|The Records of Jeune Afrique's Interview with Director-General Lu Shaye|
On October 18, 2011, Lu Shaye, Director-General of the Department of African Affairs, accepted an interview with Jean-Louis Gouraud, a journalist from Jeune Afrique. The full text of the interview is as follows:
Q: How many African countries have not established diplomatic relations with China?
A: If you just count South Sudan, which was just founded, there are a total of 54 countries in Africa. There are four countries with which China has not established diplomatic relations. The four countries are Swaziland, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and São Tomé & Príncipe. Swaziland has never established diplomatic relations with China. The other three countries established diplomatic relations with China but they have broken off diplomatic relations with China.
Q: Do all the 50 African countries that have established diplomatic relations with China have embassies in China?
A: Yes, they do. They all established embassies in China.
Q: Has China established diplomatic relations with the newly founded South Sudan?
A: Yes, we established diplomatic relations with South Sudan when it was founded.
Q: Have China already recognized the National Transitional Council of Libya?
A: Yes, we have.
Q: Has the National Transitional Council of Libya sent ambassador to China? Has China sent ambassador to Benghazi or Tripoli?
A: Our embassy is there in Tripoli. When the war was most intense, some embassy staff pulled out the embassy in Tripoli temporarily. Now they are going back to the embassy. Former Libyan embassy in China has now become the representative of the National Transition Council of Libya.
Q: When did China start to accept this change? Because it was heard then that China considered this the internal affair of Libya. China's position has referred to the position of the African Union. Has China referred to the position of the African Union on the issues of South Sudan and Libya?
A: China takes a position according to our assessment of the situation. We always believe that the future of Libya should be decided by the Libyan people themselves. According to the development of the situation in Libya, we have made a decision in proper time to recognize the National Transition Council of Libya. It is a more natural thing for the recognition of South Sudan. The north and the south, under the "Comprehensive Peace Agreement", held a national referendum and were separated through peaceful means. With respect to Libya, we support the position of the African Union and its mediation efforts.
Q: You chose the wording "in proper time" when you talked about the recognition of the National Transitional Council of Libya. How do you define the "proper time"?
A: When the National Transition Council of Libya has in fact become the ruling authorities of Libya.
Q: When the UN Security Council voted on the draft resolution to launch air strikes against Libya, China's position was not very clear. China neither voted no nor voted yes. China said that China was against the abuse of force by international organizations. Why didn't China take a clearer position?
A: The reason why the Chinese did not agree is that China worried that the resolution might be abused and the wording of the resolution did contain such a possibility. The reason why the Chinese did not object is that the draft resolution was widely supported by the League of Arab States and the Arab countries. The reason is that they hoped that the war in Libya could be ended as early as possible with the intervention of the United Nations. But no matter what position China took, China is opposed to external interference in a country's internal affairs, especially military intervention in the internal affairs of a country.
Q: When war happened in Libya, China had many ongoing projects in Libya. China evacuated many overseas Chinese. Have these projects been re-launched? Have the evacuated workers returned to the construction sites? What is the overall situation like right now?
A: Before the war took place in Libya, China did have a lot of ongoing projects in Libya. After the outbreak of war, the Chinese government organized the evacuation of overseas Chinese in the first instance. Within ten days, more than 30,000 people were evacuated. The Libyan situation has not been restored. As far as I know, the Chinese staff hasn't returned to Libya.
Q: The principle of non-interference in internal affairs is a keystone of China's foreign policy. China refused to carry out cultural, educational, or economic and trade exchanges with the four African countries that have no diplomatic relations with China and rejected developing relations with them. Is this in fact interference in internal affairs of these countries?
A: China and the four countries do not have diplomatic relations, so there is no official exchange. But the Chinese government did not stop bilateral non-governmental exchanges. As far as I know, some Chinese enterprises have carried out business in these countries. Moreover, on this issue, it is not that China has interfered in the internal affairs of these countries, but that these countries have interfered in China's internal affairs for they established the so-called "diplomatic relations" with a province of China.
