China and Italy Challenging Old Geo-Political World Order

This signed article by Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, was published March 20, in Corriere della Sera, a leading  Italian newspaper on the eve of his state visit to Italy. It is a beautiful expression of the potential alliance of “East and West.” The old geo-political order manipulated this so called division to maintain political domination. Hopefully, we are now embarking on a new era with the old-order is coming to an end. 

Chinese President, Xi Xinping, to arrive in Italy

East Meets West — A New Chapter of Sino-Italian Friendship

It is a great pleasure for me to pay a state visit to the Italian Republic at the invitation of President Sergio Mattarella in this blossoming season of spring. In 2011, I visited Rome on celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification and, in 2016, I had a stopover on Sardinia. I was deeply impressed by the way of life and industrial outlook of Italy that blend together the ancient and the modern, the classic and the novel. Now that I am about to set foot again on this beautiful country, it feels like I am to be among old friends, and get immersed in
their wonderful hospitality.

China and Italy are both stellar examples of Eastern and Western civilizations, and both have written splendid chapters in the history of human progress. Being the birthplace of ancient Roman civilization and the cradle of the Renaissance, Italy is known to the Chinese people for its imposing relic sites and masterpieces of great names in art and literature. Friendly ties between our two great civilizations go back a long way. As early as over 2,000 years ago, China and ancient Rome, though thousands of miles apart, were already connected by the Silk Road. During the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), Chinese emissary Gan Ying was sent to search for “Da Qin”, the Chinese name of the Roman Empire at the time. Roman poet Virgil and geographer Pomponius Mela made many references to Seres, the land of silk. The famous explorer Marco Polo’s Travels roused the first wave of “China fever” among European countries. That pioneer of cultural exchanges between
East and West was followed by a long list of personages in search of friendship over the centuries.

In our own era, China-Italy relations, tracing the footsteps of our ancestors, are brimming with dynamism. The People’s Republic of China and the Italian Republic established diplomatic relations in 1970. In 2020, the two countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our relations. Through the past decades, our two countries have enjoyed mutual trust and close cooperation regardless of changes in the international landscape. Together, we have set a fine example of mutually beneficial relations between two countries that have different social systems,
cultural backgrounds and stages of development. The traditional friendship between us, stronger than ever, has become a strong pillar supporting the rapid and steady growth of our bilateral ties.

Sino-Italian friendship is rooted in our long history of exchanges. In the course of over two millennia, our two countries have embraced the principles of mutual respect, mutual learning, mutual trust and mutual understanding in our interactions, principles that underpin our long-lasting, ever-strong friendship. Confronted by the transformations and challenges of today’s world and informed by our deep appreciation of history, China and Italy both envision a new type of international relations that are built on mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and a community with a shared future for all mankind.

Sino-Italian friendship is embedded in our deep strategic trust. Both countries’ leaderships approach our relations from a strategic and long-term perspective. Since the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004, our two countries, guided and driven by high-level exchanges, have given each other understanding and firm support on issues concerning our respective core interests and major concerns. Our strategic trust provides a firm underpinning for the long-term and steady growth of China-Italy relations.

Sino-Italian friendship is reflected in our multi-faceted cooperation. As key trading and investment partners for each other, China and Italy have deeply entwined interests. Two-way trade exceeded 50 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 and investment surpassed 20 billion dollars in accumulative terms. “Made in Italy” is a guarantee of quality, Italian fashion and furniture are immensely popular with Chinese consumers, and pizza and tiramisu are the love of many young Chinese. Every now and then, we hear stories about the success of Sino-Italian cooperation in satellite R&D and manned space exploration. Initiatives such as the China-Italy Science, Technology and Innovation Week, joint police patrols and football training, to name just a few, are applauded by people in both countries.

Sino-Italian friendship is carried forward through our intensive cultural exchanges. Chinese and Italians have a deep interest in each other’s cultures. A Chinese professor in his 70s spent 18 years translating Dante’s Divine Comedy, and after revising several drafts, completed this mammoth task before his final days. From Martino Martini, author of the first Chinese grammar book in Europe, to Giuliano Bertuccioli and Federico Masini who wrote Italy and China, many Italian Sinologists have built bridges between Europe and China and contributed to a
long-running boom of China studies on the Apennine Peninsula.

The well-known Italian writer Alberto Moravia once wrote, “Friendships are not chosen by chance, but according to the passions that dominate us.” In a world that faces profound changes of a kind unseen in a century, the onus is on us to bring China-Italy relations to a higher level and to jointly safeguard world peace, stability, development and prosperity. Through my upcoming visit, I hope to work with Italian leaders to map out the future of our relationship and move it into a new era.

