CHINA'S PRACTICE IN DEVELOPMENT DIPLOMACY
--A Presentation at the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Services Institute,
by H.E. Mr. Zhou Yuxiao, Chinese Ambassador to Liberia
on October 30, 2009
Dr. Augustine Konneh,
It is my singular honor to be invited to give a lecture at this very prestigious institution, Gabriel Dennis Foreign Services Institute. What makes me happy most is that the Institute is actively advocating development diplomacy which echoes my personal philosophy and China’s diplomatic practices. Peace, stability and prosperity can only be obtained through sustained development. Therefore, development is and should be the first priority for any country, particularly for developing countries like Liberia, as it urgently needs to rebuild the basic infrastructure, production capacity and social fabrics destroyed by the 14-year civil war. In China we have an old saying: “Every citizen is responsible for the rise and fall of his or her own country”. I am pretty sure that this concept of citizen responsibility is also accepted here in this crowd. To build a better future for Liberia, it takes the common efforts of all Liberians, including diplomatic institutions and diplomats. As a foreign services institution, propagating the concept of development diplomacy in preparing young diplomats can be one of the best ways to help national reconstruction. To show my strong support to your noble and practical endeavor, I wish to present two computers to the Institute.
After receiving Dr. Konneh’s invitation, I made a brief study of China’s diplomatic practices in relation to development. I found that China has a long tradition of attaching high importance to development diplomacy both in ancient times and at the present. Now let me share with you some of my observations.
As you all know, China is an ancient country with a written history of 5,000 years and a very rich and splendid culture second to none. However, you may not know that China used to be the richest country in the world for a fairly long period of time. It could be surprised to you that, according to calculations by the renowned economic historian Angus Maddison, China produced a quarter of total world output 2,000 years ago and almost the same proportion 1,000 years ago. Around 1400, the early years of the Ming Dynasty which lasted from 1368 to 1644, China's national economic output was estimated to be equal to that of the whole Europe. According some other estimation, China’s GDP was then as high as 50 to 70% of the world’s total. If we use a modern terminology to describe China, it was an economic superpower. China became poor and backward only after the Opium War which China was forced to fight in 1840 and it was reduced to a semi feudal and semi colonized country thereafter. In the 109 years after the Opium War, China was repeatedly invaded by the western powers and was forced to sign many unequal and humiliating treaties according which China had to pay huge sums of reparation.
There must be so many factors that contributed to China’s early economic development and cultural civilization. In my personal opinion, development diplomacy played a its major and unique role then. You may have heard or read about the “Silk Roads” which are as famous as China’s Great Wall. The principal land “Silk Road” came into being in Western Han Dynasty which existed from 202 BC to 8 AD and it was functional for centuries. It eventually became 7,000 km long, extending to Korea and Japan in the east and to the Persian Golf, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and Europe in the west. The sea “Silk Road” spanned the Southern part of China and the South East Asia, Indian Ocean and East Africa. Little more than 600 years ago, with 240 ships and 27,800 people on board and under the order of Ming Emperor Yongle, Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator and diplomat of the Ming Dynasty led the then largest fleet in the world and made seven voyages to the "Western Seas", reaching more than 30 countries in Asia and Africa. Even today, the relics of his fleet can still be found in Kenya, Somalia and other countries. Zheng He's voyages through the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean were 87 years earlier than Columbus' voyage, 92 years earlier than Vasco Da Gama's voyage, and 114 years earlier than Magellan's voyage. 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 today 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 commercial contacts and cultural exchanges with Africa. China was also the country that made four ancient inventions, namely gunpowder, campus, paper and movable-block printing. I am saying all this is not to show off China’s glorious past, but to let you know that China did not use the “Silk Roads”, the economic might and the gunpowder to conquer and occupy the newly discovered land or set up military fortresses beyond it boards, but to engage in amicable trade and exchanges with others for friendship and developmental purposes. Through the “Silk Roads”, China exported silk, tea, Chinaware, metal products and etc and imported spices, precious stones, animal skins and etc. to meet China’s domestic needs. The “Silk Roads” also helped mutually enriching the cultures and religions in the countries and regions along the routes. The aristocrats in Rome and other European capitals regarded it as a pride to ware Chinese silk and use Chinese porcelain tableware. The Chinese imperial family was so excited to see the giraffes brought back by Zheng He as gifts to the imperial court. In one word, the “Silk Roads” promoted trade and cultural exchanges, which in turn enhanced commodity production and quickened the process of economic development and cultural civilization in the countries and regions connected with the routes. China was a principal player along the “Silk Roads” that linked the East and West, as well as Africa. These could be regarded as early examples of China’s engagement in development diplomacy. The mere appearance of such a big fleet with the state of art technology along the coast of the 30 countries in South East Asia and Africa served as a significant push and enlightenment for economic development and social progress in those countries.