Q: In recent five or six years, China's relations with some African countries have become an important topic in the elections of these countries. For example, there is such a problem in Zambia. The newly elected Zambian President had made some threatening remarks to China during the campaign, and then the Chinese side threatened to withdraw from Zambia. Do you think such phenomenon represents China's interference in internal affairs in some African countries?
A: I saw the reports in the Western media, which only reported the latter part of the story, but did not report the early part of the story. They just reported that China threatened to withdraw from Zambia, but they did not report why China said so. During the Zambia's presidential election in 2006, the then presidential candidate, who was elected as the president of Zambia, claimed during the election campaign that if he was elected, he would establish the so-called "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan. Under the one-China principle, China stated that if Zambia established "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan, China would have to break off diplomatic relations with Zambia. The Taiwan issue is China's internal affairs. On this issue, it is not that China is interfering in internal affairs of other countries, but that other countries are interfering in China's internal affairs. When developing relations African countries, China has always maintained the principle of sincere friendship, treatment as equals, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. China has never threatened any African countries. When Michael Sata was elected president of Zambia this year, he expressed the wishes to continue developing relations with China, which the Chinese side appreciates.
Q: I think the principle of non-interference in internal affairs does not mean abuse of human rights and abuse of power. Is China's pursuit of this principle also an indication to a certain degree that China is an accomplice of the misconducts of some African countries? Will the principle of non-interference in internal affairs result in some negative consequences? In what circumstances will China no longer adhere to this principle?
A: I think the principle itself is good. It reflects mutual respect between nations and equality among nations. Because the countries in the world are sovereign states and all the countries are equal. No country is superior or inferior. But there is a lot of injustice in the real world, such as big powers bullying small nations, the strong bullying the weak or the rich bullying the poor. In this case, the principle of non-interference in internal affairs is a defense fence for small, weak and poor countries. Big, strong, and rich countries can talk about giving up the principle of non-interference in internal affairs because they know that small, weak and poor countries are unable to interfere in their internal affairs. Big, strong, and rich countries need to break this fence for the purpose of interfering in the small, weak and poor countries. That's why they fabricated many false charges on the principle of non-interference in internal affairs. The western countries strongly accused China of developing relations with authoritarian regimes in Africa. China does not advocate democracy and human rights. After the turbulence took place in North Africa, the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia, which were called the authoritarian regimes by the western countries, were staunch allies of the west. Gaddafi is not a friend of China, on the contrary, he is a guest of many western leaders and their relationship is really good.
Q: what you said does make sense. The west was indeed unqualified to blame China for supporting the authoritarian regimes in African countries in a passive way. But I'm raising this issue not due to this attitude of western countries. We see that some political factions in African countries have become majorities in the parliaments. They want China to intervene in their affairs and help them get rid of authoritarian regimes. Some African countries also face such problems as despotism, dictatorship or poor management of resources. China has been their role model. They want more Chinese intervention in their affairs and help them develop.
A: In any case, African countries would not want China to interfere in their internal affairs. Of course, they would not want the western countries to interfere in their internal affairs either. The political parties in some African countries want the west to help them overthrow the ruling party, which is a different story. This is out of the consideration of political interests. Once these factions come to power, they surely would not want foreign interference in their internal affairs, including those western countries that have supported them in the rise to power. Having said that, haven't the people in North African countries voiced their demands for reform in the past few decades? Have western countries listened to it? Have they supported it? The answer is never. The western countries, now in the name of humanitarianism and justice, say they support the voice of the people. Where were they then?
The principle of non-interference in internal affairs advocated by China reflects the concept of equality and mutual respect. In the meantime, we are willing to participate in regional affairs in a constructive manner, including peace and security issues. China is willing to contribute to Africa's peace and security. Even when China was invited to intervene in the regional conflicts of Africa or the conflicts between African countries, China also insisted on respecting the leading role of related countries and regional organizations. This constructive engagement also reflects the principle of non-interference in internal affairs.
