“Looking at the world, we are facing great changes not seen in the past century.” The global transformation is not only accelerating world changes, but also announcing the end of the “post-Cold War era” and the advent of a new, as-yet-unknown era. As pointed out in the report of the 20th Party Congress, “At present, the world, the times, and history are changing in ways never seen before. On the one hand, the historical trends of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are irresistible. The aspiration of the people and the general trend determine that the future of humanity will be bright in the end. On the other hand, the deep harm caused by hegemonic, domineering, and bullying behaviors such as relying on strength, seizing by force, and zero-sum games, has led to increasing deficits in peace, development, security, and governance, presenting human society with unprecedented challenges”. The Second Plenary Session of the 20th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party emphasized that “the great changes in the world unseen in a century are accelerating, the world has entered a new period of turmoil and change, and China’s development has entered a period in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges coexist, and uncertain and unpredictable factors are increasing. We must be prepared to withstand the great test of high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.” The era of great changes is profoundly shaping the relationship between China and the world, including the relationship between China and Africa. China-Africa relations constitute an important part of Africa’s global partnerships and China’s foreign relations. China-Africa cooperation is a model for international cooperation with Africa and cooperation between China and developing countries. In the new historical period, the interaction between the tension of the era and the dynamics of China-Africa relations themselves has a profound impact on the development of China-Africa relations. China-Africa cooperation is presenting new characteristics and new trends; new tasks, opportunities, and challenges are shaping a new agenda for China-Africa cooperation; and new requirements for the long-term development of China-Africa relations have been proposed. How to strengthen China-Africa strategic communication and joint action, how to consolidate and deepen friendly and cooperative relations between China and Africa, and how to promote the construction of a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future are becoming important issues of the era and the direction of progress for China-Africa cooperation. To this end, this article will strive to clarify the new characteristics of China-Africa cooperation at present, summarize and analyze the new agenda for China-Africa cooperation, and on this basis, look forward to considering the development prospects of China-Africa cooperation.
I. New features of China-Africa cooperation
Since the start of the third decade of the 21st century, the external environment and internal dynamics of China-Africa cooperation are undergoing great changes. From the perspective of the external environment, changes in the international environment are reshaping the relationship between China and other major countries in Africa. The pattern of cooperation between major countries in Africa is shifting from complementarity to competition and division. The impetus driving China-Africa cooperation to transform and develop in response to the changing times is stronger than ever before. From Africa’s perspective, African economic and social development has encountered serious difficulties, and the collective rise of developing countries has lost momentum. The moral responsibility of China-Africa cooperation to support Africa’s development and its global significance in leading the recovery of developing countries have increased significantly. At the same time, China-Africa cooperation is itself undergoing a transformation and upgrading, promoting the quality and efficiency of China-Africa cooperation, improving the medium- and long-term strategic planning capabilities for China-Africa cooperation, and responding to major challenges in China-Africa cooperation. This is becoming an important prerequisite for building a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.
(i) The international environment is undergoing great changes
The changes in the international environment are mainly manifested in: First, the once-in-a-century pandemic, changes unseen in a century, the Ukraine crisis, and the global development transformation driven by climate change are reshaping the world political and economic order and the pattern of international development cooperation, significantly increasing the uncertainty in global development. Second, the trend of the “rise of the East and decline of the West” and “rise of the South and decline of the North” is slowing down, and challenges and setbacks in South-South cooperation are increasing. Global inflation, economic recession, and intensified development challenges have cast a shadow over the global economy and international development. The internal motivation and external stimulus for national development have weakened significantly, and the risk of a “hard landing” for developing economies has risen sharply. “Emerging markets and developing countries are likely to experience weak growth for many years to come due to the weight of their debts and weak investment. The development achievements accumulated over many years in education, health, poverty reduction, and infrastructure have been severely eroded, and developing countries are facing unprecedented shocks and challenges.” Third, global security, national security, development security, and human security all face major challenges. Ever-increasing security issues have diverted global attention and investment away from development issues, and the generalization of security issues has intensified international division and confrontation, in turn leading to increased resistance and challenges to international coordination and cooperation. “The securitization of development—the subordination of growth and development goals to security priorities—fails to bring about security and only undermines development.”
Changes in the international environment are having a profound impact on China-Africa cooperation. In the first 20 years of the 21st century, peace and development were the themes of the era, and coordination among major powers was the dominant tone of global governance. Both China and Africa as well as China-Africa cooperation itself have benefited from the dividends of peace and development during this period. China rose to become the second largest economy in the world, Africa experienced a long period of rapid recovery and development, and China-Africa cooperation improved comprehensively, setting an example for South-South cooperation and international cooperation with Africa. However, at present, the dividends of globalization and peaceful development enjoyed by China-Africa cooperation are fading, the atmosphere of coordination among major powers is growing weaker, and the situation where China-Africa cooperation was subject to relatively little external interference is being changed. “The tone of competition in an era of complex competition and cooperation is becoming increasingly intense, and competition among various international actors, including major powers, is embodied in national strength, international systems, ideology, and key nodes. As power politics returns with a vengeance, geopolitics attracts more attention, and traditional security threats intensify, terms such as ‘Thucydides Trap’ and ‘Tragedy of Great Power Politics’ are now constantly repeated, and competition around international systems and ideologies has become a phenomenon in current international politics.” Intensified competition among major powers, global economic recession, the “breaking” of global industry chains and supply chains, the transformation of energy structures, the reform of the international financial system, and the pan-securitization in international cooperation are all influencing China-Africa cooperation. Changes in geopolitics, the global order, and the atmosphere of international cooperation have forced China-Africa cooperation to confront more pressure and unknown challenges. The shift from “China-Africa cooperation in the era of globalization” to “China-Africa cooperation in the era of great power competition” is becoming an important feature of the era in current China-Africa cooperation.
