|Transcript of Director-General Lu Shaye of the African Affair Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Phoenix TV (March 25, 2013)|
Correspondent: In a few days President Xi Jinping is going to make his first overseas tour since taking office. Of the four countries his is going to visit, three are African states. How do you view such an arrangement? What are the areas in which the significance of China-Africa relations is highlighted? What are the special considerations for choosing South Africa, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo as countries to visit for the president's first overseas trip?
Lu: There are some objective reasons for choosing Africa, such as attending the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting. But I think such an arrangement has demonstrated some consistent principles of Chinese diplomacy, i.e., to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with developing countries including African states. This is the cornerstone of China's foreign policy, as well as the main direction of our foreign strategy. So it is somewhat natural for choosing Africa for President Xi's first overseas trip, which demonstrates the importance China attaches to Africa.
As for why these three countries, needless to say, South Africa is where the Fifth BRICS Leaders Meeting is held. South Africa is an important country in Africa with which China has strong ties. Tanzania and the Republic of Congo are China's traditional friends and there have been fruitful cooperation with the two countries in recent years. Region-wise, Tanzania is in east Africa and the Republic of Congo is in central Africa. One is English-speaking and the other is French-speaking. So they are representative. Although we value our relations with all African states, it is impossible for the president to visit all African countries in one single trip. Choosing these countries as representatives of Africa is to show our attention to Africa as a whole.
Correspondent: As far as you know, how many times has President Xi visited Africa? What will be the highlights for President Xi's state visit in South Africa? Will China sign cooperation agreements with the three countries?
Lu: In November 2010, then vice-president Xi visit Africa, including South Africa. When he was provincial leader, he had visited Africa more than once. So President Xi is quite familiar with Africa.
President Xi's visit to South Africa, though short, is tight-scheduled. He will hold talks with President Zuma and vice-president Motlanthe. The meeting between leaders of the two countries will be quite rich in content. They are going to sign many agreements covering political, economic and other areas. As for the highlights, I think the visit to South Africa as new president of China in itself is a highlight, which will catch world-wide attention.
There are already many bilateral cooperation agreements between governments and businesses at the time of President Xi's visit to the three African countries, covering extensive areas like infrastructure development, industrial cooperation, cultural exchanges, etc. Based on the real needs of African states and in line with its own development strategies, China will strengthen cooperation with African countries and do our best to help Africa realize industrial upgrade and industrialization. What I want to stress is that China is not omnipotent. We are not capable of promising development for Africa all alone. China's cooperation with Africa is only part of all countries' cooperation with Africa. We hope Western developed countries will shoulder their historical and present-day responsibilities to help Africa develop itself.
Correspondent: What do you think is Africa's position in China's foreign strategy? What impacts will the changes of situation in Africa in the past few years and especially turmoil in West Asia and North Africa have on China's African policy?
Lu: We often say Africa is the fundamental aspect, meaning it is the foundation in our foreign policy. In certain circumstances, Africa is not only the foundation but also the key and is of primary importance in our foreign strategy. All in all, Africa is becoming more important in our foreign strategy, which is reflected in various areas, from politics to trade, cultural exchanges, soft power development, etc. There is a lot that China can do.
Indeed turmoil in West Asia and North Africa has had great impact on peace and security in sub-Sahara Africa. However, generally speaking the overall situation is Africa remains peaceful and stable. From a historical perspective, present day Africa is in the most stable period ever. Regional turmoil has not spread to other areas, nor has it produced overall impact. Such a situation has laid sound foundation for Africa's development in the future. Furthermore, African countries and people long for peace, stability and development. A peaceful and stable environment offers sound conditions for development. According to statistics of international agencies, in the past 10 years, the growth rate of Africa has maintained at 5%, higher than the global average. Of the 10 countries with the fastest growth rates, 6 are in Africa In the coming decade, Africa's growth rate is expected to reach 6%. Of the 20 fastest growing countries in the world 14 will be in Africa. The international community is very optimistic about the development situation in Africa. We have noted that Western media is fraught with praises for Africa and optimism about Africa's bright future. Since the start of the new century, China-Africa cooperation has yielded great results. Although the security concerns in Africa has somewhat affected our cooperation, it makes it even more imperative to pay attention to enhancing security cooperation with Africa. We have been more actively involved in peace and security affairs of Africa. Although we have not done a lot due to lack of relevant experiences and capabilities, we will enhance our cooperation in this regard in the future.
Correspondent: We have noticed that during BRICS leaders meeting, there will also be a dialogue meeting between BRICS and African leaders. What do you think is the significance of this? Will this dialogue be just a beginning? What are the plans for the future?
Lu: This shows not only developed countries but also BRICS countries have taken into account the bright future of Africa. BRICS countries are emerging countries themselves, whose aspirations are basically in line with those of African countries. Therefore, cooperation between BRICS and African countries enjoy a sound foundation, which in nature belongs to South-South cooperation. I think it is good for peace and development in the world to strengthen cooperation between BRICS and African countries.