Q: Can we say that China has changed the foreign policies pursued under the leadership of Chairman Mao a few decades ago? At that time China proposed a social model and China was considered a model. China was willing to share the experience in social building with other countries. Does that mean that China no longer considers itself a unique social model and is only willing to develop a non-political commercial relationship with other countries?
A: That is not the case. The relations between China and African countries are comprehensive, not only including political, economic and trade relations, but also including cultural, social and other relations. Of course, developing trade and economic relations is very important for it will benefit the people of China and Africa and is conducive to driving economic development and improving people's livelihood. But developing political relations is equally important for it provides a good policy environment for economic and trade relations. If there is no mutual political trust between the two countries, I think it is impossible to develop good economic and trade relations. At the same time the development of cultural, social, and people-to-people relations is very important for it is the human basis for bilateral cooperation.
Q: It may be said that China's foreign policy has undergone tremendous changes since the Bandung Conference in 1955. Economy plays a more important role. China put forward the eight principles for foreign economic aid in 1964. Currently, China-Africa relations have not only grown, but also undergone profound changes. Has China completely changed the mindset of drawing the line based on ideology?
A: China's diplomacy in the past half century has indeed undergone great changes. In the 1950s and 1960s, China did have high enthusiasm and considered our social model very good. Other developing countries and the third world countries, much the same with us, can learn from us. When developing the relations with African countries at that time, China rendered a lot of support to the national independence and liberation struggles. When these countries won independence, we also rendered them a lot of financial assistance and helped them build national economic system in accordance with our domestic development model. To be honest, China itself had not figured out how it should develop at that time, but China was highly enthusiastic to develop China-Africa relations and thought that we should help them. After the reform and opening up, China gained a more comprehensive understanding of the outside world and we started to realize that China's power is far from what we used to think. We must first develop ourselves well, and then we will have the ability to help African countries. So you can see the course of China's policies toward Africa. From the 1950s, 1960s even to 1970s, it was mainly unilateral economic assistance from China to Africa. We helped Africa build up a lot of production projects, such as sugar mills, textile mills, breweries, cigarette factories and other factories. At that time our consideration was that only by developing the production projects we could help African countries solve the employment problem and help African countries improve their self-reliance abilities. During his visit to Africa in 1964, Premier Zhou Enlai put forward the eight principles of foreign economic assistance and he put an emphasis on helping African countries improve their self-reliance and self-development abilities. In the 1980s, we proposed not only providing aid to Africa, but also carrying out mutually beneficial cooperation with Africa. With China's rapid economic development, there is a growing demand from China for Africa's market and resources. China's investment in Africa also grew rapidly. While taking away resources from Africa, we also give back to African countries. We helped African countries put in place a large number of infrastructure projects according to their economic development needs. It's all about each taking what he needs. It embodies the spirit of mutual benefit. Many of the eight principles put forward by Premier Zhou Enlai are still useful and are still the basic principles we follow today. Except the principle of helping African countries embark on the road of self-reliance and self-development, which I mentioned early, the principles of equality and mutual benefit, mutual respect and not attaching any political conditions, which we often talk about today, were laid down at that time. These principles are actually the consistent principles of China's diplomacy. They reflect China's diplomatic philosophy.
In the past, China did not have a clear idea of how to pursue the socialist path and felt that other developing countries in the world should be like us. But today, even if China develops well and the Chinese path and the Chinese model have attracted worldwide attention, we do not believe that our path and our model can be universally applicable. We have never sold our development model to other countries and we do not think any model can be universally applicable. We believe that each country must choose its own path of development according to its national conditions while keeping abreast with the times. We had a lot of exchanges with African countries in managing state affairs. We just tell them the good practices that we believe. Whether they will adopt them or not and how will they adopt them, it's up to them to decide. We have never asked African countries to follow China's model. This reflects the principle of not attaching political conditions to our assistance to Africa.
