opinionBy Kuang Weilin
The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) concluded in Beijing on July 20. What has attracted the world's attention is that Chinese President Hu Jintao proposed a series of new measures to strengthen cooperation with Africa at the opeing ceremony of the conference. Those new measures cover bilateral cooperation in such areas as investment and finance, assistance, African integration, peace and security, and people-to-people exchanges. President Hu Jintao assured African friends that in the next three years China would provide a $20 billion credit line to African countries, help train 30,000 personnel in various sectors, offer 18,000 government scholarships, send 1500 medical personnel to the continent, and sponsor 100 programs for research, exchange and cooperation by academic institutions and scholars of the two sides.
With China promising to provide so much assistance, some people may ask why China is so interested in Africa. In my view, three factors can help explain the new situation. Firstly, China-Africa friendship is embedded in the long history of their mutual relations, and has been nurtured by several generations of Chinese and African leaders. Sharing similar historical experience, China and Africa have all along sympathized with and supported each other in the struggle for national liberation and development, and forged close bonds between the two sides. A friend in need is a friend indeed. As China develops, China is willing to genuinely help African countries strengthen their capacities for self development. Secondly, it is an important component of China's foreign policy to consolidate and develop its relationship with Africa. China's promotion of a harmonious world featuring common development and security reflects its ideals for the future of mankind. As Africa is home to the largest number of developing countries, the world can not prosper and develop without Africa's peace and development. As a responsible country in the international commuity, China shoulder the responsibility to address Africa's concerns when Africa faces major challenges in its development endeavor. Thirdly, the mutually complementary and relative comparative advantages of China and Africa allow both sides to expand cooperation and seek common development. For the past ten years, trade and economic cooperation between China and Africa has witnessed fast growth across wide areas, bringing tangible benefits to the Chinese and African people. Facts have shown that China's adequate capital, a strong industrial basis, and sophisiticated technologies and equipment can well match Africa's advantages in resources, markets and labor costs. There is no doubt that China and Africa need each other more than ever before, and closer bilateral cooperation serves the best interests of the two sides.
Since it was launched in October 2000, FOCAC has become an important platform for collective dialogue and effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa, and has greatly helped advance China-Africa relations. As a member of FOCAC, Sierra Leone has played an important role in strengthening the mechanism of FOCAC. China and Sierra Leone have conducted fruitful cooperation under FOCAC. The two sides have enhanced political mutual trust, reaped fruitful results of practical cooperation, conducted dynamic people-to-people exchanges, and maintained close cooperation in international affairs. I am so encouraged by the fact that the new measures proposed by Chinese President Hu Jintao dovetail with Sierra Leone's efforts to speed up development in infrastructure, agriculturte, health, education, and etc, which will surely be a big boost to the social and economic advancement of Sierra Leone in the years ahead.
Against the backdrop of the huge success of the latest Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, I increasingly feel a great responsibility to play an important role in promoting the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries. I have seen the sustained, sound and steady development of bilateral relations since I arrived here in December 2010. Wherever I go and whoever I talk to, I always feel the warmth and friendliness towards China by Sierra Leonean people from all walks of life.
As a Chinese proverb goes, " when you hoist the sails to cross the sea, you will ride the winds and cleave the wave", both sides should now seize the opportunity of the success of the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of FOCAC to actively implement the follow-up measures so as to push bilateral cooperation to a new high. I have every confidence in the bright prospects of China-Sierra Leone friendly and cooperative relations!