China hopes to work with Italy to strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership. Our two countries may plan more high-level exchanges and cooperation between our governments, parliaments, political parties and sub-national entities, strengthen policy communica-tion, enhance strategic trust and synergy, and continue to give understanding and support to each other on issues of core interests and major concerns, so as to consolidate the political foundation of our relations.

China hopes to work with Italy to advance Belt and Road cooperation. Our two countries may harness our historical and cultural bonds forged through the ancient Silk Road as well as our geographical locations to align connectivity cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative with Italy’s plan to develop its northern ports and the Invest-Italia program, and jointly build the Belt and Road of the new era on sea, on land, in the air, in space and in the cultural domain.

China hopes to work with Italy to expand cooperation into new areas. China will open up further to the rest of the world, and share its market opportunities with Italy and other countries through the annual China International Import Expo and other avenues. Our two countries may fully tap our cooperation potential in ports, logistics, ship-building, transportation, energy, telecommunications, medicine and other fields, and encourage our companies to partner with each other in third markets for win-win cooperation.

China hopes to work with Italy to promote closer people-to-people ties. As countries with the largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites, China and Italy have plenty of cultural and tourism resources. We may encourage our world heritage sites to forge twinning relationships and our cultural institutions and individuals to organize premium relic and art exhibitions. We may also encourage joint production of films and TV programs, the teaching of each other’s languages, as well as more mutual travel and visits. Through these exchanges, we will make new contributions to the diversity of civilizations and mutual learning between different cultures.

China hopes to strengthen coordination with Italy in international affairs and multilateral organizations. China is ready to enhance communication and collaboration with Italy in the United Nations (UN), the G20, Asia-Europe Meeting and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on global governance, climate change, UN reform, WTO reform and other major issues. Working together, we will promote our shared interests, uphold multilateralism and free trade, and safeguard world peace, stability, development and prosperity.

Looking back at the last five decades, China-Italy relations have struck deep roots and borne rich fruits. Looking ahead, China-Italy cooperation will continue to flourish and prosper. The Chinese people look forward to working hand in hand with our friends in Italy to carry forward our blossoming relationship and imbue our friendship with more vitality and dynamism.

China’s experience: Helping transform an African desert into a garden

William Jones

Editor’s noteWilliam Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

With the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Italy, there will no doubt be some discussion of cooperation between the two nations on the African continent. For Italy, helping to resolve the dire economic situation in Africa is both a humanitarian and an economic concern. The devastated economy in many African countries is bringing more and more refugees to Italy’s shore, and the burden is taking its toll on the Italian economy. For China, Africa has always been a particular concern having shared in the condition of underdevelopment for so many years. Even when both were clearly developing countries, China offered its assistance to its African brothers.

One of the most significant projects in that regard is the Transaqua project. This project would take some of the water from the Congo River, a river with the greatest flow of water in the world, and through a series of canals to the Chari River which flows into Lake Chad, a lake whose surface has been dramatically reduced from 25,000 km2  in 1960 to 1,500 km2 today.

The water transfer project would help revive the lake, and with the construction of dams and power plants along the canal, would help to bring development to the region, directly affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa and Nigeria, through which it would pass. In addition, it would also bring economic benefits to Niger, Cameron, Chad and Congo Brazzaville as well.

People crowd the oceanfront area along the Galle Face green in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 20, 2018. /VCG Photo
The Italian engineering company, Bonifica SpA has been instrumental in working out the plans for this project and is fully committed to it. In 2017 Bonifica and Powerchina entered an agreement for the joint development of the project. China, with its own extensive south-to-north water diversion project, possesses a good deal of expertise in dealing with such a project. Such collaboration also fits in nicely with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has received strong support from the Italian government. The Transaqua project developed by Bonifica has in part been developed by PowerChina.

Representatives from both Bonifica and PowerChina were invited in 2018 as speakers at the International Conference on Lake Chad, in Abuja, sponsored by the Government of Nigeria. The final declaration of the conference stated that Lake Chad needs to be saved and that its current situation demands immediate action. The Italian government at the time pledged 1.5 million Euros (1.7 million U.S. dollars) to start the Transaqua feasibility study.

The expansion of the BRI to Africa has kindled new hope in a continent that had virtually been abandoned by the West in terms of large development projects. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway, the Nigerian coastal railway, the Chad-Sudan railway, the Port Sudan-Khartoum railway have already provided the template for industrializing the entire African continent.

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer attends the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in Oslo, Norway, February 24, 2017. /VCG Photo
While China has been ground-breaking in returning to the long-awaited – and much-delayed – project of African industrialization, the enormity of the project is of such a magnitude, that China alone cannot do it.  But the BRI opens the possibility of working together with other Western nations in realizing this goal. And the cooperation with Italy on the Lake Chad project can serve as a paradigm for how the BRI must work.

