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Aid to Africa shows international responsibility

By Liu Hongwu | 2015-12-11 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Chinese President Xi Jinping feeds a giraffe at a rescue base for wildlife in Harare during his state visit to Zimbabwe along with his wife Peng Liyuan (far right) on Dec. 1. China will engage in dialogue and cooperation on the conservation of endangered species of wild fauna and flora, step up intelligence sharing and capacity building in law enforcement, and crack down on transnational organized crimes related to endangered wildlife trafficking.


The Chinese nation has existed for thousands of years, creating a profound legacy that stems from a sense of community, patriotism, caring for the world, and an awareness of responsibility and vigilance. Today, China’s mutually beneficial cooperation with and aid to Africa are the modern manifestation of the spirit of its ancient civilization.

Historical traditions
Since ancient times, Chinese scholars have had a deep concern for society and the world that forms the basis for the survival and development of the nation.

Throughout the historical cycles of prosperity and chaos, generations of Chinese people have followed the patriotic principle that all people share responsibility for the fate of the nation. There is a maxim that Chinese have traditionally followed: “If poor, men can only attend to their own virtue, but if advanced to dignity, they can make the whole kingdom virtuous as well.”

With the advent of the modern era, the ignorance, corruption and self-imposed isolation of China’s feudal dynasties led to prolonged social stagnation, declining national strength and repeated invasions by foreign powers. Despite compounded disasters and humiliation, the Chinese nation never gave up, and it has managed to emerge from setbacks through reform and innovation, eventually leading to its renewal. Once again, China is considered to be one of the major powers in the global arena.

Another axiom says: “The man of perfect virtue, wishing to build himself up, seeks also to build others up. If he wishes to enrich himself, he must seek also to enrich others.” This dictum has steered the Chinese people to shoulder the international responsibility of providing assistance to other countries and participating in world affairs.

This notion is the basis for mutually beneficial cooperation as well as the support and assistance China has offered to African countries in their struggle to achieve national liberation and development.

Soon after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong pointed out that China would be stronger in the 21st century and as an industrialized socialist country, it should contribute more to the development of mankind. In this light, assistance to the liberation of the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America represents the vision and long-term goals of Chinese leaders.

As China’s total economic output grows in the first decades of the 21st century, the nation is becoming more integrated into the global system and interacting more closely with the outside world, so the structure and nature of its relations and cooperation with developing countries are also undergoing significant changes and adjustments.

On the one hand, China is becoming an important driving force of global economic growth, particularly in developing countries, bringing great opportunities to the world.

On the other hand, due to its high dependence on the markets, technologies, resources and energy of the outside world, China’s competition and conflicts of interest with other countries also appear to be on the rise.

In the era of globalization, mankind faces a series of complex challenges, such as conflict, climate change, environmental degradation and sustainable development. These are intertwined with traditional and non-traditional security issues, which require all nations to cope with the situation together.

The international community has lauded China’s transition from an aid recipient to a donor. It is expected to play a larger and more proactive role and bear more international responsibility and obligations.

Expectations vs principles
The international community and bloc of powers hold various requirements and expectations for the international responsibilities and obligations China ought to assume, as well as the means by which China should engage itself in global affairs. In the context of Western discourse, China might play the role of “responsible stakeholder” in shaping the international agenda. However, in reality, it is basically designed to constrain and transform China to suit Western norms.


On the contrary, some emerging developing countries hope to work with China to create a new international political and economic order on the back of the growing power of emerging economies. As for other developing countries in the international community, they expect China to stand on behalf of their political and economic interests, increase development assistance, foreign investment and promote common development.

Given the circumstances, the basic features of China’s foreign aid policy are as follows. First, China shall deal with international affairs with the utmost sincerity. Second, China provides foreign aid to the extent that it is able in accordance with its national conditions. Third, China will not shirk its international obligations, and it will respond to the actual needs of recipient countries, not certain countries or blocs, while taking responsibility for the Chinese people, the world and the future. Finally, China will keep pace with the times and constantly improve its foreign aid work as its national strength grows, promoting the course of peace and development with people all over the world.

When China and Africa first established diplomatic relations, the concept of foreign aid was at the core. The well-known Eight Principles for Economic Aid and Technical Assistance to Other Countries articulated by late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during his tour to 10 African countries in 1964 demonstrates that China intends to build relations with African countries based on its cultural characteristics as well as its realistic and strategic demands. In other words, China bases itself on the principle of equality, mutual trust, and mutually beneficial cooperation. It does not seek to use aid to influence the domestic politics of African countries, and this principle of non-interference serves as the foundation of China-Africa relations. 

Beijing’s involvement in Africa dates back 60 years, when Chinese workers arrived to lay railway tracks and roads. Since then, China has sincerely supported African countries as they pursue their own development paths.

Community of common destiny
China upholds its own traditional philosophy and principles in interactions with the world. In a way, China’s primary international responsibility is to govern itself, solve its own development problems, and not become a burden or a source of turmoil in the world.

On the basis of addressing its internal development issues, China has brought great opportunities to developing countries, which is a special responsibility the nation has accepted in the past 30 years.
Today China is working to build a new type of international relations with the world that is characterized by each country acting as a provider of opportunity to one another.


In this vein, the China-Africa community of common destiny proposed by President Xi Jinping is of vital significance. The combination of the Chinese Dream and the African Dream accurately expresses the Chinese government’s view and expectations for the future of the bilateral relations. The idea has also been praised and welcomed on the African continent.

In the long run, a community of common destiny highlights China and Africa’s closely linked fate and opportunities, even that of the world, constituting a backbone for the balanced development of the globe in the broadest sense.

China looks forward to advancing the common development of two sides through foreign aid, which is not only China’s basic starting point and strategic goal of foreign aid policies but also the general path and method of fulfilling its modern international responsibility.

China-Africa cooperation drives change and injects vitality into Africa, and it is also an important factor in promoting Africa’s economic and social development.

The international community generally acknowledges that China  has contributed about one-third to the 5 to 6 percent average annual economic growth on the African continent over the past decade, which is to say that in the first decade of the 21st century, one-third of Africa’s economic growth is attributable to China’s contributions, such as aid, trade, investment, infrastructure construction and human resources training.

After a long period of exploration and practice, China has formed a new concept of cooperation and institutional mechanism for providing assistance to Africa. China-Africa relations constitute one of China’s most mature areas of diplomacy. In 2011, the Chinese government issued a white paper on China’s foreign aid and a second one in 2014. These measures reflect the nation’s foreign aid tendency toward openness, transparency and maturity as well as China’s confidence and reason in diplomacy.

China’s assistance to and cooperation with Africa is a basic feature of China’s interaction with the world. It also represents the nation’s special effort to pursue national revival and harmonious development with the world. Though it has been changed and adjusted in accordance with the times, the core concept and sentiments derived from China’s national spirit have never faltered.

Liu Hongwu is from the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University.