The form of dialogue is a very good and flexible one. It is a new model and can be called "BRICS+X". For example, since this time it is held in Africa, the X are African countries. When it is held in other continents next time, other countries in the region may also participate. It shows that BRICS is not a closed circle. It is open. Through cooperation, BRICS countries can not only facilitate their own development but also lead to development in other developing countries through joint efforts. This is the direction for the development of the BRICS mechanism and the conditions for the sustained development of the mechanism.
Correspondent: Although BRICS countries are developing very fast, they face different problems in their development. At the same time each developing country faces different constraints on their development. What do you think of the future of cooperation between BRICS countries and other developing countries?
Lu: The BRICS mechanism is platform of dialogue for emerging and developing countries. It has not been long in its existence, so some problems might be inevitable. However, I think BRICS countries have the wish to seek common ground while putting aside differences and to reach common goals through playing down differences. There is also development gap between BRICS and African countries. However, the gap should not become barriers to cooperation. Instead, it should foster need for bilateral cooperation and mutual learning. Maybe we cannot see real results from cooperation in a short period of time, but as long as we make continuous efforts, we are sure to see positive results, for the cooperation benefits both sides.
Correspondent: Traditional Western powers like the US, the UK and France have also done a lot in developing relations with Africa. Compared with them, what do you think is the cooperation that African countries care most about? Will the direction of China-Africa cooperation be different in the future from what it is now?
Lu: Western developed countries have longer relations with Africa for apparent reasons. From my experience, African countries are willing to cooperate with China. For the coming of China has given them an alternative, enabling them to be treated as equals by the West and giving them bargaining power. At the same time, cooperation with China has not only raised their international status, but also increased the prices for their products, especially for their natural resources, thus delivering more real benefits for African countries. The fundamental difference between China's cooperation with Africa and the West's engagement with Africa is that China-Africa cooperation is more practical from which Africa can get tangible benefits. For example, in the cooperation on the development of energy and resources, China has helped develop an industrial system of energy integrating the upper and lower streams of the industry, while the West has simply taken resources away. Besides, African countries are more relaxed in their cooperation with China, for China treats them as equals. They don't feel any pressure or being inferior. While in their cooperation with the West, the West often exerts pressure under the pretense of democracy and human rights and uses various means to interfere in the internal affairs of African countries including military means. My feeling is that generally speaking African states are willing, if not more willing, to have cooperation with China. Although the Western media often claims that Africa is more close to the West in terms of culture, concepts, political systems, and ideology, do they really know what the African people are thinking? I don't think the West knows what African people are really thinking about.
Correspondent: People have the impression that China-Africa cooperation mainly concentrates in the field of energy and resources. Are there plans for the two sides to carry out cooperation in other areas?
Lu: We also think that transformation and upgrading is needed for economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa, which should not be confined to trade, project contracting and resource development only. We should help African countries realize industrialization based on their needs and their economic development strategies and the strategy of African integration. I said on many occasions that to realize development Africa must create jobs. To create jobs it must realize industrialization. China is helping Africa in this regard. For example, China has built many economic and trade cooperation areas in African countries, the purpose of which is to attract Chinese investment to build manufacturing enterprises there to help create jobs and upgrade African industries.
I have noticed a sudden interest of the Western media in Africa and a certain "African fever". I have also noticed that while singing praises of Africa's bright future, the Western media never forgets to attack China, one of their arguments being China is responsible for the "deindustrialization" of Africa and underdevelopment in Africa. I found the argument quite unfounded. First of all, according the Western logic, "deindustrialization" refers to industrial decline in Africa. However, Africa's industrial decline did not start with its strengthened cooperation with China. It was long before that. In the 1980's, Western countries and international financial institutions pushed for economic restructuring in Africa. In the 1990's they promoted economic privatization across Africa. Africa's industries went into decline after that. Why decline? After the privatization of state-owned enterprises and manufacturing enterprises, the businesses suffered from poor performance and many were shut down. So Africa's industries began to shrink. Some Western theory is that Africa's industrial decline is caused by the influx of Chinese products and the competition thereof. However, results of Western research institutions show that there is little similarity between Chinese and African products, with the similarity rate being only 4% to 7%. Therefore, the impact of Chinese exports to Africa is not on African products, but on products exported to Africa from other regions. That is to say, even if Chinese products do not enter Africa, products from other countries will do. If Chinese products exit from the African market, they will be replaced not by African products but by products from other countries. Therefore, it is not right to say Chinese products have led to "deindustrialization" in Africa. It is Western policies that cause it.
China's strengthening of economic and trade cooperation with Africa is to help Africa realize industrialization and improve its capability of self-development. First of all, China's strength in conducting cooperation with Africa is to have built a lot of infrastructure facilities. Infrastructure itself is the foundation of industrialization. Second, as I mentioned just now, China has helped Africa building a number of areas of economic and trade cooperation to attract investment and build manufacturing enterprises. Is that not a link for realizing industrialization? Third, while exploring oil in countries like Sudan, Chad, and Niger, we also help those countries in paving oil pipelines, building oil refineries and establishing industrial systems integrating upper and lower streams. Western countries have never done that when they explored oil in Africa in the past. For example, Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, yet it has to import petrol and diesel from other countries due to the lack of production capacities. What indeed have Western countries done for Africa in the 50 years since its independence? Nothing! Now they are accusing China, shifting the blame. It is not fair.