While some Western nations are trying to depict the BRI as a geopolitical “ploy” by China, anyone looking at the effect of the project on the recipient countries will see the falsehood of these claims. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.” And to the extent that countries overcome their fears and begin to work with the BRI and contribute their strength to developing other countries, they will better understand the importance of the project and its more profound implications for global development.

China has made great gains in reversing the effects of desertification by means of their water diversion projects, their reforestation efforts and their irrigation projects. If some of this know-how were to be applied in Africa, it would help turn the devastated Sahel region into a veritable garden, which it once was. And the lessons learned can be used on a broader scale to change the nature of life on this planet – for all its people.

*Lawrence Freeman has been an advocate of the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project for over two decades. I am the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

The Urgent Need for a New Paradigm in Africa

Re-posted from africanagenda.net

Below are excerpts from a useful presentation that provides an overview on crucial areas of development in Africa. It echoes many  of the ideas I have written about over the years, and has helpful maps on energy, water, and rail transportation. The presentation concludes with a discussion on the Transaqua water project, which I have advocated for over 20 years with a modest level of success.

 

“In contrast, is the really exciting development of relations between China and the nations of Africa. Every three years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meets, alternating between China and the capital of an African nation. At the last meeting, which was held in 2018, the meeting was in Beijing, and in 2021 it will be held in Senegal. What China has been doing with its cooperation with Africa, has been making available large amounts of credit for the kinds of projects that just make sense: rail lines, power systems, water systems, transportation, road networks, industrial parks—these kinds of significant investments.

“This is not charity; this is not a case of somebody saying “We’re going to step up to the plate and donate to those poor Africans who can’t help themselves.” That’s not the case. The United States is a bigger donor to Africa than is China. But I think if you speak to many African nations in terms of which nation is doing more at present to provide a long-term future, it’s not aid that lasts for a year; it’s taking the lid off and saying, “We’re going to develop a full economy here, not perpetually slightly alleviate poverty; that’s not a future…

“Compare that with National Security Study Memorandum 200, authored under Henry Kissinger in 1974, which stated, for about two dozen countries in the world, that the growth of their populations represented a threat to U.S. strategic interests. Because it would be more difficult, essentially, to get materials from countries that were developing and prosperous than countries that are disarrayed and poor.

“Compare this to when the British ran their official empire. Consider India, for example. Some people say that at least Britain helped develop India, building railroads, and so forth. No, Britain ruined India. India was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cloth, for example, and had a major ship-building industry, which was destroyed by the British. Empire destroys the economic potential of its colonies, and that is the reason that development has been deliberately held back in the world

Read: The Urgent Need for a New Paradigm in Africa

Will Africa Emulate China in Eliminating Poverty with BRI? More Electrical Power Needed

March 7, 2019

Rwanda Acknowledges Partnership With China Is Beneficial for Both Nations

President Xi Jinping left and President Paul Kegame-right (East African)

Answering a media query in Kigali on March 5, Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera said that the Belt and Road Initiative is a partnership that is mutually beneficial for Rwanda and China, and addresses Rwanda’s development challenges, Xinhua reported. China is an important partner for Rwanda at all levels, and Rwanda welcomes the growing partnership with China, he said, adding that Rwanda and China have important relationships in infrastructure development, party-to-party and people-to-people exchanges, and at the political level.

Last August, {China Daily} reported Rwandan Ambassador to China Charles Kayonga telling the newspaper, through e-mail, that in Rwanda, “we have had financing for a number of roads, and we have seen direct investment by Chinese companies in a number of businesses rise.” 

 Africa is in need of infrastructure, among other things, to achieve sustainable economic transformation, he said, adding that cooperation with China will help finance the infrastructure projects to help spur the continent’s industrial development, which will, in turn, favor China in its vision of going global.

Prescient Xi: China is Eliminating Poverty

Speaking today with deputies from Gansu Province, President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of reaching the goal of eliminating poverty by 2020.

“There should be no retreat until a complete victory is won,” Xi said. “Decisive progress has been achieved in the country’s tough fight against poverty over the past years, marking a new chapter in the poverty reduction history of mankind.” Xi stressed, that the goal to eradicate extreme poverty must be achieved on time. He warned that the tasks ahead remain arduous and hard, as those still in poverty are the worst stricken. He also warned that, “the practices of ‘formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism hamper the effective advancement of poverty reduction.” He also warned against the tendency to celebrate short-term gains when it comes to addressing the problem of poverty. He insisted that claims of success should be grounded in reality, and that the results of poverty alleviation work must be able to stand the test of time.