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, particular since the reform and opening program initiated by our later Leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978, the Chinese government has attached ever greater importance to development diplomacy, or economic diplomacy as we call it in China, which is typically evidenced by China’s “go global” initiative which is being earnestly implemented. All governmental departments, civil organizations and citizens, including embassies and diplomats have been encouraged and instructed to make development their number one priority in whatever they do. There are several reasons behind this significant move. Firstly, to make up the lost time and opportunities. In the first 30 years after the new China was found when all other countries were busy developing their economies, China was somehow busy with endless political campaigns like the 10-year cultural revolution which, like your civil war, destroyed so much and detracted us from the right path of development. The consequence was that China did not forge ahead as fast as it should and could be. Mr. Deng Xiaoping, who realized the mistakes, came out to lead China onto the right tract by diverting all our attentions and efforts to development. He repeatedly pointed out that development is the key issue for China and development was the only way out for China. Otherwise China would be “expelled” from this planet. His idea to give paramount importance to development has been fervently accepted by all the Chinese government officials and the general public. Since then, all the Chinese people have conscientiously devoted themselves to development with one heart and one mind. Secondly, to meet the needs of the big and growing population. China’s current population is as big as 1.3 billion. It might never occur to you that it is 1.5 times as big as the total population in the whole African continent. On top of that, it is still growing at a rate of nearly 1% every year, even with the well-implemented one-child-per-couple-policy in place. In other words, China still produces an additional population of close to 10 million a year, an equivalent of nearly 3 Liberian populations. You can imagine how difficult it is for China to provide such a huge population with adequate food, shelter, clothing, jobs and other social services. Then who can help China to sustain and survive? The whole world is trying to help Liberia, which has only 3.5 million people, yet the seemingly large foreign aid has not meaningfully facilitated the reconstruction and development in this country. This tells us that any foreign aid to China will be no more than a drop of water in a sea. Therefore, China can only help itself by developing its own economy with a spirit of hardworking and self-reliance. There is no other choice or alternative whatsoever. Thirdly, to fulfill China’s international obligations. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China bears a special responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the world. To do so, China needs to put its own house in order and build up its capacity to carry out its duties. Again it is only development that can make this possible.
China’s shift of focus to development has produced tangible and expected results. China’s GDP increased about 80 times to reach 4.4 trillion US dollars in 2008, making it the 3rd largest economy in the world. Its contribution to world economic growth exceeded 20%. China has succeeded in supporting 22% of the world’s population with a mere 10% of the world’s arable land. China has become a major industrial producer. About 9% of the industrial goods consumed in the world are now made in China. China’s foreign trade volume reached 2.5 trillion US dollars in 2008. Its foreign exchange reserves have surpassed 2 trillion US dollars this year, ranking the first in the world. China has built more than 60,000 kilometers of highways in the last 25 years. The successful launching of the lunar satellite and manned spaceships has made China the world’s third country that independently possesses the space exit technology. In the past two decades or so, China has attracted more than 860 billion US dollars of Foreign Direct Investment, ranking the first among developing countries and the second in the world only next to the United States. At the same time, China has also begun to invest overseas, particular in Africa in a meaningful manner. Its poverty population has reduced from 250 million to 15 million. The average life expectancy in China has risen from 35 years in 1949 to 73 years at the present. China is one of a few developing countries that have successfully hosted the Olympic Games. China is said to be the only developing country that is able to meet almost all the targets set in the UN Millennium Development Goals.
