SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, November 12, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Transcript of Press Conference by Premier Wen Jiabao At the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference
Wen Jiabao: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Sharm El Sheikh is beautiful. The host told me that it would take at least seven days to fully enjoy the city. But I have only less than twenty-four hours. During my stay here I attended the opening ceremony of an important meeting, the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference. I met with thirteen leaders from African countries. Now I have set aside some time to meet with the press and answer your questions.
I. Egyptian newspaper “Pyramids”: You have announced at the opening ceremony of the Forum eight new measures for developing China-Africa cooperation. In 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced at the FOCAC Beijing Summit eight measures to strengthen China-Africa practical cooperation. What are the differences and similarities between theses measures? What role will these measures play in promoting China-Africa relations?
My second question is: During your stay in Egypt, you met the Egyptian President and Prime Minister. You have also talked to the Egyptian people. What are the topics you discussed during these meetings? What is your impression of the Egyptian civilization?
Wen: During the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2006, President Hu Jintao announced on behalf of the Chinese government eight measures to strengthen China-Africa practical cooperation and support the development of African countries. Reviewing the progress of the last three years, the eight measures have basically been implemented. The eight new measures that I announced this morning at the opening ceremony of the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference are aimed at the same goal of improving the capacity of African countries for self-development. The new measures focus more on the improvement of people’s well-being, health care, education and other social development programs, the construction of agricultural and basic infrastructures, and the protection of eco-environment. For instance, we have proposed to help African countries build 100 clean energy projects like solar power, biogas, and small hydro-power plants, provide RMB500 million yuan worth of medical equipment and malaria-fighting materials to thirty hospitals and thirty malaria prevention and control centers built by China, build fifty schools, and help Africa train more personnel.
I had an in depth exchange of views with Egyptian President Mubarak. We both agreed that following the establishment of strategic and cooperative relations between the two countries in 1999 and the formulation of the Implementation Outline for Deepening Strategic and Cooperative Relations Between China and Egypt in 2006, China-Egypt relations have entered a new stage of development. This is manifested in stronger political mutual trust, further growth of economic and trade cooperation, and more active exchanges in culture and education. Both Egypt and China are ancient civilizations. Egypt was the first African and Arab country to recognize New China. It was also the first to establish strategic cooperative relations with China. The consolidation and development of China-Egypt friendly and cooperative relations will not only benefit our two peoples, but also promote China’s relationship with African and Arab countries.
II. Business Daily, South Africa: Due to the international financial crisis, G8 members and other developed countries are slowing down their delivery of fiscal and financial assistance to developing countries as they had committed. Countries in Africa have also suffered adverse impacts from the financial crisis. Will China take measures to help African countries cope with the financial crisis?
Another question, we are lagging behind schedule in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Do you still see any possibility for the international community to meet the MDGs on schedule through cooperation?
Wen: The current international financial crisis is unprecedented in the course of last one hundred years. It has not only exerted serious impact on developed countries, but also brought grave consequences to developing countries, particularly the least developed ones. Due to the international financial crisis, some banks are downsizing their loans for African countries. However, China has promised that it will not cut its assistance or decrease its credit and loan support to African countries and other developing countries. I announced at the opening ceremony of the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference the plan to give US$10 billion preferential loans to support African countries.
In the global financial crisis, what people tend to easily ignore is the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. On many occasions including the UN meetings last year and this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, I appealed to the international community to place importance on the implementation of the MDGs and the support and assistance to developing countries, the least developed ones in particular. It seems to me this issue remains serious. Here I would like to once again appeal to the international community to work hard with firm determination and effective measures to reach the MDGs while tackling the global financial crisis.
III. Macao Asia Satellite TV: You have visited the training center of Huawei and the factory of the Brilliance Auto. At the opening ceremony of today’s conference, when you announced eight new measures to strengthen China-Africa cooperation in the coming three years, you mentioned the development of new energy resources and projects for environmental protection and energy conservation. In fact, there have been quite a few Chinese enterprises specialized in this field. Do you believe we will see more success stories like that of the Brilliance Auto in Africa?