 Also today, a comprehensive briefing was given on the success of poverty reduction over the last few years by Liu Yongfu, Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. He held a press conference outlining the progress of the poverty-alleviation campaign. Liu noted that between 2012 and 2018, some 80 million people had been brought out of poverty at an average of 13 million people a year. Of the nine eastern provinces, eight were now free of poverty. He said there are 832 counties still enmired in poverty. In 2016, there were 28 counties that had been lifted out of poverty, and in 2017, some 125 counties, and in 2018, an estimated 280 counties. In 2013 there were 128,000 villages in poverty, while in 2018 there were 20,000. Poverty has been reduced during that period by 85%, Liu said, and the goal this year is to bring 10 million more people out of poverty. In 2019 the government will increase the funds devoted to poverty alleviation by 18.9%


African Development Bank Funding New Power Transmission Line For East Africa

In an article on its website, the African Development Bank (AfDB), pointing to regular power cuts in the East African countries from Kenya to Tanzania, from Uganda to Ethiopia, said this is about to change with the upcoming commissioning of a power transmission line to interconnect Kenya and Ethiopia. This project falls under one of the AfDB’s ‘High 5 priorities’ to ‘Light up and Power Africa.’ Working with
institutional partners, the Bank has mobilized resources to ensure the success of this project. At a cost of $1.26 billion, the project was co-funded by the African Development Bank ($338 million), the World Bank ($684 million), the Government of Kenya ($88 million), and the Government of Ethiopia ($32 million), the article noted.

The interconnection will function by means of a 1,068-km, 500-kilovolt high-voltage direct current transmission line, 437 km in Ethiopia and 631 km in Kenya with related facilities at Wolayta-Sodo (Ethiopia) and Suswa (Kenya). By December 2020, it will have a transmission capacity of 2,000 MW. This will make Ethiopia the energy giant of East Africa, while Kenya will become the epicenter of electricity trading in this part of the continent.

“The project will initially be able to transfer 400 MW from Ethiopia to Kenya, but negotiations are under way to better match the capacity of the line to Kenyan demand,” said Joseph Njogore, first secretary at the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, at an energy forum held in Nairobi in August 2018, the website noted.

 

Italy Wisely Becomes First G-7 Nation to Join China’s Belt and Road: Financial Predators Upset

March 7, 2019

City of London’s {Financial Times} Beside Itself over Italy’s Joining Belt and Road

The City of London mouthpiece {Financial Times} criticizes Italy for becoming, as they write, “the first G-7 country to formally endorse China’s controversial Belt and Road global investment drive, in a move that has drawn a sharp response from the White House and is likely to cause alarm in Brussels.”

{FT} has suddenly discovered that Italy is going to sign a memorandum of understanding during President Xi Jinping’s Rome visit scheduled for March 22-23. The daily quotes Undersecretary for Economic Development Michele Geraci, who says that “the negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi’s] visit. We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world.”

{FT} then quotes U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis, who makes a not-so-veiled threat: “We view BRI [Belt & Road Initiative] as a ‘made by China, for China. We are skeptical that the Italian government’s endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”

Marquis further said that U.S. officials had raised concerns about what he called the negative effects of “China’s infrastructure diplomacy,” and urged “all allies and partners, including Italy, to press China to bring its global investment efforts into line with accepted international standards and best practices.” Marquis was brought into the National Security Council by John Bolton, for whom he had earlier worked as a spokesman at the Foundation for American Security and Freedom.

The {FT} goes on to allege that “Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would under-mine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”

President Xi will visit Italy on March 22 and meet Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, as well as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and attend a military ceremony before traveling to Sicily.

The article concludes quoting National People’s Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui as saying this week that 67 countries had signed up to the BRI in the past year or so, bringing the total number of countries or international organizations that have formal endorsements to 152.  China takes the issue of debt very seriously and within a project the Chinese side never imposes things, nor, least of all, creates debt traps,” {FT} quotes Zhang. “Of course, like any international co-operation, some problems and challenges may crop up. With experience it will improve.”

Italy’s Geraci Rejects {Financial Times} Criticism of Italy Joining the Belt and Road Initiative

In an interview with the Italian financial daily {Il Sole 24 Ore}, Italian Undersecretary to the Economic Development Ministry rejects criticism raised by the City of London’s {Financial Times} and defends Italy’s sovereign choice to join the Belt and Road. “Sincerely, I am a bit surprised. I do not understand what it is, that is controversial,” Geraci said.

“I confirm what I said in an interview with this newspaper last Feb. 21st. I said the same thing to the {Financial Times}: We work every day down to the last detail. “It will be a framework agreement: Just the indication of some strategic sectors in which joint investments are promoted and orders by Italian firms are accelerated. We work on infrastructure, transport and highways, trade, industry, green economy. It will be up to private companies to choose whether to participate or not. If they do it, they will have guarantees in terms of protection from disputes and questions about rules.”

