(Ask the Embassy)
Q: Ambassador Liu, China-Africa relationship has drawn much attention all over the world in recent years. I heard on several occasions that you have been engaged in China's diplomacy with Africa for nearly 30 years. Could you please tell us your personal assessment of China-Africa relations?
Ambassador Liu Guijin:
As you heard it, friend, I've been privileged to serve my country by engaging in her diplomacy with Africa for some time. I'm more than happy to share my observations and thoughts about China-Africa relations with you.
The year of 2006 can be called China's Year of Africa. There are quite a few "firsts" this year in China's relations with Africa. In January, the Chinese government released its White Paper of China's African Policy. It is the very first time that China has ever done this. In April and June, for the first time that within three months in the same year, both the Chinese President and Premier visited Africa respectively. And as you are well aware, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit will be held in Beijing on 3-5 November. This is again the first time in China's diplomacy with Africa.
Against such a backdrop, it is not a surprise that China-Africa relations draw so much attention in China herself, in Africa, and even in other parts of the world.
China and Africa are geographically far apart. If we look at the map of the world, it is 12,933 kilometers from Beijing,the Capital of China,to the Cape of Good Hope, the south-west corner of this beautiful continent. But despite the long distance, our bond of friendship and cooperation has enjoyed a long history and remain ever strong and vibrant.
As you may know, friendly exchanges between China and Africa date back to ancient times. By the 6th century, China and Africa already had direct contacts via sea route. 600 years ago, Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator of the Ming Dynasty, led the then largest fleet in the world and made voyages to the eastern coast of Africa, visiting places in Somalia and Kenya of today for four times. In 2002, a copy of the Chinese map entitled "Da Ming Hun Yi Tu", or "the Great Ming Amalgamated Map", made a stir in South Africa while being displayed as part of the Parliamentary Millennium Project Exhibition. That map was drawn in the year of 1389 and is recognized as the earliest map in the world which outlines the whole African continent. It proves that direct communications between China and Africa were over 100 years earlier than the "discovery of the African continent" by Europeans. In this context, China was the first country to have official contacts and exchanges with Africa.
The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 opened a new chapter in China-Africa relationship. The year of 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and African countries. Over the years, China and Africa have supported each other in the fight for national sovereignty and dignity, worked hand in hand in the pursuit of economic development and safeguarding the rights and interests of the developing world. China has tried its best to provide timely assistance to Africa. In spite of its limited financial and material resources, China has completed some 900 projects of economic and social development in Africa including the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA), provided scholarships for 18,000 students from 50 African countries to study in China, and sent 16,000 medical personnel to 47 African countries and they have treated 240 million patients. Over 3,000 Chinese military personnel have been involved in peace-keeping operations in hot-spot areas in Africa. China also actively promotes trade with and investment in Africa, helps ease its debt burden, supports regional cooperation and helps Africa to achieve self-development. On the other hand, we Chinese will never forget Africa's support to China. Over the decades, Africa has always firmly supported China on major issues involving China's national interests such as the restoration of China's lawful seat in the United Nations and the Taiwan issue. China-Africa relationship is truly one of equality, friendship and mutual benefit based on the common interests.
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the political relations between China and African countries have become more mature with their economic cooperation and cultural exchange entering a new stage. The FOCAC, which was established in 2000 and I personally had the honor to serve as the Secretary-General of its preparatory committee and following-up committee at that time, has become an effective mechanism for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an important platform to carry out pragmatic cooperation. In the past six years, leaders of both sides have paid frequent visits to each other. The China-Africa trade volume has increased from US$10.6 billion to US$39.8 billion. Under the framework of FOCAC, China has cancelled more than 10.5 billion Yuan (US$ 1.3 billion) of debt for 31 African countries and imposed zero tariffs on 30 least developed countries (LDCs) covering 190 commodities. China has also trained about 14,600 personnel for Africa and chosen 17 African countries as destinations for outbound Chinese tourists. At the UN 60th Anniversary Summit last year, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced five major steps to assist other developing countries in speeding up their development. African countries are the main beneficiaries. As to the upcoming FOCAC Beijing Summit, I believe that broad consensus and concrete results are highly expectable.
To sum up, China-Africa friendship is time-honored and China's relationship with Africa is always a cornerstone of China's foreign policy. So much has changed in the world but China and Africa remain good friends, good brothers and good partners, sharing both weal and woe and profound friendship. To consolidate and expand its friendship and cooperation with Africa is a long-term strategy pursued by China. China sincerely hopes to see Africa develop and grow stronger. Guided by the principle of sincerity, friendship, equality, mutual benefit and common development, China is committed to building a new type of strategic partnership with Africa. China will enhance political equality and mutual trust, promote win-win economic cooperation, enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and maintain close cooperation in international affairs with Africa. The FOCAC Beijing Summit will surely turn over a new page in the history of China-Africa relations.
I am firm in the conviction that no matter how our world may change, the friendly relationship between China and Africa will last and have an ever brighter future.