Wen: Many people are trying to offer prescriptions for Africa’s development, such as the “Washington Consensus” or the “Beijing Model”. Yet it seems to me that Africa’s development should be based on its own conditions and should follow its own path, that is, the African Model. All countries have to learn from other countries’ experience in development. At the same time, they have to follow a path suited to their own national conditions and based on the reality of their own countries. In the final analysis, the development of a country depends on the efforts of its own people. Any enterprise that wants to do business in Africa has to take account of local conditions.
IV. Reuters: Some people said that China is only interested in the natural resources of Africa, that China has exploited the African people while plundering Africa’s natural resources. How do you respond to such criticism?
Second question, you once mentioned that you were concerned about the security of China’s investment in the United States. Now more than seven months later, is your concern growing or abating?
Wen: There has long been the argument that China is plundering Africa’s resources and pursuing the so-called “neo-colonialism”. This is not worth refuting. Any one who is familiar with history would know that the friendly relations and cooperation between China and Africa did not start just yesterday but as early as half a century ago. In those years, we helped Africa build the Tanzara railway and sent to Africa large numbers of medical teams. But we did not take away a single drop of oil or a single ton of mineral ores from Africa. Objectively, what changes has China brought to Africa through its assistance measures? Since 2006, thanks to the implementation of the eight measures, more African products have entered the Chinese market and the annual trade volume between China and Africa has surged from more than US$50 billion to more than US$ 100 billion. Under the impact of the international financial crisis, the whole world has experienced investment downturn. However, in the first three quarters of 2009, China’s investment in Africa increased by 77%. China has helped Africa build many schools, hospitals, and malaria prevention and treatment centers, which benefited more than 100 million African people. In fact, China’s assistance to Africa has never had any political strings attached. We believe the destiny of a country is in the hands of its people.
In terms of energy, I want to tell this journalist, China is not the largest importer of Africa’s oil. Our import takes up only 13% of Africa’s oil export. China’s investment in Africa’s oil and natural gas accounts for less than 1/16 of the global investment in this field. CNPC is China’s largest petroleum company. But its annual turnover is less than 1/3 of ExxonMobile. Why should China be singled out for criticism? Is this an African view point or rather a Western viewpoint? A line from a Chinese poem is sufficient to respond to this question: “A time-honored friendship is like the gold. After repeated smelting, it keeps its true color”.
For your second question, I did say at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year that we were concerned about China’s foreign exchange assets in the United States, because it is China’s money. Our principle for the foreign exchange reserve is to ensure its security, liquidity and good value. Now the US economy is showing signs of recovery and we have seen positive changes. We hope that the United States, as the largest economy and the major reserve currency issuing country, will fulfill its responsibilities with concrete measures. Most importantly, it should keep its deficit within a proper scale and ensure the basic stability of its exchange rate. This will facilitate stability and recovery of the world economy.
V. Al Jazeera: China often claims itself a reliable friend of Africa, but Western countries are accusing China of practicing neo-colonialism aimed at African oil and market on the ground that China is trying to expand its influence by getting actively involved in African affairs. We have also found that China’s investment in and imports from Africa concentrate on oil and raw materials, but China exports manufactured goods to Africa. What’s your comment on these criticisms? When will this cooperation model between China and Africa be changed? When will China invest in Africa’s industrial sector, new technology and new industrial sectors instead of concentrating on infrastructure and agriculture?
My second question is: African countries support China in the international arena without any reservation, abide by the one China policy and do not develop official relations with Taiwan. Yet we find that China would sometimes decline to give full support to Africa. One example is when the UN Security Council resolution on the Sudan was put to vote in 2005, when China did not veto it. Consequently, the International Criminal Court was able to prosecute the Sudanese President Bashir.
Wen: I have already answered your first question, but I want to add a few words. We hold the view that support between China and Africa is mutual. At the time when Africa struggled for independence, China supported it and the independent African countries also supported China in restoring its lawful seat in the United Nations. That’s why we often say it is our African brothers and sisters who carried China into the United Nations. In other words, we feel indebted to the African people. I often say that one should always remember with gratitude the help one receives from others, while one should forget the help one renders to others. Our assistance to and cooperation with Africa is selfless and has no political strings attached. This is clear for all to see. Over the years, in our cooperation with and assistance to Africa, we have laid emphasis on infrastructure development and closer cooperation in agriculture, education, health and social programs, as these are what the African people need. I may give you an example. We have built a total of about 3,300 kilometers of roads and 2,200 kilometers of railways and we are now helping Africa build communications networks. We have sent a large number of medical teams to Africa. They have helped treat African patients and some of them have lost their lives and been laid to rest on this ancient continent. The ultimate goal of our assistance to and cooperation with Africa is to strengthen the self-development capacity of African countries. That is why we have placed priority on the development and utilization of mineral resources and the raw material processing industry, areas in which Africa enjoys comparative advantage. Among the projects that are being carried out to implement the eight measures we pledged to take in 2006, over 1,600 projects are related to the processing industry, including the joint copper mine development project in Zambia which have created many jobs for the local people. If you visit the training centers of the Huawei Technologies Company in Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, you will find that they employ many African people who not only are highly skilled but also speak Chinese. In our assistance to and cooperation with Africa, we will continue to improve policy measures, with greater emphasis on training, capacity building and corporate social responsibility.