As for the U.S. position, Geraci stated:  “I wonder where such a big concern comes from. We will protect our know-how thanks to a ‘golden power’ rule we have in Italy, which is among the strictest in Europe. And we just fulfill demands from our companies to create for them more room in the most promising markets, such as China. Anyway, we have supplied the United States, as per normal exchanges we have with our main diplomatic partners, all insurances on the issue.”

On the concern about Italy being the first G-7 country to sign a New Silk Road protocol, Geraci replied to the criticisms: “So what? Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Greece have done it and I do not consider them second-class countries in Europe. Those who think differently do not have a real European view. And the G-7 club may be a somewhat outdated concept: It no longer represents the real world economic powers, since it does not include either China or India.”

Italy is not “selling out” its ports, as some have claimed, he countered: “We do not sell, at most we give concessions to create greenfield investments, which means starting from zero. You cannot sell out things that were not there in the first place.”

China Responds to U.S. Attack on Italy Joining the Belt and Road

The Chinese Foreign Ministry today responded to the attack on Italy’s plan to join the Belt and Road by Garrett Marquis, a long-time ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton (who brought him onto the National Security Council).

An unsigned editorial in {Global Times,} titled: “White House’s Criticism of Italy’s Plan To Join BRI Ridiculous,” reports that Lu Kang, spokes-person of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a routine press conference today, said: “Italy, as a major country and economy in the world, is clear about its interests. It could make its own policies and decisions.” {Global Times} added: “The BRI is an important inter-national public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, which witnessed more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”

Greek Foreign Minister in Beijing To Discuss Intensifying Belt and Road Cooperation

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos began a five-day official visit to Beijing on March 5, in which he co-chaired the 13 Joint Inter-ministerial Committee with China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi and with Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.  On the margins of the meeting,

Katrougalos met Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Ning Jizh, and chief of the Development Commission He Lifeng, according to a statement by the Greek Foreign Ministry.The Greek delegation included Christos Lambridis, Secretary General of Ports, Port Policy, and Maritime Investment, and officials from the Hellenic Ministry of Agricultural Development.

“From all these contacts, both with my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as with the head of Foreign Relations of the Communist Party of China, and the economy ministers, the Minister of Commerce, the head of the crucially important Planning Commission of China, the conclusion drawn is dual in nature: First of all that Greece and China are seriously investing in their bilateral strategic partnership. This is not occasional, it has as its guide the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative which the Chinese government is promoting at the moment, but there is a significant alignment of interests, precisely because we too endeavor that our country becomes a bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa. The second thing that was affirmed is the observation that Greece has exited the economic crisis and offers significant opportunities for investment to the Chinese side.

Katrougalos also participated in the formal commencement of proceedings of the annual plenary of the National People’s Congress, ahead of which he said, “As you know, China has achieved a lot. It is on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. It helped 700 million of its citizens out of complete poverty.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi congratulated Katrougalos on assuming his new post as foreign minister, and expressed satisfaction that “Mr. Foreign Minister chose China as the first country to visit after taking office, which demonstrated with concrete actions his friendship with China and the importance he attached to China-Greece relations and that both countries are good friends and good partners.” He further stated that “as the birthplace of Mediterranean civilizations, Greece possesses profound cultural heritage and enormous development potential.

The Chinese side feels happy that Greece has overcome the influence brought by financial crisis and regained economic and social vitality, and is willing to, together with the Greek side, strengthen high-level exchanges, increase understanding and mutual trust, expand bilateral cooperation fields under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative….”

China Friend or Foe? Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Below is my article on China: Friend or Foe?-January 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 65 (85 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine  

By Lawrence Freeman

January 1, 2019

          The short answer is a China is friend and contributor to Africa’s progress. Ignore all the propaganda, ignorance and outright lies claiming that China is the new colonizer of Africa. There is absolutely no truth in the contorted comparison between China’s involvement in Africa today, and 500 years of slavery and colonialism by Western nations.

          Following the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, we have witnessed an escalated disinformation campaign alleging that China is attempting to snare African nations in a new “debt-trap.” New vicious rumors have emerged that China is taking over ownership of key infrastructure projects in Africa. Every African Head of State who has spoken out, has refuted these allegations and praised their cooperative relationship with China.  

According to a report by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” China is owed a minority of external debt. Their figures compiled from the World Bank and the China Africa Research Institute show that 20% of African government external debt is owed to China in contrast 32% to private lenders, and 35% to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.

Of these 14 countries that have they examined: 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe); and three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).

The proponents of the “debt-trap” accusation conspicuously, egregiously omit from their chronicle the history of the financial imprisonment of the then newly independent African nations by the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, and their kith and kin in the City of London and Wall Street. Through manipulation of terms of trade, controlling prices, and forcing currency deviations, African nations found themselves shackled in several hundred billion dollars of new debt to the West shortly after African nations achieved liberation from imperialist colonial masters. Western debt replaced slavery and colonialism as the new method of looting Africa of its wealth, reinforced by the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programs-SAPs, otherwise known as the “Washington Consensus.”