(ii) The pattern of international cooperation with Africa is undergoing profound adjustments
In recent years, important changes have occurred in the pattern of international cooperation with Africa. In terms of the balance of power, this is manifested in a trend of the “rise of the East and decline of the West.” China and other emerging countries have significantly increased the intensity of their cooperation with Africa and their influence on Africa’s development, while the West’s influence in Africa has relatively declined. In the interactions between major powers, the intersections between China and the United States and other Western countries in Africa continue to increase, and differences and even contradictions are also constantly expanding. Even so, for a period of time, China, the United States and other Western countries have basically maintained a relationship of peaceful coexistence in Africa, or what is called a “cooperative” situation of a “natural division of labor and complementary of respective strengths.” However, with the rise of China’s status and influence in Africa and even the world at large, the anxiety of the United States and the West regarding China and China-Africa cooperation has increased significantly. Strengthening competition with China in Africa is becoming the strategic consensus of the United States and the West. In particular, since taking office, the Trump administration’s promotion of comprehensive competition with China has fundamentally impacted the pattern of international cooperation with Africa. The relationship between China and the United States in Africa has shifted to and served the disputes over ideology, development models, and global strategies initiated by the United States. Cooperation and even communication between China and the United States on African affairs have basically ceased. After the Biden administration took office, the United States, while giving Africa renewed attention, continued to emphasize its differences with China’s model for Africa. By strengthening multilateral cooperation and proposing new cooperation initiatives, the United States attempted to rebuild its leadership in African affairs, thereby highlighting its competitive relationship with China in Africa.
As a result, the pattern of international cooperation with Africa has shifted from complementarity to competition and division. In the field of economy and development, the United States and Western countries have begun not to “recognize” China’s important contributions to Africa’s development, especially in infrastructure, but continue to smear China as a “predatory country” and hype up the so-called “debt trap theory” and “nontransparency theory,” claiming that they will provide Africa with “better options” than China. The United States and other Western countries have comprehensively strengthened their competition with China by proposing systematic initiatives such as the “Build Back Better World” and “Global Gateway” plan, the “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment,” “Global Energy Transition Partnership,” [全球能源转型伙伴关系] and “Mineral Security Partnership.” In the political field, they have increased their involvement in African democracy and human rights affairs and outlined the prospects of so-called “democratic” relative to “authoritarian” institutions. They not only support the “democratic” development of African countries through the “Millennium Challenge Corporation” (MCC) and by providing development aid and other “carrot” tools, but also have used sanctions against Zimbabwe and other countries to suppress African countries that have good relations with China. In the field of security, the effectiveness of the United States and Western countries’ security cooperation with Africa continues to be questioned, but they are very vigilant about China’s security cooperation with African countries, including hyping up the security problems arising from China’s ports, information communications, mineral investment, joint exercises, and overseas logistics bases in Africa. In short, the pattern of international cooperation with Africa is increasingly divided into “parallel” major power cooperation with Africa, with the United States and Western countries on one side and China as the main entity on the other.
(iii) The challenges and pressures confronting China-Africa cooperation continue to increase
Since the beginning of the 21st century, China-Africa relations have developed rapidly, and China-Africa cooperation has made great achievements. China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, its largest infrastructure financier, the country whose investments in Africa are growing the fastest, the main contractor for international projects in Africa, and Africa’s main development partner. China has established important comparative advantages in Africa. However, as the international environment and African development are changing, the challenges facing China-Africa cooperation are also increasing, and the existing China-Africa cooperation model is under significantly increased pressure to deal with new problems and challenges.
First, serious setbacks in Africa’s economic development have put new pressure on China-Africa cooperation. Since the world’s commodity prices plummeted around 2015, dragged down by the economic recession in Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, and other major African countries as well as troubles due to various problems in Ethiopia and other African countries that previously enjoyed relatively fast economic growth, the momentum of Africa’s growth has begun to decline. Political, economic, and developmental challenges are accumulating. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine crisis, and the structural impact of the energy transition have further exacerbated this trend. The development achievements of African countries over the past 20 years have been reversed, and they are facing their most serious crisis since 2000. The intensification of development challenges in Africa not only highlights China’s moral responsibility and pressure as an important development partner of Africa, but also forces both China and Africa to make adjustments, such as in financing, infrastructure, and energy cooperation, to the traditional China-Africa cooperation model based on real changes.
Second, political and security challenges in Africa have intensified. From 2020 to 2022, there were 12 military coups in Africa, 7 of which were successful, including those in Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, and Burkina Faso. The military coups in 2021 represent a new wave of coups and the frequency of this round of coups is significantly higher than the previous average. In the first decade of the 21st century, violent conflicts in Africa declined markedly in both number and geographical distribution. However, this trend has reversed over the past decade. According to data from the Peace Research Institute Oslo, in 2010, Africa had 10 civil conflicts, but in 2020 this number reached 25 and, in 2021, there were 20,866 incidents of political violence in Africa, both of which are record highs. The number of countries in conflict has also increased significantly. In 2010, only 5 African countries faced regular terrorist attacks, but now this number has grown to 14 countries, and some other countries are at risk of occasional terrorist attacks. In addition, multiple crises have exacerbated Africa’s food and energy security problems, and humanitarian and livelihood crises continue to intensify. The deteriorating political and security situation in Africa not only poses serious challenges to Africa’s development, but also has a direct impact on China-Africa cooperation, highlighting the importance of coordinating the “development–security–governance” relationship, thus putting forward higher requirements for China-Africa cooperation.
Third, China-Africa cooperation faces more doubts and even stigmatization. On the one hand, the United States and other Western countries take advantage of setbacks in Africa’s development to attack and discredit friendly China-Africa cooperation. On the other hand, economic nationalism, populism, and xenophobia are rearing their heads in some African countries and calls for more intense review of Chinese projects in Africa are growing louder, which will have an impact on normal China-Africa cooperation. At the same time, in order to cope with development challenges, new changes are evident in African countries’ development paths and choice of development partners. In order to seek more international support, some countries are increasing cooperation with multilateral financial institutions and Western developed countries.
(iv) China-Africa cooperation is in urgent need of medium and long-term strategic planning
Building a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future is the strategic goal of China-Africa cooperation in the new era and promoting the high-quality development of China-Africa cooperation is an inevitable requirement for China-Africa cooperation. This goal and need means that the two sides must make high-level plans for China-Africa cooperation from a longer-term and strategic perspective. It was under the guidance of this logic that after the Dakar conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the key documents China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035 (Vision 2035) and the Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combating Climate Change were released for the first time.
Vision 2035 has planned out a mid- to long-term vision for China-Africa cooperation, reflecting the willingness of both China and Africa to develop China-Africa relations from a long-term perspective. Compared with the three-year cycle of cooperation planning and initiative design of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the promulgation of Vision 2035 means that both China and Africa are committed to achieving a balance across a variety of dimensions such as project cooperation and strategic cooperation, project implementation and sustainable operation, and short-term benefits and medium- and long-term cooperation results to ensure the sustainable development of China-Africa cooperation and make China-Africa cooperation conform to the long-term interests of both China and Africa. Its main logic is that China-Africa cooperation must be systematic, continuous, and effective. This provides fundamental ideas and principles for current China-Africa cooperation.
The Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combating Climate Change is the first time that China and Africa have issued a joint position paper on a major global issue. Climate change is a major strategic issue affecting the transformation of global development, and it is producing a profound impact on China, Africa, and China-Africa cooperation. To this end, China and Africa have decided to establish a new era in the China-Africa strategic partnership to address climate change. This will not only strengthen international cooperation, multilateral cooperation, South-South cooperation, trilateral cooperation, and cooperation at other levels, but will also strengthen cooperation in climate investment and financing, the “Green Great Wall” plan, “African Agricultural Adaptation Initiative,” and other key projects and programs, with increased attention to cooperation in development transformation and sustainable development. Thus, the declaration not only shows that China and Africa can reach a strategic consensus on major global issues, but also that they can form practical cooperation mechanisms and programs. This has provided important inspiration for China and Africa on how to deal with other global strategic challenges in the future.
II. New agenda for China-Africa cooperation
The internal dynamics of China-Africa cooperation, external needs, and changes in the international environment are shaping a new agenda for China-Africa cooperation. In terms of internal dynamics, China-Africa relations are entering a new stage of building a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future. Facing the new needs of transformation and upgrading, quality improvement, and efficiency enhancement, finding a way to lead and promote China-Africa cooperation in the new era is becoming the common mission of both China and Africa. In terms of external needs, Africa is suffering from the most severe economic and development crisis since the 21st century, and Africa’s external needs are also increasing rapidly. In the era of great changes, the questions of how to take advantage of the opportunities of international cooperation with Africa and how to deal with the rising international competition and challenges constitute the common issues of China-Africa cooperation. To this end, China and Africa are planning and leading China-Africa cooperation in the new era based on top-level design, need orientation, joint action, and high-quality cooperation and promoting the construction of a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.
(i) Top-level design leads the way in the new journey of China-Africa cooperation
Top-level design and strategic leadership are distinctive features of China-Africa cooperation in the new era. From the perspective of Africa, the adoption of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area are signs that African countries have entered a new era of joint self-strengthening and common development. From China’s perspective, Chinese leaders attach great importance to China-Africa relations. The Belt and Road Initiative, Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative have brought new ideas to China-Africa cooperation. In 2013, during his visit to Africa, Xi Jinping proposed the concept of sincere and friendly cooperation with Africa and the correct view of morality and interests, which have now become the concepts and principles guiding China-Africa cooperation in the new era. In 2015, the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation established a new positioning for the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between China and Africa. In 2018, the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation proposed to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, pushing China-Africa relations into the best period in its history. The Dakar conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2021 identified building a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future as the common goal of China-Africa cooperation in the new era and launched the “nine projects” of China-Africa cooperation. At present, the question of how to promote the alignment and linkage between Africa’s development and the Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and planning China-Africa cooperation from the strategic and policy levels have also become important strategic choices for African countries. As the Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa urged at the Dakar conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, “We envy the Chinese model that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We need to strengthen cooperation with China to achieve our goals and promote the implementation of flagship projects. We hope to strengthen cooperation and experience sharing with the Chinese government in implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area, and we call on China to strengthen the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and other African economic development projects.”
The 20th Party Congress pointed out a new direction for the development of China-Africa relations in the era of great changes. The report of the 20th Party Congress clarified China’s goal of building a modernized socialist superpower and made clear the positioning of the world situation and China’s foreign policy. How to better participate in global governance and promote the establishment of a favorable international environment are important goals of China’s foreign policy. Under the situation of changes unseen in a century, China is facing increasingly complex and severe external challenges and pressures, and China’s global responsibilities and ability to participate in global governance are also constantly improving. In this context, to realize China’s strategic goals, it is necessary to create a favorable international environment. Therefore, strengthening solidarity and cooperation with developing countries is not only of great strategic significance, but also a historical necessity for China to better participate in global governance and international development. When Xi Jinping met with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who was the first African head of state to visit China after the 20th Party Congress, he said, “China is willing to use its own development to provide new opportunities for Africa, accelerate the implementation of the ‘nine projects,’ and take infrastructure as the guide to consolidate the three pillars of trade, investment, and financing, and foster new momentum for China-Africa cooperation. China is willing to work with Africa to uphold the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and other basic norms of international relations, actively implement the Global Development Initiative, increase the representation and voice of developing countries in global governance, and make greater contributions to promoting the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.”
(ii) New developmental realities shape new topics in China-Africa cooperation
Changes in the development concepts, development stages, and development patterns of China and Africa are shaping the new content of China-Africa cooperation. Changes in development concepts and development transformation often mean increased challenges and pressures. Both China and African countries are facing complex pressures and challenges from transformations. After a long period of rapid development, China-Africa cooperation is also entering a period of transformation and adjustment. China is embarking on a new journey of Chinese-style modernization and is fully implementing the new development concept, speeding up the construction of a new development pattern with the domestic great circulation as the mainstay and the dual (domestic and international) circulation mutually reinforcing each other.
From the perspectives of global development partnerships and global industry chain and supply chain security, Africa’s significance to China’s development and security and in its building of a new development pattern has further increased. First, the demand for green, low-carbon, and high-quality development in the context of the climate change agenda accelerates changes in the global energy structure, supply chains, industry chains, and value chains. Africa is a continent rich in global resources with a relatively high proportion of “future resources.” The transformation of global development highlights Africa’s position in the global supply chain. In the question of how to ensure the security of supply chains and enhance the status of African countries in industry chains and value chains, African countries still face with great challenges. China is a major leader in green energy and global industry chains, and Africa’s significance to China’s supply chain security and global industrial competition is self-evident. In the context of Africa’s development and transformation and faced with African countries’ demands to enhance their status in global industry chains and value chains, China will play a greater role in leading Africa’s green development transformation and supporting Africa’s development. This is an important topic and direction in China-Africa cooperation at present. Second, Africa is an important breakout point that will allow China to escape the economic siege of the United States and the West. Africa is an important starting point for the internationalization of Chinese enterprises. The first complete petroleum industry system established by China overseas is in Africa. The Chinese standards driven by Chinese railways were first implemented in Africa. Many Chinese companies have gradually developed and grown strong, mainly relying on their operations in Africa. In the context of the United States and Western countries increasing their industrial, and scientific and technological containment of China in the name of national security, Africa holds an even more important position. In November 2022, at the first African “5G” summit, the head of Huawei North Africa said, “Africa represents the third global wave of the ‘5G’ market. In 2023, Africa will open its ‘5G’ era, and Huawei will further increase its investments in Africa and support for Africa’s digital transformation.” Third, the huge potential of the African market is providing important opportunities for Chinese enterprises.
