China’s Diplomacy During the Past Years and Its Contribution to Peace and Security in Africa

On October 1st this year, China will be marking its 73rd anniversary since it was founded in 1949. This will be an important and huge day for China. As it celebrates this extremely important day, we want to join China and its people in celebrating this glorious day of their nation.

Although separated by vast oceans, China and Africa have had close friendship since ancient times. China and Africa began direct contacts by sea route as early as in the 7th century.

Since then, trade and cultural exchanges between China and Africa have expanded and it is expected to expand further in the future. During the Cold War era, China provided various economic aid to Africa in a selfless way, including the construction of railways, notably the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara), textile, match and farm implement factories as well as theaters. China sent its doctors to scores of African nations to cure local patients.

These Chinese doctors worked side by side with their African colleagues and shared their skills and experience without reservation. But the main thrust of China-Africa relationship in this period was political.

China saw newly independent African countries as potential allies. In 1971, when the UN voted for China to take over its seat from Taiwan, 26 African countries including Tanzania, sided with China.

As once said by Chairman Mao Zedong, “It is our African brothers who have carried us into the UN.” No other country comes near the depth and breadth of China’s engagement in Africa.

It is Africa’s largest trading partner, bilateral creditor and a crucial source of infrastructure investment. Chinese firms account for an estimated one-eighth of the continent’s industrial output.

Chinese-built digital infrastructure is critical to the platforms on which Africans communicate. Political, military and security ties are becoming closer. Understanding the China-Africa relationship is key to understanding the continent and China’s global ambitions. Africans overwhelmingly view China’s role in Africa positively, welcoming China’s heavy emphasis on government-to-government contracts with few, if any, strings attached.

Many African leaders believe that as a fellow developing country, China has more altruistic motives than Western governments and corporations.

African leaders praise China’s contribution to their nations’ infrastructure, highlighting visible improvements that contribute to expanded economic activity, job creation for local workers, and tangible improvements to roads, rails, bridges, and other transportation networks all things that benefit ordinary citizens, if indirectly.

In 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established as an effective platform and multilateral mechanism for China and African countries to conduct collective consultations and carry out pragmatic cooperation.

The objectives were to have equal consulta- tions, enhancing understanding, expanding consensus, strengthening friendship and promot- ing cooperation. Since its establishment in 2000, eight ministerial conferences have been convened every three years, and successfully held so far.

The 8th Ministerial Conference took place in Dakar, Senegal from November 29th to 30th, 2021. In that conference, both sides agreed to march on the journey towards building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, usher in a new chapter of upgrading China-Africa cooperation to higher quality, maintain the traditional friendship and pass it on from generation to generation, and safeguard true multilateralism as well as international fairness and justice.

On the diplomatic front, China has a good tradition since 1991, that is, the country’s Foreign Minster chooses Africa as the destination of his first overseas visit each year. In January 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chose Tanzania as one of the stops of his first overseas visit during that year. In that visit, he affirmed that Tanzania was a staunch friend of China in Africa and holds a special and important place in China’s diplomatic history.

This friendship was coined by the late Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, and the then Tanzania President Julius Nyerere, who visited China 13 times in his lifetime. In early 2022, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Eretria, Kenya and the Comoros.

This visit appeared to intend not only to foster African development and trade, but also to foster oceanic agendas such as facilitating peace in the Horn of Africa, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the blue economy.

On March 20th, 2022, Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Ambassador Liberata Mulamula paid a virtual visit to China during which, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with her.

Both of them affirmed that China-Tanzania friendship is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of China and Tanzania, and that it is inseparable and unbreakable. When referring to Tanzania, the people of China will immediately think of Tazara, said Minister Wang Yi.

China has also fronted itself on international peace. Its domestic experiences with economic development being the “cement” of security suggest that its views on how to contribute to international peace and security are very much influenced by development-security nexus.

The integration of security and development is readily apparent in the Chinese discourse toward African states as an expression of China’s partaking in the formative process of norm-making.

These were key on China’s alternative approach towards peace-building contrary to what could be described as a traditional Western liberal model for peace-building which rests on firm belief that good governance via liberal democracy is the foundation for human rights and security.

During the Johannesburg FOCAC summit in 2015, African leaders commended China for contributing to capacity building and technical programs for African military and other security entities.

In his opening remarks, Jacob Zuma, who was then South African President requested China to provide even more of such training.

Similarities between China and Africa affirm the belief that development was key to all problems, and that all perceive security as closely related to economic development. This is anchored on the affirmation that, “without development, there will be no peace and security, and that without peace and security there will be no development”.

The commitment by China to expand cooperation in personnel training is a key welcome in this direction. China enhances intelligence sharing and joint exercises and training in assisting Africa to strengthen its capacity building in peacekeeping, counter-terrorism and counter piracy.

Finally, I fully endorse the on-going efforts by China and the African countries in strengthening their cooperation especially through FOCAC.

Mutual respect and win-win cooperation will not only see the outcomes of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC being implemented, but see the relationship between China and Africa grow to higher heights.

Happy the 73rd Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China!

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