So, who is kidding whom about a “debt-trap?”

Debt for Infrastructure is Necessary

Railroads from the colonial period versus railroads of the future. The East-West and North-South railroads are long overdue

Credits issued for hard infrastructure; energy, railroads, ports, roads, bridges, and soft infrastructure in well equipped; schools, libraries, universities, and hospitals will always result in an increase in productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. By employing advanced technologies embedded in new capital equipment, including infrastructure, farmers and workers can produce more efficiently. Simply providing abundant energy, high-speed railroads, and water inputs to an African nation would lead to a jump in economic output.

All nations that have experienced real economic growth and raised the living standard of their citizens have created credit i.e. public-sector debt or borrowed debt at non-usurious interest rates for targeted physical economic growth.

China is the single largest nation contributing to financing and constructing of infrastructure projects in Africa according, to Deloitte’s 2017 edition of Africa Constructive Trends. The report examines 303 infrastructure projects begun in the first half of 2017 that costs over $50 million. Appropriately, energy& power, and transport comprise 167 of these projects-over 55% of the total. While African governments fund 27.1 % of the funding, China accounts for 15.5% of the funding and 28.1% of the construction for these projects. The US accounts for 3% and 3.3% respectively. Both Italy and France are larger than  the US percentage in building infrastructure in Africa. 

African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, speaking on November 28, 2016 accurately linked the deadly migrant crisis to deficiencies in Africa’s economic development and infrastructure.

“I believe that Africa development deserves significant support, even in the midst of these challenges. We must not forget that the reason several thousands of Africans have been (illegally) migrating to Europe, is because of the lack of jobs and shrinking economic opportunities at home. Our result must not be to reduce support, but to increase support to help build greater resilience, boost its economies, address its structural challenge, such as closing its huge infrastructure gap, strengthening intra-related trade, and creating jobs for its teeming youths.”

A study done by the AidData Research Lab at William and Mary College in Virginia that analyzed China’s investments in the developing sector between 2000 and 2014, concluded:

“We find that Chinese development projects in general, and Chinese transportation projects in particular, reduce economic inequality within and between sub-national localities,” and “produce positive economic spillover that leads to a more equal distribution of economic activity.”

China has come to know, what the US has forgotten, that infrastructure is the sine qua non to drive economic growth. 

Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit is the causal factor for widespread poverty, and insecurity across the continent, precisely that which China has begun to address over the last decade. The Western financial system that dominated Africa from 1960-2000 contributed almost nothing to help African nations industrialize and failed to help create vibrant agro-manufacturing sectors. China with its Belt and Road Initiative has presented the world with a new paradigm to guide political-economic relations among nations; Africa is the beneficiary.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

President Trump’s Non-African Strategy: Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Below is my article on President Trump’s Non-African Strategy, January 1, 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 109 (129 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine  

 

 

Lawrence Freeman

January 1, 2019

After waiting almost two years for President Trump to articulate his policy for Africa, last month he unveiled his US-African Strategy, through the mouth of National Security Adviser John Bolton.  It should be called the Non-Africa Strategy because it has little if anything to do with the continent of Africa itself. Rather, it is essentially a geo-political tactic aimed primarily at China and to a lesser extent Russia. President Trump has put his stamp of approval on the age-old British inspired geo-political ideology that views foreign policy as a “global zero-sum game”-a world with only winners and losers among the super-powers. All other (lesser) nations are treated simply as movable pieces in their fantasy game. In other words, in this administration’s policy, Africa is a pawn on their geo-political chess board. Sadly, this so-called African stratagem shows no concern for well-being of the African people, doing nothing to improve the conditions of life on the continent, nor does it enhance US security.

Bolton explicitly attacks China’s new paradigm in foreign policy-the Belt and Road Initiative-while threatening African nations who do not support the US position on China and Russia. Blinded by their geo-political world view, the Trump administration displays disdain for the fruitful collaboration of China (primarily) with Africa nations in building vitally needed infrastructure across the African continent. In many cases constructing new railroads for the first time since the days of imperialist-colonial domination.

The Trump/Bolton policy has already failed from the start. It is too late to stop Africa’s momentum for economic development with its allies. However, if the Trump administration were more thoughtful, it would formulate a strategy to assist African nations in reducing their massive deficits in crucial categories of infrastructure.

Return to a Real American Strategy for Africa

The promotion of human life should (must) be the most important goal of all foreign policy. Human beings uniquely possess the cognitive-creative mental capacity to transform the physical universe. Only through new scientific discoveries by a sovereign human mind, can we ensure the continued material-biological propagation of our human race. Thus, the promotion of physical (not financial) economic growth, which sustains human progress, is the core of any competent “good neighbor” foreign policy.

