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20 Mar, 2013

China Sees “Golden Age” for Ties with Africa

By Li Jiabao and Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)

Beijing 2013-03-19 – China-Africa relations are in a golden age of rapid development, but more must be done to improve the quality of economic ties as Chinese investment in the continent continues to boom, a senior official said on Monday. “Though the volume of China-Africa economic cooperation and trade is rapidly increasing, the quality is not catching up,” Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhai Jun said on Monday.

Zhai was making the keynote speech at the forum of Chinese Businesses in Africa – Cooperation, Innovation and Win-Win Outcomes, held by the China Public Diplomacy Association in Beijing. “Africans have enhanced their expectations of China and China-Africa cooperation, but our capabilities fall short. In addition, Chinese businesses lack experience in international operations and should further improve localized operations and social responsibilities,” Zhai said.

China has been Africa’s largest trade partner since 2009. Bilateral trade expanded from about $10 billion in 2000 to almost $200 billion in 2012. The continent is now China’s second-largest project-contracting market and the fourth-largest investment destination. China’s accumulative investment in Africa stood at $15.3 billion as of April 2012, compared with almost nothing a decade ago, he said.

Zhai said the continent is developing into a hot new destination for global investment as countries advance infrastructure construction, agricultural and manufacturing development and boost the attraction of capital and technology.

Fast economic growth on both sides is a driving force for China-Africa cooperation and expands common interests, he said. “Instead of seeking one-off deals, which is just shortsightedness, Chinese enterprises should have a vision of sustainable development while promoting more cooperation in infrastructure development, agriculture, manufacturing, personnel training and technology transfer amid the continent’s top priority of self-development and industrialization,” Zhai said.

Liu Hongkuan, deputy director of the Department of Foreign Capital and Overseas Investment under the National Development and Reform Commission, said a key task is to carry out frequent communications among Chinese and African governments as well as helping organizations to understand the demands of host governments, markets and Chinese businesses.

“Joint efforts on both sides should create a favorable investment environment. Developed Chinese enterprises need to expand their investments into social services such as telecommunication and infrastructure construction. Some enterprises should be encouraged into the mineral processing business to increase local employment and tax revenue,” Liu said.

Zhai added that Chinese businesses should build a better corporate image, including complying with local laws, respecting local customs and traditions, improving labor practices and environmental protection. “Chinese companies operating overseas should faithfully fulfill their corporate social responsibility and help the local society maintain sustainable development, which in the long run will also benefit the company’s sustainable growth,” said Li Jiqin, managing director of China State Construction Engineering Corp Ltd’s overseas operations.