Q: I want to go back to the principle of mutual benefit and collective wins you mentioned just now for this is an important point of view in the international development theory. China's investment in Africa is relatively concentrated, mainly in some resource-rich countries or in some sectors while China's in some other African countries as well as in social and cultural aspects is relatively less. This makes some countries highly dependent on the relations with China. Some countries have even complained that the massive input of imported Chinese goods destroyed their local industries. Therefore, we can see a variety of criticism of China. From a country's perspective, the principle of mutual benefit put forward by China is not the case in practice. What do you think of it?
A: The negative comments on China-Africa relations were not from Africa but from the west. I met many Africans, including government officials, scholars and ordinary people. They welcomed China-Africa Cooperation. It is the outsiders and the westerners who do not welcome China-Africa cooperation. Africa also has some politicians, academics, and media who claimed that China-Africa cooperation is not good, but we are very clear about what their backgrounds are. Those Africans who say bad things about China-Africa relations in fact have very close relations with the west. They have their political interests. Ordinary people in Africa might also complain about there are too much import from China. I think this is because they do not understand the whole picture of China-Africa cooperation and because the western countries will not introduce the complete picture of China-Africa cooperation. Objectively speaking, China-Africa cooperation brings much more benefits to African countries than the problems, or the western countries would not be so nervous. Indeed, there are some problems with China-Africa cooperation, but these problems are not unique to China-Africa cooperation. It also exists with the cooperation between African countries and other countries. For example, you say China's investment in Africa is mainly concentrated on resource-rich countries. Maybe you are right. Aren't the western countries the same? We should be realistic. Resource-rich countries do have more business cooperation opportunities and investment opportunities. Capital is always profit-driven. Where there is no profit or no return on investment, I don't think the west will go. In the African countries that China has invested in, there are always a lot of western companies, far more than Chinese companies. China's investment only accounted for a small part of foreign capitals in these countries. Most of foreign capitals still come from the west.
China attaches importance to cooperation with resource-rich countries. However, we have never forgotten or ignored the poor and small countries with no resources. We strengthened cooperation with them through official aid programs and supported these countries through the preferential assistance policies. There are China's cooperation projects in every of the 50 African countries that have established diplomatic relations with Chin. For example, I once worked in Senegal, which is not resource-rich country. After the restoration of diplomatic relations, I worked there for three years when China built a lot of infrastructure for Senegal. We helped them build up the National Theatre, the most beautiful national theatre in Africa. We helped them upgrade the power grid in the capital city of Dakar. We helped them build up the e-government network and maintain the stadiums of 11 districts. We sent two groups of agricultural technicians to help farmers grow rice and vegetables. We also sent medical teams to Senegal. That was what China had done within three years after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. There is no western country that has done as much as China has done, including France.
Q: Well, in this respect can you give more examples of cooperation between China and small countries in Africa such as Mali, Togo, Central Africa and other countries? We would be unable to blame China for cooperating with these countries for the sake of obtaining oil, bauxite or other resources. As far as I know, China is the first country to provide financial or monetary assistance to Central Africa. When President Francois Bozize came to power, the country was on the edge of bankruptcy. France and the EU did not render him any financial assistance to help him pay civil servants, but it was said that China did so.
A: It seems that you know quite a lot about the situation of Central Africa. Then take Central Africa as an example. So far I have not heard of what resources Central Africa has, except the forest on the ground, but in recent years China built a stadium for Central Africa and built the largest hospital in Bangui. China also built a lot of public livelihood projects in Central Africa. China has assistance projects in all the 50 countries that maintained diplomatic relations with China. In any of the poorest and resource-least countries you may think of, I can give you a list of China's assistance projects. Take Seychelles as an example, we provided aid gratis for the construction of the parliament building and the national aquatic centre in Seychelles.
Q: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) once said China offered loans to African countries in exchange for raw materials in these countries, including Angola and Congo (DRC). Such lending would increase the debt of these countries, and the end result is often not very optimistic. For example, China participated in the five projects led by Kabila, but these projects encountered some problems now and are at a standstill. What do you think of the "loans-for-resource" approach?