Presidents John Kennedy and Kwame Nkrumah, Washington DC, March 1963

President John Kennedy was our last president who identified with and supported the development of the newly liberated African nations. His unique friendship with Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah resulted in securing the funding for the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River which provided hydro-power for aluminum smelting and electricity for the people. This project stands as a monument today in Ghana (and Africa) in contradistinction to the El Mina slave dungeon, and other “slave castles” along Ghana’s coast.  We should remember that it was the African liberator, President Nkrumah, who was the very first Head of State invited by President Kennedy to Washington DC on March 8, 1961.  Four months later, the pro-African President invited Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister of the newly independent Republic of Nigeria to the White House.

Not one of the ten US Presidents following the death of Kennedy have emulated in practice his genuine concern for the advancement of the African people. However, President Kennedy was not original in his vision for Africa.

President Franklin Roosevelt famously scolded British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during their war-time conferences, for Britain’s imperialist exploitation of Africa. He drove Churchill into an apoplectic fit, when he threatened to do away with British Imperialism and its eighteenth-century methods, after the war was won.

President Roosevelt expressed his vision for Africa’s development when told his son Elliott, that with the re-creation of a lake in the depressed flats in North Africa, “The Sahara would bloom for hundreds of miles.” He also reminded his son of the rivers which arise in Atlas Mountains and disappear under the Desert. “Divert this water flow for irrigation purposes?  It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch!”

This is the way US leaders true to our American System of economic progress used to think.

Africa’s Future

Africa’s population is projected to expand to 2.5 billion people in 2050- a generation and a half generation from now. The continent is well situated to become the center of world commerce, with its expanding population, vast tracts of arable land, and its abundance of natural resources. To secure this future, Africa needs trillions of dollars invested in infrastructure. There is no “zero sum” competition. Africa’s friends should cooperate in promoting the limitless number of infrastructure projects that Africa desperately needs. If, Africa and its allies fail to fully develop its enormous potential, and African nations are unable to productively employ and instill hope for a better future to the continent’s projected 2050 population of a billion young people, then we should anticipate perilously new levels instability and insecurity.

It should be obvious to all, including President Trump and his advisers that there will be no security without economic development.

It would be best for both the US and Africa, for President Trump to jettison this terribly flawed policy and advance a real American vision for the continent.  This should include collaboration with China on building transformative infrastructure such as the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project to refurbish the shrinking Lake Chad.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

 

China is NOT Exploiting Africa, But Investing in its Future: The Case of Nigeria

The article below, “Nigeria’s balanced and diverse relationship with China is key to sustainability,” provides a useful examination of the healthy bilateral relationship that China has developed with Nigeria, especially during the administration of President Buhari.  It is also important to note that Nigeria has officially joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in January of this year. (excerpts below followed by a link to complete article)

1)    Infrastructure

Nigeria has one of the largest infrastructure deficits in the world; two thirds of the population still does not have access to safe water and over half of the population has no access to reliable electricity. Logistics costs are also extremely high; it costs more to transport a good from Lagos in Nigeria’s South to Kano in the North (1000km), than it does to ship a good from Shanghai to Lagos (over 12,000 km).

Nigeria’s government is investing in infrastructure, but external funding is needed. As cited in the National Integrated Infrastructure Master-plan (NIIMP) developed by Nigeria’s Ministry for Planning in 2015, it is estimated that the country requires $3 trillion over the next 30 years, with $500 billion required in the first 10 years. This estimate, which has wide sectoral scope, is reached by comparing Nigeria’s core infrastructure stock of around 20-25% GDP to international benchmarks of around 70%. Yet, even as the government increased its budget allocation for capital expenditure to 30% in 2017, this remains at least 80% short of the annual amount prescribed by NIIMP.

Alongside self-funding new infrastructure, Nigeria has also looked to the World Bank, European Commission and African Development Bank as sources of infrastructure capital. Yet while they might have the risk tolerance and investment horizons, their capital remains diluted over a number of countries. In its 60 years of operation in Nigeria, the World Bank has invested on average $100 million on infrastructure a year – significant but still a drop in the ocean versus Nigeria’s needs…

3)    Manufacturing    

While Nigeria is the richest economy in Africa, with the largest population and one of the better educated work forces, 4 in every 10 people still remain unemployed. Nigeria needs more inclusive industrialization that creates jobs for all, as opposed to focusing solely on sectors such as oil. Opportunities lie in the manufacturing sector, which creates more jobs through stronger forward and backwards economic linkages than any other sector.

Nigeria is again leveraging its relationship with China here. Some Chinese manufacturers have started relocating production to Nigeria, partly in response to rising wages in China and to take full advantage of the size of Nigeria’s domestic market. Sun Ceramics is one such example; they produce ceramics the size of 10 football fields every day, employ over 1,000 locals and also source all their raw materials from Nigeria. If it weren’t for Nigeria’s difficult business environment, Chinese firms claim they would commit greater amounts of investment.

