Zhong Jianhua, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, accepted an interview by Peter Wonacott, chief of African desk of Wall Street Journal on December 8, 2010. Zhong answered questions on intergovernmental exchanges, China-Africa relations and future influence of China’s development path in Africa.
Zhong said that the People’s Republic of China has experienced ups and downs since its foundation 61 years before. Although China has achieved tremendous economic and social development, it’s still in the process of exploring and developing. If there is a so-called “China Model” in the world, I think, it is what the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once said “Development is the fundamental principle”. If you could not continue improving and enhancing people’s living standards, any nice sounding political slogan would be just senseless. It’s also the conclusion drawn from various lessons learned in China’s development practice. The greatest inspiration that China’s development could bring to other developing countries is that no matter how poor and backward a country is, it will certainly achieve its development as long as it can find its own path of development and persists in making great efforts. China will not export to other countries the so-called “China Model”, because we once followed the development pattern of other countries in 1960s and 1970s, but failed to achieve the goal in the end and paid a great cost. China has always owed its gratitude to Africa and is willing to share its development experiences with African countries. However such experiences will not be fully applicable to Africa, who ultimately relies on its own efforts to find a development road with African characteristics. When exchanging experiences on governance with developing countries, including South Africa, China always stresses that they must first consider their own conditions before deciding on what measures to be applied to achieve development. Neglecting the national conditions and copying successful experience of other countries aimless is doomed to fail.
On intergovernmental exchanges between China and South Africa, Zhong said that when African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma visited China in 2008, he proposed to have exchanges on two important issues with Chinese Communist Party. The first is how to translate party policy into government policy, and the second is how to strengthen party discipline. The two points are not only major issues faced by, but also an important part of bilateral exchanges between the two parties. Although China’s experience is maybe not 100% useful for ANC, but the exchanges are beneficial to both countries. At present, the ANC has sent three high-level delegations to China to enable the ANC cadres to get a better understanding of China as well as its development. When receiving the ANC delegations, China gives a full introduction to its development. The cadres are asked not only to focus on the coastal cities with sound economic development in learning how local government to achieve higher level development, but also the underdeveloped backland and western cities to find how to address the issues of poverty and underdevelopment. It’s hoped that this would help the ANC cadres to consider and improve their abilities of governance. The two parties will continue such exchanges in the future.
Concerning the allegation that China “plots against” Africa coveting its resources, Zhong rebuked it by saying that China and Africa maintain the traditional friendship on a long-term. China has tried its best to assist Africa since the early days of the founding of the People’s Republic, which is totally devoted to supporting the national liberation movements in Africa. As the then Chinese leaders of the older generation like Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and others could never have foreseen China and Africa’s later development and situations 30 years ago, how they could have made a plot against Africa? The charge of “investing first and taking advantage later” does not hold any water but only shows that the accusers have no understanding of China or China-Africa friendship.
Finally, Zhong said that while Europe and the United States have studied Africa for hundreds of years, China’s research on Africa is just beginning. The number of reseachers and, level and quality of studies are incomparable with that of the U.S. and Europe. Sustainable development of China-Africa relations requires constructive participation of academics from both sides. With China-Africa exchanges and cooperation deepening, China hopes that more researchers would come to, understand and learn about Africa, so as to further promote the development of China-Africa strategic partnership.