The transformation of the global development paradigm and the intensification of development challenges in Africa have shaped Africa’s current development needs. First, the current development challenges facing Africa are extremely urgent and include food security, energy security, debt crises, and social and livelihood issues. This makes direct or indirect demands on China’s role and effect. Second, African countries still face a massive shortfall in development financing. The phenomenon of the “financing paradox” is intensifying in African countries. At present, African countries urgently need external financing support, but the inflow of external funds has sharply declined. As an important source of financing for African countries, it is important for African countries to answer the question of how to continue to seek sustainable development funds from China. Third, the transformation of global development has intensified the need for African countries to plan for their future development. Rather than passively being drawn into the process of globalization, African countries are also striving to actively accept the green development transformation process shaped by climate change. However, it is a severe challenge for African countries to carry out green development transformation before building up a sufficient development foundation. This has led African countries to reflect on, reform, and make new choices as to their own development paths and models, and they have no choice but to seek external support to achieve this “additional” or “international norm-driven” development transformation. Participating in Africa’s development transformation process is an important cooperation opportunity for China.
As a result, the needs that African countries want China to satisfy are diverse and complex. African countries need not only the sharing of transformation development concepts and experiences, but also need China to urgently respond to the severe development challenges currently facing Africa. Even more, they need China to act as a key development partner by providing stable support for Africa’s medium and long-term development, including continuous infrastructure financing. How China should adapt to Africa’s new development reality, how it can support Africa in coping with development challenges, and how it can promote the transformation, upgrade, and sustainable development of the China-Africa cooperation model are becoming important issues in the development of China-Africa relations.
(iii) The expansion of common interests drives joint actions by China and Africa
The expansion of common interests between China and Africa constitutes the core driving force for China-Africa joint actions. World turmoil and the deficit in global governance have severely impacted developing countries. As the largest developing country and the continent with the most developing countries, China and Africa are forming a common position on more global issues, and their willingness and motivation to carry out joint actions are also increasing. It is necessary for both parties to transform common needs and common interests into joint actions.
China-Africa joint actions are mainly apparent in the following areas: First, joint actions to address global development challenges. Developing countries are facing serious global development challenges. The intertwining of food security, energy security, financial security, and societal security has further exacerbated the peace, development, security, and governance deficits of developing countries. Addressing global development challenges constitutes an important driving force for China-Africa joint actions. On May 19, 2021, at China’s initiative, the UN Security Council held a high-level meeting on “Addressing root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa.” China drafted and promoted the council to unanimously adopt a chairman’s statement. This was the first outcome document by the Security Council on post-epidemic reconstruction. At this meeting, China and Africa also jointly launched the “Partnership for Africa’s Development Initiative,” calling on the international community to increase its support for Africa. This initiative received positive responses and support from African countries. At the end of November 2021, China and Africa issued the Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Combating Climate Change, a collective position statement concerning the two parties’ response to global development as well as an important symbol of the continuous strengthening of China-Africa joint actions. Promoting the establishment of a fair and stable financing framework for international development is the common goal of both China and Africa. Driven by this goal, China committed to lending U.S. $10 billion in special drawing rights to Africa, which is the first and largest provision of special drawing rights to African countries. China and Africa also jointly called on developed countries and the international community to actively fulfill their commitments and contribute to alleviating the financial and debt problems of African countries and other developing countries.
Second, joint actions to uphold global fairness and justice. Maintaining global fairness and justice is the common demand of China and Africa, and adhering to genuine multilateralism is the direction of joint action by China and Africa. On May 7, 2021, the UN Security Council held a high-level meeting on “Upholding Multilateralism and the United Nations-centered International System.” Then-State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi presided over the meeting, attended by the foreign ministers or vice foreign ministers of the 15 member states of the Security Council. This demonstrates that members of the Security Council attach great importance to maintaining multilateralism. It is the common mission of China and Africa to oppose bullying by the strong and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries. China and Africa stated that they would strive to promote the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, build a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and mutually beneficial cooperation, defend the common values of all humanity, oppose the politicization of human rights issues, and oppose interference in other countries’ internal affairs. China opposes the long-term sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western countries on Zimbabwe, Sudan, and other African countries and staunchly joins African countries in calling on the United States and other countries to lift sanctions. Wang Yi said that, “In the face of all kinds of bullying by the strong in today’s world, China and Africa stand shoulder to shoulder. We appreciate African countries’ staunch adherence to the one-China principle and staunch support for China in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity. China also upholds justice for African countries in multilateral venues such as the United Nations and opposes any unreasonable interference with or unilateral sanctions against Africa. China-Africa solidarity and cooperation have become the backbone for safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, the backbone for upholding the aims of the UN Charter, and the backbone for safeguarding multilateralism and international fairness and justice.”
Third, joint actions to participate in and improve global governance. As the status and influence of China and Africa in global affairs have risen, it is the common demand of China and Africa to promote the development of global governance in a direction beneficial to developing countries. Speaking with one voice and strengthening the coordination of African countries’ collective positions are the main ways by which Africa can enhance its global influence. The role of the African Union (AU) as Africa’s agent in international affairs has received more attention. China actively supports African countries in playing a greater role in global affairs, actively supports African countries’ proposals at the United Nations, supports African countries in playing a greater role in the reform of the Security Council, takes the lead in supporting the African Union in becoming a permanent member of the G20, supports increasing the share of African countries in multilateral financial institutions, and increases the attention to African issues through multilateral platforms such as the G20 and BRICS countries. African countries also actively support China’s propositions and initiatives on global governance. Africa is one of the most active directions of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Global Development Initiative, and Global Security Initiative. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the BRICS cooperation mechanism, and the Belt and Road Initiative are becoming important platforms for Africa to enhance its global influence. In the face of severe global challenges, there is broad space for cooperation between China and Africa at the international level. China’s important initiatives in global governance would not be possible without the response and support of African countries, and the global propositions and demands of African countries also need China’s support. Achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, promoting the implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063, and building a global political, economic, financial, and development environment conducive to developing countries are important goals of China-Africa cooperation in global governance. This requires both sides to strengthen coordination and alignment in strategies, policies, and mechanisms and deepen joint actions.
