China on Tuesday promised to help African countries overcome COVID-19-related economic woes “without imposing its will,” faced with accusations that it often plays a coercive role on the continent.
Released at the close of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Senegal, a joint declaration committed Beijing to non-interference in African domestic affairs, and vice versa.
The text also included language on African governments upholding the principle that Taiwan is part of China.
Photo: Xinhua via AP
The summit between China and 53 African states — with an emphasis on trade and security, among other issues — was held in the city of Diamniadio near Senegal’s seaside capital, Dakar.
China invests heavily in Africa, and is the continent’s largest trading partner, with more than US$200 billion in direct trade in 2019, the Chinese embassy in Dakar said.
However, Beijing is often accused of using its creditor status to extract diplomatic and commercial concessions.
China rejects these charges, saying that it responds to the funding needs of poor African countries, while taking debt sustainability seriously.
Tuesday’s joint declaration said that China would not interfere in the “development path” set by African countries and that it would also refrain from “imposing its will on Africa.”
Some African leaders had hoped ahead of the summit that China would offer debt relief, or promise fresh rounds of investment, after the COVID-19 pandemic struck an economic blow to many already struggling countries on the continent.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Monday addressed attendees via video link, promising to donate 600 million vaccine doses to African countries.
He added that another 400 million doses would come from other sources, such as investments in production sites, which are sorely lacking across much of Africa.
African and Chinese officials also pledged to strengthen cooperation in “public health, investment, trade, industrialisation, infrastructure, agriculture and food security, climate change, peace and security,” the declaration said.
The summit took place against a backdrop of growing rivalry between Beijing and Washington, and a competition for influence on the continent.
It also followed a visit this month from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal, where he discussed boosting local vaccine-production sites.
The joint declaration warned against the “politicisation” of human rights and sporting activities, in an apparent reference to the possibility that the US would diplomatically boycott the Winter Olympics.
China and African countries “have a right to development,” the document said, referring to concerns that restrictions on fossil fuels would harm poor countries.
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