Qin Gang, who was appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China towards the end of December 2022, made his first overseas official trip to the African continent. During the trip, which lasted between 9-16 January 2023, Qin visited Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, and Egypt. Qin, who met with the leaders of these states within the scope of his Africa trip and visited the headquarters of both the African Union and the Arab League, made important statements. Based on Qin’s statements, it is possible to make some determinations about China’s attitude towards Africa.
In 2023, the first official visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister to African countries reveals the importance China attaches to Africa. Visits by state officials generally show the importance given to the other party and the dynamism of bilateral relations. Elements such as the frequency and priority of visits help to understand the nature of interstate dialogue. In this regard, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin pointed out that this trip is an indication that China values friendship with Africa and the development of China-Africa relations.
First, in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin, and African Union Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat met within the scope of the 8th Strategic Dialogue of the China-Africa Union. Qin emphasized that China would continue to be the development and destiny partner of Africa. With the analogy of development and destiny partners, an attempt was made to establish a close relationship between China and African countries. This affinity is based on shared past experiences and similarities in goals and purposes.
Besides, Qin stated that China has built in Africa more than 6,000 kilometers of railways, 6,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 20 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities, and funded over 130 hospitals and clinics, over 170 schools, 45 sports venues and over 500 agricultural projects. As can be seen from the projects and investments, China is an effective actor in the development of the African continent.
In order to develop and keep up with the times, African countries need foreign investors. In this regard, the Beijing administration continues to support the development of the region, as well as for the sustainable development of the region. In addition, African countries were relatively less affected by the economic crisis between 2008 and 2012 thanks to the economic relations they established with China, India, and other states rather than the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU). The economic ties developed with China have been one of the factors that prevented the great fluctuations and ruptures in the economy of African countries.
One of the points that Qin draws attention to is that Africa should not be the arena of competition between world powers. In this context, Qin, who supports Africa to play an active role in international cooperation, stated that China will support the continental countries in increasing the representation of Africa in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and other international organizations.
Currently, African countries state that they are not represented at the UNSC and that the current decision-making mechanism is unfair. Messages from China are quite important for Africa, which is seeking support for these reproaches.
Meeting with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba after Ethiopia, Qin stated that he would support further strengthening the relations between the two countries and the joint continuation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Africa is located on both the sea and land routes of the project. There are 39 countries from Africa in the Belt and Road Initiative. While the project mediates China’s idea of connecting the East and the West, it also enables the underdeveloped and developing countries on this route to gain economic benefits.
Angola was one of the prominent countries in Qin’s trip to Africa. Angola is among the largest oil producers in Africa. For a country like China that is highly dependent on hydrocarbon energy resources, developing good relations with Angola is valuable in terms of energy security. During Qin’s visit, Angola President João Lourenço stated that China’s contributions and investments play a critical role in both the economic and social development of his country and expressed that he expects this cooperation to increase further. Africa is one of the regions that China attaches importance to in the expansion and development of its export network. Since China has a new market and African countries find a strong economic partner, the parties gain from this cooperation.
Qin, who met with Benin President Patrice Talon within the framework of his Africa trip, conveyed that China would always support the country in terms of exploring Benin’s own potential and developing its own development path. As noted, Qin emphasized that China’s support is always behind them in the countries during his African trip. At the same time, China emphasizes that its support for Africa is not unilateral but mutual support. Beijing administration defines China-Africa cooperation as mutual support between two developing countries. Both countries are trying to realize the development model together by helping each other in political, economic, commercial, energy, social and many other areas.
The last stop of Qin’s Africa trip was Egypt. In Cairo, Qin first met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, followed by Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and his counterpart, Sameh Shoukry. Qin conveyed to Sisi that China’s investments in Egypt for infrastructure projects would continue. China has investments worth billions of dollars in Egypt, particularly in the Suez Canal Economic Zone. Egypt, which established diplomatic relations with China as both the first African and the first Arab country, has a special importance for the Beijing administration. At the same time, Egypt, which stands out with its geopolitical position within the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative, is a partner with which China wants to deepen its relations.
The fact that Qin’s Africa trip took place after the US-Africa Summit organized by US President Joe Biden in Washington in December 2022 can be interpreted as a retaliation against the US. Whether or not it was a retaliation against the USA, Qin’s visit to Africa played an active role in reminding Beijing of its support for Africa.
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 “China’s Foreign Minister…”, op. cit.