A: I think the claim that China's lending to African countries increased the debt of African countries is completely unfounded. I said just now China helped the resource-poor countries in Africa through assistance instead of loans. Because banks also need to consider the security of capitals and whether they can receive their loans back. With some resource-rich countries, we did launch the large-scale loans in exchange for infrastructure cooperation because these countries are able to repay the loans. They can repay the loans with their resources. What's wrong with that? If they repay the loans with their resources, there is no problem of heavy debt burden. Then again, they have the resources and they can get the money by selling resources and invest in construction. But you do not allow them sell resources. You take them by their throats and do not allow them develop infrastructure, so how can they develop the economy? You see how good the development of Angola is. It is thriving everywhere. There are full of construction sites everywhere.
Q: Some people say that western countries are concerned of or jealous of China's success in Africa. In fact, not only the western countries think so, but also some Africans have such thoughts. Before I come, I collected some letters from readers of Jeune Afrique. There are various views, some may be rumors, and some may be true. For instance, an Algerian reader was very angry, saying that China has adopted a low-price strategy. Their offer was very cheap so they can beat the local businesses in the bid, which will ultimately harm the interests of local workers. At the same time the working conditions of Chinese enterprises are also very harsh. Chinese workers often live in small crowded rooms. They seldom come into contact with the locals. They refuse to use local products. Their wages are low. There were not workers' rights. This situation exists not only in Algeria, but also in Zambia. So the strike took place in Zambia. Such sufferings are not limited to Chinese workers and they also affect the local workers. Some people felt that although the production of Chinese products was very quick and the Chinese products have nice looks, they are not very durable. Some even say that Beijing has sent prisoners to the Chinese-funded enterprises in Africa so as to empty the country's prisons and alleviate prison overcrowding problem. Others complain that the rapid development of the sex industry in Douala and Luanda is related to the Chinese people. What do you think of these views?
A: The views you mentioned did reflect the views of Africans on some of the problems with China-Africa Cooperation. This is also an issue I have been keeping a close eye on in recent years. Some problems did exist in reality, but some were simply non-existent. For example, sending criminals to Africa, it is sheer nonsense. It doesn't exist. I would like to take your platform to make a clarification on this issue. With respect to Chinese people engaging in sex and other illegal acts in Africa, it is only a tiny number of Chinese. They cannot represent the complete picture of China-Africa cooperation. The social evils exist around the world and they are a lot of social evils in western countries, too.
About the quality of China's products, we need to do the analysis case by case. Some readers say that the Chinese products have nice looks but they are not durable. This phenomenon may indeed exist, but we have to explore the deep-rooted cause for this phenomenon. First of all, you cannot say that the quality of all the Chinese products is not good, or Chinese products will not be marketed around the world and China cannot become the world's factory. When I went to Europe or the United States, it was difficulty to buy a garment not made in China. Why are there so many poor-quality Chinese products in Africa? I think the first reason is that Africa's consumption level and ability is not very high, and people love cheap products. One only gets the quality that one's paid for. That is a well understood principle. African traders procure low-end goods from China in order to meet the domestic demands. Second, many African importers, in order to drive down the cost of goods, pushed the Chinese manufacturers to lower prices when they placed orders. As profits were squeezed, the quality can hardly be guaranteed. Third, it is the result of poor regulation of the related departments of African countries. They did not put in force strict supervision on the imports of poor-quality goods. In fact, the Chinese government attaches great importance to this issue, has taken measures domestically to check the quality of the goods to be exported to Africa and set up the first defense from the source. We need the cooperation of the African countries. So for the quality of Chinese products exported to Africa, we cannot simply generalize and say that the quality of Chinese products is not good. We need to ask why there is such a problem. I hope you will pass such messages to your readers.