I can say with certainty and responsibility that development diplomacy contributed hugely to all the above-mentioned achievements. My colleagues and I myself are very proud to be part of this great undertaking. According to my personal observation, China pays special attention to development diplomacy with African countries. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is a case in point.
FOCAC is a platform in which China and African countries conduct friendly dialogues and practical cooperation. It was jointly set up in October 2000 in Beijing at proposals made by some African countries. The Forum convenes a ministerial conference every three years. The first FOCAC Ministerial Conference was held in China in 2000 and the second one in Ethiopia in 2003. Third Ministerial Conference was turned into a special summit that was held in Beijing in November 2006. To forge a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership and strengthen cooperation in more areas and at a higher level, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced at the Beijing Summit the Chinese government’s decision to take following eight measures to assist the development of the African countries in the three-year period from 2006 to 2009:
1. Double China’s 2006 assistance to Africa.
2. Provide US$ 3 billion of preferential loans and US$ 2 billion of preferential buyer’s credits.
3. Set up a China-Africa development fund that will reach US$ 5 billion to support Chinese companies to invest in Africa.
4. Build a conference center for the African Union to support African integration.
5. Cancel debt matured at the end of 2005.
6. Open up China’s market to Africa by granting zero-tariff to 440 items of commodities that are exported to China from the African LDCs.
7. Establish three to five trade and economic cooperation zones.
8. The last measure includes another eight small items:
Train 15,000 African professionals;
Send 100 senior agricultural experts;
Set up 10 agricultural technology demonstration centers;
Build 30 hospitals;
Build 30 malaria prevention and treatment centers and provide anti malaria medicine;
Build 100 rural schools;
Dispatch 300 youth volunteers and
Increase government scholarship from 2,000 per year to 4,000 per year by 2009.
These measures are self-explanatory. All those diplomatic initiatives taken by China are development oriented and warmly welcomed by the African countries. After the measures were announced, all the Chinese diplomatic missions overseas were instructed by the Chinese government to try every possible way to ensure their effective implementation with no stones left unturned. None of these measures were allowed to be reduced to mere lip services. With the joint efforts made by both sides, great progress has been made in the follow-up actions. Most of the measures have been carried out. China’s target to double its aid to Africa will be achieved by the end of 2009. Debt cancellation has been fully completed. The China-Africa Development Fund has become operational. The construction of the AU Conference Center has been underway for a year. 6 instead of 5 economic and trade zones have started to be built. 15,000 Africans have been trained. Youth volunteers and agricultural experts have been sent to Africa as planned. Promised hospitals, anti-malaria centers, agro centers and rural schools have either been built or under construction.
In addition to that, there are many other achievements in China-Africa developmental cooperation. The Trade between China and Africa has expanded very rapidly. The import and export volume increased from US$ 10 billion 2000 to US$ 106.8 billion in 2008, representing an annual growth of 33.5%. The zero-tariff treatment to African countries has encouraged African countries to expand their export of agricultural products to China. Now, the red wine from South Africa, olive oil from Tunisia, coffee from Uganda, cassava for Nigeria and sesame seeds from Ethiopia are well known to and widely consumed by the Chinese consumers. Chinese investment in Africa has grown by leaps and bounds. By the end of 2008, Chinese direct investment in Africa reached US$ 7.8 billion. Against the backdrop of global downturn in FDI, China’s direct investment in Africa is going up quickly. In the first 6 months of 2009, China’s FDI in Africa reached US$ 552 million, an increase of 81% over the same period last year. China has set up 1,600 enterprises in Africa. Fruitful cooperation has been witnessed in infrastructure building. Currently, China is providing about 35% contractual services in the construction of infrastructures like high ways, railways, seaports, hydro power stations, bridges, office and residential buildings. “China speed” and “China quality” have been widely acclaimed by African countries. More than 900 China-aided projects have been built in about 50 African countries. They are scattered in the areas of agriculture, fishery, light and textile industries, sugar extraction, water conservancy, power generation, telecommunication, transportation, food processing and etc.