(iv) An orientation to problems drives the deepening of China-Africa cooperation
The expansion and deepening of China-Africa cooperation inevitably bring new problems and challenges. These problems have a certain impact on China-Africa cooperation, but they also constitute new topics for China-Africa cooperation. How to deal with and solve issues in China-Africa cooperation and promote the high-quality development of China-Africa relations is becoming an important issue for both China and Africa.
The main problems in present China-Africa cooperation are as follows: First, the effectiveness of economic cooperation needs to be further improved. In the field of trade, a trade imbalance has long existed between China and Africa, and some countries have relatively serious trade deficits with China, which has also aroused widespread concern in some African countries. In the field of development financing, as Africa’s debt problem continues to intensify, the model China uses to provide development financing to Africa is facing greater pressure. Traditional infrastructure financing cooperation has encountered bottlenecks, and African countries hope to optimize cooperation methods. In the field of investment, while China’s investment in Africa is increasing rapidly, investment disputes are also increasing. Issues such as contract review, investment protection, and environmental and social governance norms are becoming prominent issues in China-Africa investment cooperation. To this end, China-Africa cooperation needs to face up to these issues and respond in a positive manner. China supports Africa in using the China International Import Expo, China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, e-commerce centers, and other platforms to expand exports to China, has further expanded the scope of products exported to China by the least developed countries with established diplomatic relations with China that enjoy zero tariffs, and has established a “green channel” for African agricultural products to be exported to China. China has committed to invest a total of no less than U.S. $10 billion in Africa from 2022 to 2024, encourages Chinese financial institutions to support Chinese enterprises in investing in African companies and projects through public-private partnerships, and implements 10 industrialization and employment promotion projects for aid to Africa, strengthens China-Africa industrial alignment and production capacity cooperation, and uses industry chain expansion and value chain upgrades to drive the development of Africa’s industrialization and promote the diversified development of Africa’s economy. In response to the problem of current financing difficulties in Africa, China has committed to appropriately increase the degree of concessions in its concessional loans, innovate financing models, implement 10 facility connectivity projects for aid to Africa, support African infrastructure construction, provide U.S. $10 billion in credit lines to African financial institutions, and focus on supporting the development of African SMEs.
Second, the issue of inclusive development is more prominent than ever in China-Africa cooperation. The deepening of China-Africa relations is facing new challenges due to the differentiation of African society and people in their perception and response to China-Africa cooperation. Compared with intergovernmental cooperation, the benefits and sense of gain from China-Africa cooperation for African society and people are lower than expected. According to data from Afrobarometer, although African countries still maintain a high degree of approval for China’s positive impact on local economic development, it has declined relative to five years ago. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the slowdown of development financing between China and Africa, constantly increasing debt problems, different perceptions of debt handling, and some disputes between Chinese enterprises in Africa and the local society and people and controversies over corporate social responsibility have further highlighted the issues of the inclusiveness of China-Africa cooperation. A study on the corporate social responsibility of Chinese construction enterprises found that Chinese enterprises have done a good job in terms of construction quality and compliance with local laws and customs, but they still need to improve in terms of employee benefits and environmental protection. African countries’ ability to take a leading role in corporate social responsibility policies will help blunt the growing anti-China rhetoric.
Third, there is an increasing demand for China-Africa peace and security cooperation. Under the impact of the pandemic situation, Africa is in a steady state of chaos, with a resurgence in coups, complex and fluctuating situations in regional hotspots, and frequent disturbances by terrorist forces. Traditional security and non-traditional security issues are simultaneously on the rise, regime security and development security intertwine and amplify each other, and regional security and national security have interacting influences, constituting important features of Africa’s current peace and security challenges. Civil conflicts as represented by Ethiopia, regional conflicts as represented by the Great Lakes region of Africa, terrorist threats as represented by the Sahel region, maritime security threats as represented by the Gulf of Guinea, and climate change-driven competition for resources and conflict between farmers and herders have forced African countries to face new security challenges before they have eliminated their chronic security problems. Cracking Africa’s security challenges and creating a stable environment for Africa’s development and China-Africa cooperation are important goals of China-Africa cooperation. Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China and Africa have implemented practical measures such as the China-Africa Peace and Security Cooperation Action Plan (中非和平安全合作行动计划) and the Peace and Security Project (和平安全工程). In order to support the realization of long-term stability, peace, and prosperity in the Horn of Africa, China put forward the “Horn of Africa Peace Concept” (非洲之角和平构想) to support countries in the region in coping with the triple challenges of security, development, and governance. By appointing a special envoy for the Horn of Africa affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and supporting the convening of the Horn of Africa Peace Conference, China made positive contributions to building consensus among all parties and promoting peace and security in Africa. China also identified Africa as a key direction of cooperation in the implementation of the Global Security Initiative. China “supports the efforts of African countries, the AU, and sub-regional organizations to resolve regional conflicts, oppose terrorism, and maintain maritime security, calls on the international community to provide funding and technology for African-led counter-terrorism operations, supports African countries in enhancing their ability to independently maintain peace, supports using African methods to solve African problems, and promote the peaceful resolution of problems in hotspots such as the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and the Great Lakes region. China actively implements the “Horn of Africa Peaceful Development Concept” (非洲之角和平发展构想), promotes the institutionalization of the Horn of Africa Peace Conference, and actively creates cooperation demonstration projects.”
III. New actions in China-Africa cooperation
In the face of changes unseen in a century, China-Africa solidarity and cooperation are an important force for world peace and development and can create a strong driving force for the prosperity, development, and lasting peace of Africa and the world. China-Africa cooperation in the era of great changes not only requires strengthening the solidarity and cooperation capabilities of China and Africa in coping with common global challenges, but also requires enhancing the cooperation capabilities of China and Africa in shaping and leading the new agenda. Even more, it requires strengthening the ability of China and Africa to solve problems and innovate in their cooperation. China and Africa should build consensus, strengthen conceptual agreement, deepen solidarity and cooperation, and carry out joint actions. China and Africa should empathize with each other’s development challenges, strengthen mutual support, and build a new era of China-Africa strategic mutual trust. China and Africa should improve cooperation mechanisms, strengthen the alignment of strategies and policies, and lay a solid institutional foundation for China-Africa relations. China and Africa should adhere to innovation leadership, explore new directions for China-Africa cooperation, and promote the construction of a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.