With respect to the claim that the Chinese companies take a low-cost strategy in the contract market of Africa, the advantage of Chinese companies is actually low cost. The Chinese companies are more competitive than local companies in African market because the Chinese companies have low labor cost, low materials and equipment costs and high labor productivity. Putting them together, the competitive advantage of Chinese companies is stronger than local companies. This is good for the local government, because the local government can spend less in constructing a project. Of course, it will have a big impact on local companies of the same trade. It is indeed a dilemma. The Chinese companies have no other purpose than making more money. So they may have neglected the feeling of local companies. They think that it is about market competition. The free economy is about free competition. That's why they do not have such awareness. Now the competition with local businesses created by the Chinese companies has also attracted the attention of the Chinese government. We request the Chinese companies not to be obsessed with economic returns only and ignore the relationship with the local people. The problem cannot be solved unilaterally by the Chinese side. The local companies also need to increase their competitive power. Any company only can grow in a competitive environment.
With respect to the issue that Chinese workers are isolated and reluctant to communicate with the local people, I think this is a problem of cultural gap and language barrier. The Chinese workers cannot speak the local languages. Usually they will leave in two or three years when they complete the project. They are reluctant to commit themselves to learning the local language. So it is hard for them to communicate with the local people. Considering that the workers do not understand the local language, the management usually enforces strict control on them because they are unable to communicate with the local people if something happens in the outside. So they build up their own social circle. It is true that the Chinese workers work in harsh working conditions. The Chinese employees work in tougher conditions than the employees of western companies. The Chinese have a spirit of enduring hardship. They live a hard life, eat simple food and live in simple domiciles so that they can send home the money they earned to raise their families and improve their living conditions. The Chinese workers can endure hardship. They work in three shifts a day and work all day and all night to speed up project schedules. That is why the Chinese companies are competitive. They spend less on the workers. Take government assistance projects as an example, China spends 95% of the money on the project and on the recipient countries while the west may spend 80% on their own staff.
Concerning low pay for local employees by Chinese companies, we should look at this issue objectively. The big Chinese enterprises in Africa are much more compliant. They comply with local labor laws and follow the relevant rules of the minimum wage. Some small companies are probably not so standardized. This phenomenon did exist, but it is not the mainstream. The local employees working in Chinese enterprises get lower salaries than those working in the western companies. It is determined by different national conditions. Because the salaries of Chinese employees are lower than the employees of western companies. In some cases, the salary paid by Chinese companies in Africa for local employees is even higher than our domestic workers of the same industry. As you just mentioned, the local employees in the Chinese-funded enterprises in Zambia went on strike to demand wage rise. The salary and benefits of local employees in the Chinese enterprises in Zambia were more than 3 million kwacha (local currency), equivalent to $700 to 800. They required an additional 2 million kwacha salary rise, equivalent to an increase of about $ 400. $700 to $800 is equivalent to 4,500 to 5,000 yuan. The minimum wage of Shanghai, the most developed city in China, is 1,100 yuan. The average wage of construction workers in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other developed cities in the east of China is just over 2,000 yuan. The wage of manufacturing workers is between 2,000 to 3,000 yuan. What does 4,000 yuan a month mean? It is the wage of an ordinary white-collar in China. $700 to 800 plus an additional $400 is as much as what I earn. This is the wage of a local Zambian miner. Is it realistic? Improving workers' income is justified around the world. It is the high moral ground. But any government must take into account the level of their economic development and their own actual situation. They can not go beyond reality; otherwise it will scare off investors. They cannot achieve their economic development. In some African countries, the labor laws are very strict. The governments even copy the laws of western countries. With such labor laws, companies are afraid of recruiting staff, including the western companies. They will not easily recruit employees because they cannot fire employees once they are recruited.
Q: Can you briefly introduce the forum mechanism? Is it a development bank or fund management agency? I know it has been 10 years old. Is all Chinese cooperation with Africa implemented through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, including the cooperation with North Africa?
