Source: China.org.cn 2013/11/25
Last July, South African President Jacob Zuma made particular mention of the relationship between South Africa's ruling party the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) at a meeting with Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping. He expressed his satisfaction with the current relations between the ANC and the CPC, during which many senior members of the ANC participated in training workshops held by the CPC.
The relations between the CPC and the ANC are typical of the relations between Chinese and African political parties. These are part of what puts Africa' relations with China apart from its relations with other powerful nations and have also helped strengthen the political foundations of a new-type Sino-African strategic partnership.
A long history of contact
Late Chairman Mao Zedong shakes hands with the visiting Chairman of the Tanganyika African National Union and President of Tanzania J.K.Nyerere on March 25th, 1974.
The exchange between the Chinese and African political parties began in the 1950s. At that time, the CPC only established relations with political parties of communist nature around the world. However, many African national liberation organizations sent delegations to visit China to seek political, moral and material support and receive political and military training. Though most of these delegations were invited by China's non-governmental organizations, they had their first contact with related departments in the CPC.
By the end of the 1970s, the CPC adjusted its foreign policies and started to develop relations with non-communist African parties and in particularly with ruling parties. By 1988, over 40 political parties from Sub-Saharan Africa had established relations with the CPC.
In the early 1990s, a wave of multi-party democracy swept the African continent and posed certain negative impact on Sino-African inter-party exchange. After years of sustained communications, many of the long-reigning parties with which China had invested much time and energy developing relationships were replaced. The new ruling parties had little understanding of the CPC and Sino-African inter-party exchanges experienced a low ebb. In the mid-1990s African political parties once again became interested in contact with the CPC. The CPC successively established relations with a batch of new African political parties.
Contact has been growing even faster in the 21st century and as many African countries have become stable and these nation's political parties have the increasing desire to work with the CPC. The momentum of bilateral party relations has been good, and to date the CPC has established relations with 81 African parties both in and out of power.
China's then Vice President Hu Jintao meets with Abder Rahim Zouari, General Secretary of the Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique of Tunisia on June 21st, 2000.
High-ranking CPC leaders, including those from the 16th and the 17th Central Politburo Standing Committees, have led delegations on frequent visits to African countries. Standing Committee member Li Changchun made three visits to Africa in 2005, 2008 and 2011, and the 10 countries he visited included Sudan, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Mozambique and Kenya.
Moreover, many members of the Politburo, secretaries of the Secretariat of the 16th and 17th CPC Central Committee have led delegations to visit Africa. Each year the CPC sends 10 delegations to visit Africa, led by provincial/ministerial leaders. The CPC also invites around 20 senior delegations from African political parties to visit China every year. President Zuma of South Africa, President Pohamba of Namibia and President Guebuza of Mozambique all led such delegations before they assumed the presidency.
In June 2008 when President Zuma, leader of the ANC, visited China, he proposed to Chinese president Hu Jintao that the CPC organize training workshops for the senior members of the ANC. President Hu actively responded to the request and soon a plan was hammered out. Since then 56 senior ANC leaders in four batches have participated in workshops on the theories and experience of the ruling parties of China and South Africa.
During the first ANC delegation to China in November 2009, Zhou Yongkang, a member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee and the secretary of the Central Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, met with members of the ANC and discussed various topics with them. Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the delegation and former General Secretary of the ANC, said: "It is not long since the ANC was founded and became a ruling party, but the CPC has been a ruling party for six decades, and has accumulated rich experiences. We would like to learn from each other. Every participant studied hard and had deep discussions and they admitted they gained a lot." In October 2011, Gwede Mantashe, General Secretary of the ANC, led the fourth delegation of ANC members to China. While meeting with Xi Jinping, China's vice president and member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, Mantashe said that all the delegation members are happy to visit and study in China and that they admire the achievements made by the CPC in leading its people in the country's construction. The experience and theories of the CPC, he added, are worth learning.
Other than the ANC, parties such as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front and the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front also send their senior members to visit and study in China. The CPC and African political parties share the same wish to understand and learn from each other. African political parties, especially those ruling parties, hope to learn the experience of the CPC in party building and country construction. Many parties explicitly say that they want the CPC to train their senior leaders. The CPC has also carried out research into the experiences African ruling parties that have a long history in order to improve its own party building in the new era. In recent years, the number of African party members that come to China to visit or study has increased and it is expected to welcome 7.5 million arrivals by 2012. They take part in workshops of different types and topics, including party building, economic development, poverty reduction, young people and women. The CPC also sends experts to some African countries on their request to brief them about China and the experience of the CPC.