(i) Strengthen conceptual agreement and highlight the “common ground” between China and Africa
Facing geopolitical and economic changes and global development transformation in the context of changes unseen in a century, as the continent with the largest concentration of developing countries and the largest developing country, the solidarity and cooperation between Africa and China is of great significance and can also produce an important international influence. To this end, strengthening conceptual agreement and expanding the “common ground” between China and Africa will be an important basis for guiding China-Africa cooperation.
First, strengthen agreement on South-South cooperation and staunchly promote China-Africa solidarity and cooperation. South-South cooperation is an important guarantee for the collective rise of developing countries and the establishment of an international environment conducive to developing countries. The rapid development and major achievements of China-Africa cooperation have proved the strong vitality of South-South cooperation. Under the current new situation where global development challenges are increasing and developing countries are facing severe shocks, China and Africa should strengthen their agreement on South-South cooperation and strengthen solidarity and cooperation in international affairs under the banner of South-South cooperation. As stated in the First African South-South Cooperation Report issued by the African Union Development Agency and the United Nations Development Program, “The contribution of SSC to the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the continent’s Agenda 2063 is well recognized and established. SSC can provide context-specific, innovative, and sustainable development solutions that allow countries to enhance their own national capacities and self-reliance.”
Second, strengthen agreement on global governance. In its response to many challenges such as the impact of the pandemic, economic recession, climate change, energy transition, green development, geopolitical conflicts, non-traditional security, and poverty traps, it is evident that the global governance system dominated by Western countries has inefficiencies and other problems. In addition, Western countries’ political and economic policies such as substantial interest rate hikes often have a major negative impact on developing countries. Confronted with this reality, China and Africa should strengthen communication and coordination on global governance and build consensus on major global governance issues. On the one hand, through joint actions, China and Africa should enhance the representation of developing countries in global governance mechanisms such as the United Nations, the international financial system, and the G20 and enhance the voice of developing countries. China being the first to support the African Union in becoming a permanent member of the G20 is a manifestation of this concept. On the other hand, China and Africa should strengthen institutionalized dialogue on major issues of development and security, improve their level of collaboration in initiatives and institution building, and give full play to the ability of China-Africa cooperation to take part in and influence global governance. The Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative proposed by China provide important ideas and solutions for global governance. China and Africa can use this as an opportunity to actively engage in dialogue and communication and promote the formation of a common Sino-African global governance concept.
Third, strengthen agreement on building a fair and just international order. Both China and Africa advocate and uphold the UN-centered international system, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the aims and principles of the UN Charter. China and Africa have the same or similar international positions in dealing with major international events such as the Ukraine crisis, maintaining international fairness and justice, opposing international sanctions and bullying, and safeguarding the rights and interests of developing countries. However, at present, the United States and the West continue to strengthen their so-called “rules-based international order,” build “exclusive yards with high walls,” encourage “decoupling and breaking ties,” engage in “small circles” and bloc politics, and still maintain or even increase containment or sanctions against China and some African countries. This not only impacts the existing international order, but will also negatively impact developing countries including China and Africa, and even sow division between China and Africa and among African countries. To this end, under the new situation, China and Africa must strengthen their mutual agreement and consensus on the international order, strengthen the coordination of their positions on international affairs, and jointly speak out and act in common to safeguard the interests of developing countries.
(ii) Resolutely support each other to solve the “pain points” in Africa’s development
The issue of African development is an important topic of international development and global governance. Although Western developed countries have provided a large amount of aid to African countries, their role in promoting Africa’s development has always been controversial, and their negative impact on Africa’s development has also been criticized. Since the 21st century, China has played an important role in promoting Africa’s development and transformation. This has also caused the United States and Western countries to continuously strengthen competition with China in Africa and international development, and even attack and smear China-Africa cooperation, attempting to blame China for the development problems currently facing Africa. This not only affects the confidence of African countries regarding the China-Africa cooperation model, but also adversely affects the joint response to Africa’s development challenges. Therefore, at such a critical stage, China and Africa must strengthen strategic communication, enhance strategic mutual trust, and firmly support each other.
First, support each other in jointly addressing major development challenges of the present. “True friends are found in times of hardship” is a distinctive feature of China-Africa relations. As Xi Jinping said, “No matter where China’s development advances to, China will always regard African countries as friends who helped in times of need.” At present, the development challenges facing Africa have severely tested the financial and national governance capabilities of African countries, and have also led African countries to become more dependent on external support. The United States and the West are stepping up their involvement in Africa’s development process through a series of new initiatives, forcing China to face greater moral and responsibility pressure. As an important development partner for Africa, China should assume greater international responsibilities, have a greater voice and influence on issues such as energy transformation, financing sustainability, and debt disposal, increase sincere communication and cooperation with African countries, take the initiative to strengthen cooperation between the two sides in areas affecting people’s livelihood such as poverty reduction and food security, and contribute to solving these major development challenges.
Second, support each other in exploring development paths that suit them. The intensification of development challenges in Africa highlights the vulnerability of African countries to external shocks. The increase in external dependence and the shaping of Africa’s development agenda by developed countries will undoubtedly have a major impact on the development autonomy of African countries. At present, the real purpose of the United States and the West in stigmatizing China-Africa cooperation is to slander the China-Africa cooperation model and weaken the influence of China’s development experience in Africa. An important goal of their strengthening of cooperation with Africa is to induce or even force African countries to choose sides on development paths and partnerships. To this end, China and Africa should attach great importance to the new problems and challenges emerging in the transition period of the current development path of African countries, strengthen the communication and experience sharing regarding development concepts, follow the basic logic of “security–development–governance,” and use African countries’ development and security deficits as the main starting points to support African countries in improving their national governance capabilities, ultimately enhancing African countries’ confidence in exploring independent development paths that suit their own national conditions.
(iii) Improve the cooperation mechanisms and enhance the “bright spots” in China-Africa cooperation
China-Africa cooperation mechanisms such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation have played an important role in promoting the development of China-Africa relations. Under the new situation, promoting the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative, implementing the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative, deepening China-Africa relations, and responding to problems in China-Africa cooperation not only require the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to play its core role better, but also places higher requirements on the institutional development of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
First, deepen the institutionalized linkages of the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative with the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future is the goal worked towards and the guideline for action in China-Africa cooperation, while jointly building a high-quality Belt and Road is an important path by which to practice China-Africa cooperation in the new era. The three major initiatives are Chinese initiatives to solve the global governance deficit and China’s vision for building a global governance partnership. They possess a vast space for dealing with Africa’s development challenges. Implementing the three major initiatives in Africa and promoting the establishment of global governance partnerships possess a relatively solid real-world foundation and practical operability. To this end, on the one hand, it is necessary to enhance Africa’s status in the Belt and Road cooperation and the implementation of the three major initiatives at the conceptual and practical levels. For example, we should build platform linkages between the Belt and Road international summits and forums and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, increase the discussion of and initiative design for African development issues such as food security, financing support, energy transition and green development in Belt and Road international summits and forums, and increase initiative design for high-quality China-Africa Belt and Road cooperation under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. On the other hand, we must value Africa’s practical advantages and role as an example in implementing the Belt and Road and the three major initiatives, summarize the comparative advantages as well as the problems and challenges in China-Africa cooperation, and provide first-hand experience and practices from preliminary trials to better promote the Belt and Road and the two initiatives.