A: The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is a dialogue and cooperation mechanism with the participation of China and 50 member states. In terms of organizational structure, the forum includes the ministerial meeting, with the participation of foreign ministers and the ministers responsible for international cooperation. It is held every three years. It also includes the senior officials meeting held in between the ministerial meetings. I am going to chair this meeting in a couple of days in Hangzhou. The consultation meeting between the Secretariat of Chinese Follow-up Committee and African diplomatic missions in China will be held at least two or three times a year. The three-level meetings are not only the decision-making bodies, but also the supervisory and evaluating bodies of follow-up actions. At each ministerial meeting, we will develop major policies guiding the cooperation between China and Africa in next three years and publish the political declaration and action programs. After the ministerial meeting, the senior officials meeting, the consultation meeting between the Secretariat of Chinese Follow-up Committee and African diplomatic missions in China and the next ministerial meeting will assess and review the implementation of the resolution of the previous ministerial meeting. Such structure is effective, efficient and tight.
Within the framework of the forum, China and Africa can discuss how to improve cooperation. The forum provides a platform of communication for both sides and policy guidance. Four sessions of ministerial meeting have been held since the creation of the forum. The Chinese government has raised some pragmatic cooperation initiatives at each session according to the needs and economic development priorities of African countries. (Lu's briefing on the initiatives of the ministerial meetings and their implementation is omitted). We can see that each session of the forum has clear plans for China-Africa cooperation. Now the China-Africa cooperation is basically executed in this framework. But specific projects may differ in each country. They will be decided according to the needs of different countries. The benefit of having such a framework is to set goals for China-Africa cooperation and time limit for the fulfillment of the goals. The goals must be executed and fulfilled when the time limit is reached. Year after year and session after session, the outcome of China-Africa cooperation would increase and augment. The outcome of China-Africa cooperation is quantifiable. It is not just talk.
Q: Does it mean that the forum neither has the function of a development bank nor manages any assistance funds? Is all development assistance not granted by the forum?
A: All the cooperation undertaken in the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is implemented through bilateral channels. Either assistance or investment is explored and implemented through bilateral channels. The forum itself does not have the function of a development bank. But we set up two funds to promote the cooperation with Africa within the framework of the forum. One is China-Africa Development Fund. The other is the special loan for the development of African SMEs. The China-Africa Development Fund was established at the Beijing Summit in 2006. The amount of the first phase was $1 billion. The amount was expanded to $3 billion at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting. The special loan for the development of African SMEs was established at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting. The initial amount was also $1 billion.
Q: The west proposed putting aside 1% of their GDP to assist developing countries in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. But they failed to do so. It was only a dream. Has China done some accurate statistics in this regard? How much percentage of GDP of China is used for official development assistance, and how much is used to assist African countries?
A: I have also heard another figure. The United Nations stipulates that developed countries should take out 0.7% of their gross national income to assist developing countries. But OECD member countries only reached 0.31% at present. China has not provided too much assistance to developing countries, including Africa. We are still a developing country. But we will do our best to continue to increase our assistance to African countries. As a developing country, China will not implement the international standard set for countries donating development assistance for our own GDP per capita ranked about 100th in the world. But we will assist African countries and other developing countries as much as possible from the perspective of South-South cooperation. In fact, China's official development assistance to Africa has increased exponentially in recent years.
A: It is difficult to calculate. We asked the Chinese nationals to register in our embassies in Africa so that we can provide consular protection in case something happens. But few people turned out. So we do not have exact numbers. But at least we know that there are more than 30,000 Chinese nationals in Libya before the war because we had evacuated many Chinese nationals after the war and all the Chinese nationals left Libya. This is a very ironic statistical method.
Q: Who completed such large-scale evacuation operations? Chinese enterprises, the Chinese government, or the military?
A: The operations were led by the Chinese government. The military was also involved. The resources were provided by the Chinese government. The Chinese enterprises also worked closely with the Chinese government in the evaluation operations. Under the arrangements of the government, the Chinese enterprises organized the evaluation of their workforce.
Q: Can you tell us how many African students are studying in China today?
A: In the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, there is one initiative: increase the number of government scholarships to African countries. The Chinese government has publicly announced the goal of providing over 5,500 scholarships on a yearly basis for African countries. The target has been met. Therefore, according to my estimation, there are tens of thousands of African students studying in China. In addition to government scholarships, there are many African students studying in China at their own expense.
