|Pix Credit South China Morning Post|
Recently, it was announced that the China-Africa Conference will be geld in Senegal 29-30 November (see here).
In Dakar, Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall and Chinese ambassador Xiao Han肖晗 (top right photo) jointly convened a briefing for all local African ambassadors where they provided an outline of the four documents that will be adopted at the conference and serve as the key pillars of the upcoming forum:
--The Dakar Action Plan 2022-2024 (This is the most important of the four documents)
--The 2035 vision of China-Africa cooperation
--The Sino-African declaration on cooperation on climate change
--The Dakar declaration (most likely a sort of final communiqué) (Chinese, Senegalese Governments Formally Announce FOCAC Dates and Themes)
In the run up to the event, the Chinese State Council Information Office has released its position (white) paper: China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals [original:《新时代的中非合作》白皮书（全文)] It provides a discursive and thematic foundation for the further elaboration of the framing of the China-Africa relationship through the lens of the Belt & Road Initiative.
The eighth edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is due to be held in Dakar, Senegal, from 29-30 November 2021, Senegal’s foreign minister, Aïssata Tall Sall, and the Chinese ambassador to Dakar, Xiao Han, have announced. The theme of the conference will be “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”, according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. (What can Africa expect from FOCAC 2021?)
Pix Credit HERE
The Chinese discursive position builds on now common themes: "The two sides will focus on boosting quality development and further align the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative with those of the AU’s Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development strategies of individual African countries. They will build the Belt and Road into a road to peace, prosperity, openness, green development, innovation and cultural exchanges, and create a China-Africa community of shared future in the new era." (China and Africa in the New Era supra, Part IV(2)).
Yet African leaders, still quite eager for deepening economic relations (South China Morning Post), are also increasingly sensitive to the terms of those arrangements, especially after the usually confidential arrangements have been revealed in part. (Database reveals secrets of China's loans to developing nations, says study) The terms of the loans suggest the nature of the relationships between Chinese entities and African states--and are worth considering in parallel with the discursive efforts to suggest equality in the official public documents. "These include confidentiality clauses that prevent borrowers from
revealing the terms of the loans, informal collateral arrangements that
benefit Chinese lenders over other creditors and promises to keep the
debt out of collective restructurings - dubbed by the authors as “no
Paris Club” clauses, the report said. The contracts also give
substantial leeway for China to cancel loans or accelerate repayment, it
added." (Ibid.). Recent reporting of the precarious condition of the ownership and control of Uganda's Entebbe Airport suggest the complexities of the relationship (How Uganda coughed up Entebbe airport to China) (Exim Bank of China). There appears to be a push as well for reform in the structures through which these cooperation arrangements are structured and operationalized (for thoughtful commentary: The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at 21: Where to Next?).
Chinese efforts, though, focus elsewhere: "In an interview with the Seychelles News Agency on 17 November, China’s ambassador to the Seychelles, Guo Wei, said that the forum would “adopt measures in such key areas as health, investment and trade, food security, climate change, human resources and digital innovation, with a focus on transforming and upgrading China-Africa cooperation to improve its quality and efficiency.”" (What can Africa expect from FOCAC 2021?). The issue is not whether any of this is good or bad--African states have been undertaking quite risky financial relationships with outsiders since the current era of post colonial independence. The more interesting question is the way that the variation in these risky relationships now focused on new Chinese partners may or may not align with the discourse of socialist internationalism and its ideals as expressed in the discourse of Belt & Road and the structuring of the ideologies versus the realities of socialist internationalism. Badly done, of course, these discursive disjunctions will eventually reduce the long term effectiveness of projections of Chinese power in Africa as it had those who had stood in a similar place a generation or so before.
|Pix Credit HERE|
But for the moment, this document provides a solid glimpse, at least discursively, as the way in which China now projects the Communist International with itself at the center. No more dreary Soviet-Russified ideological catechisms. In contrast to this offering up of a darker Dostoevsky built into the Comintern and its successors, China builds an ideological foundation on the notion of a full belly and a prosperous state (prosperous at least for the interlinked networks of elite groups who dominate politics and economics). That enterprise, in turn, is to be guided by a national-Chinese partnership that aligns African national and regional aspirations to the engine of the Chinese core. Instead what is offered is arability and prosperity--with China at the center. This approach, already long in the making, was refined in the development of a powerful discursive counter-thrust to the Hong Kong protests (Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'). Stability and prosperity are then built on a Maoist-Leninist foundation of binaries: core-collective; patriot-traitor; vanguard-masses; order-chaos; planning-markets; interference-cooperation; mutual benefit-neocolonial exploitation and so on. It is a powerful set of discursive tropes, ones which remain unmatched by a liberal democratic camp that has become mired in its own ideological civil wars and can offer up little more than the sort of dreary catechisms once reserved for the Soviets. The irony of this inversion from the 1960s ought not to be lost on anyone.
The English language version of the per-Conference paper, China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals, appears below, along with the original Chinese. Note the sometimes subtle differences, starting with the title which in the original leaves off the "Partnership of Equals" part.