Second, build bottom-up, issue-led cooperation and coordination mechanisms. The existing mechanisms of China-Africa cooperation, including the ministerial-level meetings, coordinators’ meetings, and forum mechanisms in different fields of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, are mainly top-down promotion mechanisms. However, as the field of China-Africa cooperation grows larger, everything from the expansion of fields to the deepening of issues are important issues facing China-Africa cooperation. This means that both sides should not only place importance on the coverage scope of China-Africa cooperation, but also on the depth of China-Africa cooperation, especially concerning specific areas and issues where China-Africa cooperation is facing very prominent pressure from both the local and international levels. For example, on issues such as improving the inclusiveness of infrastructure development, promoting the economic and social effects of economic and trade cooperation, promoting environmental and social governance standards, and supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, problems such as the unbalanced development between intergovernmental cooperation mechanisms and the social linkage mechanisms and the need to strengthen coordination between bilateral cooperation mechanisms and international multilateral rules and institutions exist in China-Africa cooperation. This means that there is still a lot of room for improvement and optimization of China-Africa cooperation mechanisms. To this end, China-Africa cooperation should pay more attention to voices from the society and the people and increase the participation of social forces in China-Africa cooperation by building effective communication mechanisms between the government and society to create a political and social environment favorable to China-Africa cooperation. China-Africa cooperation should establish a problem-solving mechanism and improve its ability to respond to problems. Although the current debt problem, corporate social responsibility, security of overseas interests, negative public opinion, and nationalism risks are only partial or occasional problems, their propagation effect requires further attention. To this end, China-Africa cooperation should establish issue-led coordination mechanisms, promote cross-departmental coordination and links, and provide reasonable solutions to problems promptly. For example, in the current debt disposal of some African countries, there is an urgent need for different departments to strengthen communication and coordination, increase the integration and coordination of international rules and practices, and better play China’s role in supporting Africa’s development.
(iv) Adhere to innovation leadership and continuously cultivate the “growth points” in China-Africa cooperation
“The ‘secret’ for maintaining the strong vitality of China-Africa relations is to keep pace with the times and carry out innovation. For more than half a century, in every critical period of the development of China-Africa relations, both China and Africa have been able to take the long view, find new points of convergence and growth in China-Africa cooperation, and push China-Africa relations to achieve a new leap forward.” At present, China-Africa relations are once again in a critical period, and “cultivating new opportunities amid crises and opening a chapter amidst changes” is becoming an important historical mission for China-Africa cooperation.
First, grasp the new development stage and cultivate new growth points in the field of China-Africa cooperation. Energy transformation, digital economy, green development, and the new industrial revolution have brought Africa to a new stage of economic transformation. Improving its position in the global industry chain, grasping the opportunities of the fourth technological revolution, and realizing “overtaking on the curve” (弯道超车) are becoming important expectations and national strategies for African countries. The AU’s Agenda 2063 highlights the importance of digital infrastructure and the digital economy in the process of African integration. In addition, the AU has formulated the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020 – 2030), which proposes the goal of building a single digital economy by 2030. Different African countries are also actively formulating their own digital strategies. In general, e-commerce, “5G” networks, the green economy, and new energy cooperation are becoming new growth points for China-Africa cooperation. They are also important aspects in which China-Africa cooperation can reflect new advantages. The China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035 clearly states that there are massive opportunities for China-Africa cooperation in the areas of agricultural cooperation, production capacity cooperation, scientific and technological innovation cooperation, blue economy cooperation, and digital cooperation. These cooperation opportunities include both expanding the entire industry chain and improving Africa’s production and manufacturing capabilities to seek new growth points such as agricultural cooperation and production capacity cooperation, and focusing on technology transfers and transformations to provide new impetus for China-Africa cooperation, such as China-Africa Innovation cooperation. These opportunities also include expanding cooperation in new fields to foster new growth points, such as blue economy cooperation and digital cooperation, including cooperation on fields such as spectrum management, “5G”, satellite Internet, big data, e-commerce, smart cities, aerospace, and satellite remote sensing applications. Therefore, cultivating these new growth points and enhancing China’s role in Africa’s development and transformation process are important new directions for China-Africa cooperation.
Second, optimize the structure of China-Africa cooperation and tap the new potential for the sustainable development of China-Africa relations. The constantly expanding China-Africa relations have surpassed traditional inter-state relations. China-Africa relations have achieved rapid development at the cross-regional, sub-regional, non-official, social, and interpersonal levels. The progress made in these areas is not only the result of the development of China-Africa relations, but also constitutes an important growth point in China-Africa cooperation. Thus, China-Africa cross-regional relations, China-Africa inter-country relations, and China-Africa social relations constitute three important levels in China-Africa relations. Compared with the previous emphasis on state-to-government relations, how to better plan China-Africa cross-regional cooperation and the social and interpersonal level of China-Africa relations is an important direction for the sustainable development of China-Africa relations. From the perspective of cross-regional cooperation, developing relations with the AU and African sub-regional organizations is an important growth point for China-Africa cooperation. In the face of severe internal and external challenges, the development process of African integration and joint self-strengthening represented by the African Continental Free Trade Area has been significantly accelerated. The AU’s role as a platform for policy coordination and resource integration and its “central” status are being enhanced. The AU is strengthening coordination with the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and international partners and its ability to take the lead in Africa’s development agenda is gradually improving. For example, the African Union and global partners including European and American countries have launched the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa (AGIA). At the same time, the United States and the West are constantly increasing their attention and investment in the AU. In this context, China can take advantage of the AU’s “central” status in coordinating Africa’s development and global partners to strengthen policy communication and coordination with the AU on Africa’s development transformation, major development challenges, and peace and security construction. In terms of practical cooperation, China can strengthen cooperation with the African Union on urgent and medium-to-long-term challenges, such as cross-regional infrastructure, public health, regional security, and food security and support the efforts of African countries to unite for self-strengthening and safeguard regional development and security. From the perspective of social and non-governmental cooperation, increasing the institutionalized links with African society and non-governmental organizations is an important area where China-Africa cooperation can be further optimized. To be specific, first, we must increase the emphasis on the private sector and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. Compared with the government, public sector, and state-owned enterprises, Africa’s private sector is the “engine” of economic development and the most important sector for attracting employment. Investment and policy support for Africa’s private sector can produce extensive economic and social effects. This is also the current focus and direction of developed economies’ cooperation with Africa. Second, we must attach importance to “human development.” Compared with cooperation planning and project construction on a grand scale, China-Africa cooperation should also pay more attention to the unique role of African youth, women, and social organizations and establish a broad social network in Africa through specific initiatives and substantive investment.
