandemic. China will continue to provide medical supplies to African countries, share experience and our practices in coordinating epidemic control with economic and social development, and support Africa in strengthening its public health system and resuming economic growth. Once our COVID vaccines are developed and deployed, China will actively consider providing them to African countries in need, as a concrete measure to help our African friends defeat the virus at an early date.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The next FOCAC meeting will take place in Senegal next year. It will be another major event in China-Africa relations. China will work with Senegal and other FOCAC members in making good preparations for the meeting, taking into account both the needs for epidemic control and for growing China-Africa relations. We look forward to hearing valuable suggestions from Your Excellencies. Through joint efforts, we hope to finalize the format at an early date, work out a good design for the deliverables, create more highlight projects in the FOCAC spirit of extensive consultation, joint contribution, shared benefits and pioneering innovation, and build up the momentum of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation. Our aim is to jointly safeguard a favorable international environment for development in China and Africa, and deliver more benefits to the people in our countries.
Finally, I wish the SOM meeting a complete success.