China-Africa forum kicks off in Beijing
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has been held every three years since 2006, alternating between Beijing and various cities in Africa each time. This year’s FOCAC is in Beijing, and began on September 3 with a major speech by Xi Jinping.
As at past forums, the Chinese leader pledged big numbers in trade and aid to Africa. Lina Benabdallah, a scholar who studies Africa-China relations (listen to a Sinica Podcast with her), compiled a quick comparison of this year’s pledge with that of three years ago, commenting that “The figure is the same, allocated slightly differently”:
Xi notably took care to attempt to address some long-standing criticism of this trade and aid. He placed extra emphasis on aid having “no strings attached,” the Washington Post noted, and insisted ahead of the summit, “Resources for our co-operation are not to be spent on any vanity projects,” the BBC reports. Bloomberg also pointed out that Xi promised debt relief (paywall) for “unspecified poor and heavily indebted countries,” an apparent attempt to counter a common accusation of China engaging in debt-heavy diplomacy.
You can read the whole speech by Xi on Xinhua, where you can also find a list of “eight major initiatives” that Xi proposed.
Here is a selection of other notable and interesting links related to FOCAC:
- Chinese internet sees Xi’s pledges as too generous
China pledge of $60bn Africa loans sparks anger / FT (paywall)
“The president’s largesse prompted rare criticism among Chinese on social media over why their government was not spending the money on them, with one blogger suggesting that $60bn could fund China’s cash-strapped ministry of education for three years.”
Reuters reporter Christian Shepherd noted that he’s “seeing a lot of people sharing this article [in Chinese] that compares Xi’s $60bn pledge to Africa to various domestic yardsticks. It’s bigger than the GDP of Qinghua and Tibet, but smaller than that of Hainan, apparently.”
- Two reports we highly recommend reading
— The 2018 China-Africa Reporting Guide is available as a free download from the Africa-China Project and Wits Journalism School’s Africa-China Reporting Project.
— Scholars Deborah Brautigam, Lina Benabdallah, and Janet Eom have published The Path Ahead: The 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation for free download.
- State media adoration of Xi Jinping
Seeing double? Chinese newspapers use identical frontpages for African summit coverage / SCMP
- eSwatini, the one African country still recognizing Taiwan
Beijing ups pressure on eSwatini, but Taiwan’s last African ally stands firm / SCMP
All of Africa is now competing for Chinese money. Except for one country. / Washington Post
- Pledges don’t always equal action
China-Africa summit begins amid debt, trade deficit concerns / Quartz Africa
The author of this piece, Bright Simmons, the Ghana-based president of a company that “builds technologies to restore trust in medicines and other valuable products around the world,” wrote on Twitter that “China has pledged $60bn to Ghana in the last 2 decades and released $3.4bn. Angola has received $44bn of $50bn pledged. Not a single paper has been published by Ghanaian academics & bureaucrats analysing the factors that drive Chinese fulfillment of pledges.”
- Narratives about economic competition in Africa
Clash of the US and Chinese tech giants in Africa / FT (paywall)
Aubrey Hruby, co-founder of the Africa Expert Network, argues that the classic Western narrative that “China greedily demands privileged access to Africa’s natural resources in exchange for no-strings-attached infrastructure financing” is “outdated and fails to capture an emergent area of true competition — that among US and Chinese tech giants.”
- Why is China building so much coal power in Africa?
Are China’s energy investments in Africa green enough? / Chinadialogue
- Bill Gates chimes in
Bill Gates urges Africa to learn from China in People’s Daily op-ed / Abacus