Third, under the guidance of China-Africa cooperation, we must build a global partnership for Africa’s development. China has always advocated that “Africa is not an arena for great power games, but a big stage for international cooperation.” Some rational politicians and academics in the United States and Europe also believe that major powers should cooperate in Africa, that is, “compete in places where they should compete and cooperate in places where they should cooperate.” However, influenced by factors such as ideology and political values, cooperation among major powers in Africa has been progressing slowly. The reality following the COVID-19 pandemic shows that the lack of coordination and cooperation among major powers has had an important impact on Africa’s response to development and security challenges. Therefore, the question of how to lead and build benign major power relations with Africa and promote international coordination and cooperation regarding Africa is an important guarantee for Africa’s development and an important growth point for China-Africa cooperation. On this basis, China and Africa should take building a sound pattern of international cooperation with Africa as a common point of awareness and goal. First, we must build sustainable relationships of financing supply–demand for Africa’s development. Whether in infrastructure financing, energy transformation, industrial development, or other aspects, there is still a large demand shortfall in Africa’s development. As an important development and financing partner for Africa, China has made important contributions to guaranteeing financing support to Africa and has also set an example for other countries to follow by reallocating special drawing rights. However, only by pushing all parties to pay attention to financing support for Africa and ensuring sustainable capital inflows can the effect of financing support be better brought to bear. For this reason, while innovating China-Africa financing cooperation, China and Africa should promote communication and coordination among different financing models, strengthen complementary advantages, and build a more stable international financing system for Africa. Second, we must promote dialogue, coordination, and cooperation between major powers in Africa with African countries at the center. In the context of the great power game, the securitization or ideologization of development is restricting the cooperation of major powers in Africa. For example, issues such as African debt, development financing, and digital transformation are essentially economic development issues, but they are often politicized and even securitized. In order to solve this cognitive dilemma, Africa can better play its role as a link, promote mutual understanding between major countries, make use of the comparative advantages of major countries, and promote the construction of benign major power relations. Some studies have pointed out that African countries can benefit from relations with major powers, but this is premised on the ability of African countries to play a leading and coordinating role in such relations. Third, major powers should use practical cooperation with Africa as an opportunity to promote the improvement of relations so as to inject a strong driving force into global governance. Africa provides an important venue for major powers to cooperate in global governance. Major powers should place importance on the value of Africa, adhere to the principle of “shelving disputes and jointly promoting development,” carry out practical cooperation, provide assistance to Africa to the extent of their capabilities, and promote the improvement and development of major power relations through practical cooperation.
The external environment and conditions for Africa’s development, China’s development, and China-Africa cooperation are undergoing a deep-seated and structural transformation. The era of great changes has shaped a new internal and external environment, strategic direction, and cooperation agenda for China-Africa cooperation. China-Africa relations are facing greater and more uncertain challenges, but at the same time, these challenges also contain important opportunities for promoting the transformation, upgrade, and deepening development of China-Africa relations. At present, the international environment for China-Africa cooperation is changing from a relaxed environment to a constricted one, and the pattern of international cooperation with Africa is shifting from coordination and complementarity to an escalation of competition. Problems in China-Africa cooperation are still accumulating, and China and Africa have both begun to pay more attention to the medium and long-term strategic designs. The new features and reality of China-Africa cooperation have shaped the new agenda of China-Africa cooperation, highlighting the strategic significance of the top-level design of China-Africa cooperation in the era of great changes. The new development stage and practical needs are promoting the expansion of the fields and industries of China-Africa cooperation, and the joint actions based on common interests between Africa and Africa are expanding. The urgency of the need to deal with and solve the problems and challenges in China-Africa cooperation is becoming more pronounced. These factors are also an important prerequisite for the continuous deepening of China-Africa cooperation and its sustainable development.
China-Africa cooperation in the era of great changes requires both China and Africa to take new and greater actions. At present, China is embarking on a new journey of building a modernized society, Africa is in a new stage of national development transformation and regional unity and self-strengthening, and China-Africa cooperation is entering a new era of building a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future. In the face of changes unseen in a century and the global development transformation, China and Africa must enhance their solidarity and cooperation capabilities in coping with common global challenges, enhance their capabilities in shaping, leading, and expanding the new cooperation agenda, and even more importantly, enhance their capabilities in solving problems, deepening cooperation, and innovating mechanisms. To this end, China and Africa should strengthen their conceptual agreement regarding South-South cooperation, global governance, and international order, and continuously expand the “common ground” between China and Africa at the global level; adhere to the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, staunchly support each other, and strive to solve the “pain points” in African development; improve China-Africa cooperation mechanisms, strengthen the coordination and alignment among initiatives and mechanisms such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, and continue to polish “bright spots” in China-Africa cooperation; adhere to innovation leadership and, by expanding and enhancing China-Africa cooperation in new fields and issues, building a more balanced structure of China-Africa relations, and promoting the formation of an open and inclusive global partnership for Africa’s development, cultivate and enhance new “growth points” in China-Africa cooperation.
Looking back on history, China and Africa have forged an unbreakable brotherhood in the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles, blazed a distinctive path of cooperation on the journey of development and rejuvenation, wrote a remarkable chapter of mutual help amidst complicated changes, and set a shining example for building a new type of international relations. Looking toward the future, in the face of the new international environment and the stage of historical development, China and Africa will face new opportunities and challenges and undertake more arduous historical missions. It can be predicted that China and Africa will continue to practice the concept of true affinity and sincerity and the correct outlook on justice and interests, vigorously promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, strengthen solidarity, cooperation, and joint action, and comprehensively enhance the cohesiveness, appeal, and influence of the high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.