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Cai Fang, Walking Together To Go Far

Date:04/26/2019

Cai Fang, Vice­president of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Director of China­Africa Institute

Source: China Daily, Friday, April 26, 2019

  In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China­Africa Cooperation, President Xi Jinping proposed “Eight Initiatives”—industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, people­to­people exchange, and peace and security. The establishing of the China­Africa Institute is part of the efforts to enhance people­topeople exchanges.

  On April 9, President Xi sent a congratulatory letter for the inauguration of the China­Africa Institute, which is affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Xi wrote that he hoped the institute would contribute to the development of China­Africa relations and the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.

  The world today is undergoing profound changes. First, the world is becoming more multipolar, as the developing countries increase their share in the global economy. Second, economic globalization continues to advance despite headwinds, while multilateralism is guiding reform of the global governance system and international institutions. Third, a new technological revolution is gathering momentum and bringing disruptive changes. Finally, while cultural diversity develops, the well­being of the world’s people has never been as closely intertwined as it is today.

  China and African countries together make up more than one-third of the world’s population but less than one­fifth of the world’s GDP. As the largest developing country and the continent where developing countries are the most densely located. The Chinese economy and African economies are complimentary. While China is close to crossing the threshold from being an upper middle­income country to a high­income one, and transforming from fast­growth to highquality development, many African countries are among the low­income and middle­income countries identified by the World Bank. African countries possess a potential demographic dividend embodied in a high fertility rate, low median age, and abundant labor force, which gives them a catch­up advantage. On the other hand, they share similar bottlenecks in development, such as backward infrastructure, insufficiency of skills and weak governance.

  As the African saying goes, if you want to go fast, you walk alone; and if you want to go far, you walk together. It is a great advantage for China and Africa to take advantage of the other’s knowledge and technologies and tap the potential of their complementarity to tackle common challenges. China has accumulated important lessons on reform, opening­up, development, and sharing, which can be offered to help African countries accomplish their development goals. One such an example is China’s experience in balancing development among regions. In the early 2000s, China initiated its Going West strategy. With investment pouring into infrastructure, education and local projects, the business climate in western China has significantly improved. As the result of labor costs inflation that weakens the comparative advantage of manufacturing in the coastal regions, labor­intensive industries have transferred to the central and western provinces. Such a flying geese paradigm can be applied to help African countries to build necessary infrastructure so that industries can be transferred. The Belt and Road Initiative, which is in line with the principle of sharing and co­construction is such a path.

  Exchanges and mutual learning are not only important drivers of the relationship between China and Africa, they also drive the development of China and African countries. Cultural self­esteem and cultural confidence provide driving forces for developing economies, escaping from poverty, and accomplishing rejuvenation. Cooperation and assistance programs ought to be built on adequate understanding of and respect for history, culture and social norms of partner countries.

  William Easterly, a former World Bank economist says that the poor of the world face two tragedies: First, as everybody recognizes it, hundreds of millions of people live in poverty, urgently need development assistance. Second, as fewer people know, or are reluctant talk about it, the developed countries have provided a lot of aid money trying to reduce poverty in less­developed countries, which has had very little effect.

  The lesson we can learn from the second “Easterly tragedy” is that for any country, community or individual, communities or individuals, poverty is always concrete and individual cases caused by multifaceted, unique factors, only those who themselves live in poverty, not foreigners, know where the root causes lie in and the how to eliminate them. Chinese people who have suffered long­term material and cultural oppression know the importance of civilization inheritance for a nation’s rejuvenation, and therefore they value other civilizations. That lays a solid foundation for China­Africa friendship and beneficial cooperation.

  Making the best use of academic resources and think­tanks’ brains from both sides, as well as other parties, the China­Africa Institute will serve as a joint research center for social sciences and humanities, exchange platform for both side’s scholars, training school for talents and gateway for delivering messages on friendship and cooperationbetween two sides.

  The institute will focus on promoting cultural communication and mutual learning through people­to­people channels and academic exchanges, bring China’s institutions related to African studies and their African counterparts together to conduct research on academic and policy issues such as studies for mechanisms and conditions to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the African Union Agenda 2063, the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development programs of African countries, and coordinate scholars, media organizations and social organizations in the world to create a favorable public opinion environment for China-Africa cooperation.

Copyright: Institute of West-Asian and African Studies, CASS
Address: Zhang Zizhonglu, Dongcheng District P.O.Box 1120, Beijing 100007, China