Q: China is encountering growing pressure on the arable land, thus China has been increasing agricultural investment in Africa and wants to buy more land to meet food needs and other needs. Reportedly, not all the land acquired, developed and operated by China in Africa is used to ensure food security. The big farms of China have seriously impacted the survival of local small farms. Has the agricultural sector become the new growth pole for China's investment in Africa?
A: China's agricultural cooperation with African countries is mainly concentrated in the following areas: first, the construction of agricultural infrastructure; second, agricultural technology cooperation and transfer; third, personnel training. For example, we sent two agricultural technology groups to Senegal to help local farmers produce rice and vegetables. Such cooperation belongs to the category of traditional areas of agricultural cooperation. Among the eight initiatives announced by China In 2006 and 2009, the construction of agricultural technology demonstration centers were included. The main purpose is to train local staff, transfer technology and help improve local agricultural production levels. We also donated agricultural machineries to African countries.
Commercial agricultural cooperation between enterprises also emerged. The Chinese companies are engaged in agricultural development in Africa, but they are not big farms, but small farms. Compared with big farms of western countries, our farms are insignificant. In fact, China's agricultural development in Africa is to help Africa increase food production and address local food security issue. China has never taken away one single grain from Africa. The Chinese enterprises also plant cash crops to help African farmers increase their income. For instance, a Chinese company helped the local farmers produce cotton in Malawi and address the bread-and-butter issue of 50,000 local farmers. Chinese enterprises are also engaged in sesame plantation in Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Mali. We also have small farms in Zambia, such as poultry farms. I know that the example you mentioned comes from a program of BBC, saying that the local people in Zambia felt that their business was impacted by Chinese farms. Indeed, Chinese farms do supply most of eggs and chicken to the capital of Lusaka. It does constitute competition with local farms, but Chinese farms helped the local people resolve the supply problem.
Western countries always say China is "enclosing land" in Africa. In fact, China has not enclosed land in Africa; on the contrary I know that the west has enclosed a lot of land in Africa. The western countries have enclosed a total of 30 million hectares of land, equivalent to the half of France. They used the land not to grow food and solve the feeding problem of Africans, but to grow the so-called bio-fuel crops. A British bio-fuel company enclosed about 1.6 million hectares of land in Africa. This is not disclosed by China's research institutions, but by a British research institution.
Q: Hasn't China procured a large area of arable land in Madagascar?
A: I thought you might mistake. It was Koreans who did it. I learned that Daewoo of the Republic of Korea bought more than 1 million hectares of land, but the government of Madagascar later canceled the deal. In addition to western countries, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Gulf States also enclosed a large amount of land in Africa. I really hope that this issue can be clarified to the readers through you and let them know what's really going on.
Q: China's arms sale does not seem transparent, which also incurred a lot of misunderstanding from the outside world, not only from the west, but also from Africa. Africa is also very concerned. South Africa once intercepted Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe. Some people worry that Africa will become a market flooded with cheap light arms, which is detrimental to the global and regional security situation.
A: The military trade cooperation is one part of the normal cooperation between countries. China's arms sale policy is very clear and transparent. There are mainly three points: first, to help related countries strengthen their self-defense capabilities; second, not to affect the regional peace and security; third, not to interfere in internal affairs of related countries. We are cautious in the specific implementation. According to China's international obligations and in compliance with domestic laws and regulations and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, all military exports must be strictly controlled. We never export arms to non-state entities. We specifically require the receiving country to provide end-user certificate and use certificate. We pledge not to transfer to a third party weapons exported by China. As you mentioned, Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe were blocked. This is entirely because of the speculation of the western media, leading to the blocking of normal arms sale between sovereign states. In order to undermine the relationship between China and Zimbabwe, the western countries found a variety of reasons and made up false charges against China to discredit China and mislead public opinions in Africa. China was a victim of this incident. The proliferation of small arms in Africa is not China's fault. Just look, by what countries the small arms in the war-torn African countries were produced? I think the majority of them were produced by western countries. Even the off-road vehicles driven by armed rebel forces were produced by Toyota and they were not produced by China.