Stronger ties to stand the test of time.

Nigeria, however, has managed to…build a balanced and more diverse relationship with China. Nigeria’s relationship with China extends beyond resources and infrastructure to security, financial planning and sharing of best-practice in manufacturing, to name a few areas of cooperation. Particularly in the realms of security cooperation; the Chinese have found an area that helps win them local support on the ground in Nigeria given a near-universal desire to eliminate insurgent forces. Nigeria also recognizes that the size of its domestic market offers the largest opportunity in Africa for Chinese companies; and that has helped to improve the balance in the relationship.

It is this combination of balance and diversification that is key to a sustainable relationship with China.

 

Read: Nigeria’s Balanced and Diverse Relationship with China

African Union Commission chief praises AU-China partnership

Moussa Faki Mahamat

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, has extolled the partnership between the 55-member pan-African bloc and China in different arenas.

The AU Commission chief made the remarks at the opening of the 32nd AU summit on Sunday in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, with the attendance of African leaders, foreign diplomats, and other prominent personalities.

Speaking of the AU-China partnership, Mahamat said that the two sides have been enjoying unprecedentedly dynamic partnership in various areas.

The successful Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing in September 2018 demonstrated “the unprecedented dynamism” of the partnership between the two sides, he said.

In September 2018, AU officially launched the AU representational office in Beijing, he recalled, indicating that it would further strengthen the partnership.

“The remarkable success of FOCAC held in Beijing in September 2018 illustrates the unprecedented dynamism of our partnership,” Mahamat said.

“The opening of an AU office in Beijing will obviously strengthen this multifarious and fruitful partnership, including the strategic dialogue between the AU Commission and the People’s Republic of China,” he added.

Chinese support for AU peace and security totals $180 million

External & Internal Forces Fear Continuance of Buhari Presidency

President Buhari campaigning  Premium Times

February 1, 2019

President Buhari removed Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen last week, after it was found that Onnoghen had violated the Code of Conduct, failing twice to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.  Buhari’s opponent in the Presidential race has accused him of not following constitutional procedures, by which he should first obtain two-thirds in the Parliament vote or a request by the Supreme Court itself. There is a provision in the Constitution under which the President can suspend or dismiss the Chief Justice. That is, in a situation where the Chief Justice is found to have contravened the Code of Conduct. In this regard, the President does not require any Senate vote or recommendation from the National Judicial Council. The Nigerian Supreme Court has jurisdiction and final say in challenges against election results.

Internationally forces based in the City of London- financial capital of the world-do not want to see President Buhari succeed in a second term as Head of State. His commitment to fight against corruption, and develop the Nigerian economy with collaboration from China threatens the internal and external enemies of Nigeria, who oppose the nation’s progress. The announcement this past week that Nigeria has become an official member of China’s Belt and Road portends success for Nigeria, as the country frees itself from domination by the International Monetary Fund.

The British government issued a statement of concern on January  26, which says “we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections.”

In the US establishment’s Council of Foreign Relations blog,  Udo Jude Ilo from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and Yemi Adamolekun of Enough Is Enough Nigeria (EIE) attacked President Buhari. They wrote  among other things: “the timing of [Onnoghen’s] replacement is so troubling. Many analysts, including the authors of this piece, see the move by the President as a calculated attempt to gain some electoral advantage should an election petition between the President and the main opposition party end up in the Supreme Court.”

Open Society Initiative was created by billionaire George Soros, who is member of the global financial elite. Open Society is a vehicle for regime change around the world. Enough is Enough is funded by Soros’ Open Society. The authors of this blog are not just concerned Nigerian citizens, but part of a of a nasty operation to aimed at disrupting/tainting the Nigerian Presidential election and potentially destabilizing Nigeria to prevent the re-election of President Buhari.

In recent weeks media outlets in the West have been voicing allegations of violence and other actions to be instigated by the government of Nigeria in order to insure a victory for President Buhari. The British are undoubtedly the driving group behind this scenario, but we cannot rule out US involvement. President Trump to his credit has come out against regime change, however US support for the removal of the President Venezuela raises doubts about that commitment.

Not accidentally, the terrorist thugs from Boko Haram have resurfaced in force lately, scoring unexpected victories against Africa’s Nigerian led Multinational Force,  and the Nigerian army, spawning a new wave of refugees in the Lake Chad region.

Those of us who have studied Nigeria’s political-economy over decades understand that the efforts directed against President Buhari are intended to derail  the momentum for the industrial development of Nigeria. This includes the President’s commitment to Transaqua, a vital water-transfer project to save the shrinking Lake Chad.