The blame you laid on China over the issue of the Sudan is unfounded. Besides, I wish to emphasize that China’s position on the UN Security Council reform is consistent and clear-cut. The Security Council should increase the say and representation of developing countries, particularly African countries. We have done a lot to achieve this goal.
VI. The October Magazine of Egypt: Firstly, what are the specific figures of China’s assistance and loans to Africa? Secondly, some people say that the current problem the Sudan faces arises from the China-US rivalry for the spheres of inference in that country. What is your response to such claim?
Wen: China’s assistance to and cooperation with Africa have always been transparent and open. China’s assistance to Africa reached 76 billion yuan by September 2009 and its total sum of loans 46 billion yuan by 2008.
Africa was colonized for 600 years. China shares similar experience with Africa as it was subjected to colonization after 1840. China has a population of 1.3 billion. Although the size of China’s economy ranks in the forefront of the world, the development is very much unbalanced, with a big gap between the rural and urban areas and between different regions. Many people in China are still living in poverty. I wish to tell this lady that we are too busy with our own affairs to interfere in others’ internal affairs. What’s more, we have no intention at all to do so.
Speaking of the issue of the Sudan and Darfur, we, indeed, did several things there. First, we tried to facilitate the reconciliation between the North and the South of the Sudan. Second, China was the first non-African country to send peacekeeping troops to Darfur. Besides, China has provided selfless assistance to help the people in Darfur living in poverty. On these issues, we do not pursue any selfish interest, nor will we compete with any other country.
VII. Cameroon Daily: Mr. Premier, a meeting of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa will be held in Gabon soon to discuss the issue of global climate change. The African Union has asked the European Union to provide some financial assistance to help Africa address the challenges of climate change, for instance, to set up a fund for that purpose. Can China also provide us with some money? How will China help Africa better cope with climate change?
Wen: I have noted that the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa will hold a meeting on climate change. This will be an important meeting of African countries before the Copenhagen Conference. At this morning’s opening ceremony, President Jean Ping of the African Union Commission introduced Africa’s position on climate change on behalf of the African Union. He stated that the Copenhagen Conference should uphold the principles defined by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, its Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Road Map and follow the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. China and Africa all belong to the developing world. Industrialization in its real sense has been going on in China for only a few decades. We are all victims of climate change. The Chinese side fully supports the legitimate demands presented by African countries on behalf of the under-developed countries. Developed countries should provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries to uplift their technological level and enhance their ability to adapt to climate change. We stand ready to make joint efforts with the rest of the world to strive for good outcomes of the Copenhagen Conference.
VIII. China Radio International: You have had an intense and highly efficient visit to Egypt. You said that this trip was aimed at promoting dialogue among civilizations and developing friendship and cooperation. Now that you are about to conclude your trip, how do you feel about this visit and do you think you have achieved your goals?
Wen: I want to draw your attention to views of many African leaders, including the remarks by 17 African leaders this morning. You should also listen to what the African people say. I have read a book titled Dead Aid written by an African woman writer. The author talks about her personal experiences and draws the conclusion that China’s assistance to Africa is sincere, credible, practical and efficient and is welcomed by the African people. We in China have a saying that goes, “As distance tests a horse’s strength, time reveals a person’s heart.” I am confident that time will prove that friendship and cooperation between the Chinese and African people have a bright future.
I am scheduled to meet with six African leaders now and leave Egypt for Beijing at 10 p.m.. I am sorry I do not have time for more questions. Thank you! I wish you all the best!
SOURCE: China – Ministry of Foreign Affairs