It is particularly gratifying to see that progress in the implementation of the 8 aid measures in Liberia has been as fast as it should be. All promised aid projects for Liberia are being implemented as planned with no one off the track. The Malaria Prevention and Treatment Center in JFK hospital became operational in 2008. The three China-aided schools were handed over to the Liberian side last May. The Tarpeta Hospital and the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center in CARI will be completed before June next year. The Fendal Campus of University of Liberia which is outside the 8 measures will also be completed in the first half of next year. 12 youth volunteers have arrived in Liberia and started their volunteer services in various governmental departments. 89 scholarship students from Liberia are now studying in China. The main reason behind the speedy implementation of the aid projects in Liberia is that both the Liberian and Chinese governments pay special attention to development diplomacy. The Liberian government tries its best to obtain as many aid and investment projects as possible from China and gives fullest support and cooperation to the Chinese contractors. Whenever problems and difficulties turn up, the Liberian government, particularly Madam President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is always quick to respond and iron them out in a prompt manner. My colleagues and I myself are always available at the offices of relevant Liberian government officials or at construction grounds to push for and help smooth implementation of the projects. We have all tried very hard to be real practitioners of development diplomacy.
Our development diplomacy has resulted in more and more aid and investment projects in African countries and these projects have in turn brought applicable technologies and techniques as well as managerial experiences to African countries, generated tax revenues and created job opportunities for the recipient states, empowered local people by giving them technical training, improved the infrastructure and supported the economic and social development in African countries. Last but not least, China’s development diplomacy with Africa has attracted ever-greater attention to Africa by other world players and turned the term of trade in favor of Africa for the first time in history. In fact, Africa is enjoying at this moment the best international environment. But this is by no means a one-way traffic. China is also in beneficiary in its development diplomacy with Africa. The aid and investment projects have enable China to expand its export of products, particularly construction equipments and building materials to Africa, to diversify its investments mix, to obtain raw and mineral resources to fuel China’s growing economy. For instance, about 8% of the African oil export goes to China. In one word, China’s development diplomacy with Africa hurts no one, but benefits everyone. It is a win-win practice. If I were to be asked to write a textbook about development diplomacy, I would include a chapter on FOCAC as a successful example in the form of a case study, as it emphasizes action, speed, quality and result and leaves no room for empty talks.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to inform you that the 4th FOCAC Ministerial Conference is going to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on November 8-9, 2009. The Conference has two tasks to perform, one is to review the implementation of the follow-up actions of the Beijing FOCAC Summit and the other is to draw a new plan of cooperation for the next three years. At the conference, the foreign ministers and ministers in change of economic matters from China and Africa will exchange views on how to deepen the new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa. With a view to close ties and facilitate development, China will announce some new measures to assist Africa and discuss with the African side on how to enhance cooperation in areas of agriculture, infrastructure and etc. and on how to jointly cope with the current global financial crisis. I am confident that the Ministerial Conference will play a very important role in further strengthening the China-Africa relations and expanding their collaboration in all fields. The Liberian government has attached great importance to the Conference. Foreign Minister Olubanke King Akerele and her deputy looking after economic affairs will attend the Conference and Madam President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will attend its opening ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen, in carrying out development diplomacy with Africa, China follows the following four principles:
The first is sincere friendship and genuine equality. China will adhere to the five principles of peaceful coexistence, respect the choices made by African countries in respect of their development path. It will never impose its own will on the African countries.
The second is mutual benefit and common prosperity. China will support the efforts made by the African countries in their nation building and economic development by cooperating with them in economic, trade and social fields. It will not seek its development at the expense of the African countries; instead it will continue to help Africa through its own development.
The third is mutual support and close coordination. China will promote cooperation with the African countries in multilateral institutions like the United Nations, stands for mutual support on matters related to just and reasonable demands and propositions made by developing countries and continue to advocate greater attention to the issues concerning peace and development in Africa by the international community.
The forth is learning from each other and seeking progress together. China will be firm in its believe that countries need to draw experience from one another in their governance and development, extending its cooperation with African countries in the fields of science, education, culture, health and etc. It will continue to support their capacity building endeavors, so as to jointly blaze a trail of sustainable development.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me stop here. I shall be able to give you more information about China’s development diplomacy with Africa after my return from the Sharm El Sheikh Conference in early November if you so wish. Now I am ready to answer your questions.