Promoting traditional Sino-African friendship
With the older generation of leaders leaving political arena, it has become a common task for young politicians of both sides to continue the Sino-African friendship. Sam Nujoma, the first president of Namibia, went to China to receive political and military training while fighting for national independence. He has visited China for 17 times and has a deep affection for China. In his latest visit to China, he said to Chinese leaders that the Namibian people even forget the names of the Chinese teachers who trained Namibian freedom fighters. He deemed that it is necessary to write down the history and pass it down to the younger generation. According to the proposal of Namibia's South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), the CPC and the SWAPO co-organized the first Africa-China Young Leaders Forum in Windhoek in May 2011.
The forum brought together 180 young leaders from China and 18 African countries. On the theme of "Friendship, Cooperation and Development," the participants had thoroughly deliberated on issues related to Sino-African relations, such as its history, current situation and the opportunities and challenges under the new situation. Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said at the opening ceremony that it is the common aspiration for 2.3 billion Chinese and African people to consolidate their friendship, promote practical cooperation and boost common development. He believes that through unremitting efforts of generations of young African and Chinese people, the Sino-African friendship will grow stronger. Namibian leaders such as President Pohamba reviewed the history of Sino-African friendship from their personal experiences and called on young leaders to carry forward the cause of Sino-African unity and cooperation. President Pohamba said it was a long journey full of challenges from 1955 in Bandung, to 2000 in Beijing and 2011 in Windhoek. China overcame difficulties and insisted on cooperation with Africa. China built up its prestige in Africa and made many friends.
In June 2012, the second China-Africa Young Leaders' Forum was held in Beijing. Nearly 200 young leaders from China and 38 African countries attended the forum. Chairman Jia Qinglin of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Namibia's founding president Sam Nujoma were present on the forum. The participants had a spirited discussion themed on "China-Africa Cooperation and Youth Development" and reached extensive consensus. The forum concluded with the Beijing Declaration.
The forum is not only a venue for both sides to review traditional friendship, but also a platform to discuss new cooperation. Both sides agree that the forum should be held regularly. The forum would be held for every three years in China and Africa by turns.
Chinese customers look for handicrafts at a stall from Uganda at an exhibition in Yiwu, Zhejiang province On Oct 25, 2010.
Talks between Chinese and African parties cover both political and economic topics and are used to enhance economic and trade cooperation. Under the multi-party system in African countries, the ruling parties strive to win support from their people by performing well, and practical and fruitful cooperation with China through inter-party exchanges is to their advantage. The CPC also wants to strengthen Sino-African ties through promoting economic cooperation and trade.
The CPC leaders that head delegations to Africa contribute towards major cooperation programs. For example, Wu Guanzheng, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, led the CPC delegation to visit Gabon in 2006 and brought about cooperation in the exploitation of iron reserves in Gabon. The total estimated investment of the project reached billions of US dollars. During his visit to Madagascar, he helped solve problems in Sino-Madagascan economic cooperation and trade. In 2009 Zhou Yongkang led a CPC delegation to visit Sudan. During his visit the governments and enterprises from both countries signed more than 10 cooperation agreements. In January 2012 Li Yuanchao led a CPC delegation to visit Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan, resulting in the signing of many cooperation agreements.
Economic and trade delegations are usually arranged to coincide with the CPC delegations' arrivals and, with advance investigations and preparation, economic and trade delegations generally achieve concrete cooperation on their trips. For example, Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo and then secretary of CPC Hubei provincial committee, led a CPC delegation to visit Mozambique in 2005 and brought about cooperation on agriculture between Hubei Province and Mozambique. Now cooperation between Hubei and Mozambique has been expanded to other sectors such as mining and manufacturing. Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Politburo and then secretary of the CPC Guangdong provincial committee, led a CPC delegation and a large-scale economic and trade delegation to visit Africa in October 2004 and June 2007, and enterprises from Guangdong and Africa signed contracts worth US $2.4 billion and US $3.4 billion respectively.
Economic and trade cooperation is also promoted through multilateral forums that facilitate communication between Chinese and African enterprises. In recent years, the CPC has brought together many Chinese and African government officials and entrepreneurs at such forums. For example, in August 2010, the CPC held the China-Africa Agriculture Cooperation Forum in Beijing. Over 130 representatives from political parties, enterprises and international institutes from 18 different African countries participated in talks about opportunities and challenges of Sino-African agriculture cooperation during which they reached extensive strategic consensus.
Political foundation of Sino-African relations
The late Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi said that the three pillars of Ethiopia-China relationship are the relationships between governments, between political parties, and between the peoples of the two countries. He is not alone among African leaders in this view. This shows the importance of inter-party relations between China and Africa.
China and African countries belong to the same developing world, and the relations between their political parties are full of potency and promise. Inter-party interactions play to the practical needs of both sides as they lead their respective nations towards prosperity. Through inter-party communication, the CPC can form a greater understanding of Africa and improve its general communication with Africa, while the African political parties can learn from China's development experience and build a better world themselves.