SINO-AFRICAN RELATIONS HAILED AS SUMMIT NEARS
With the highly anticipated Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) fast approaching, China has been busily preparing for the largest meeting of African and Chinese leaders in nearly 50 years. Around 30 African heads-of-state are expected to attend the FOCAC on November 3 to 5 and will be meeting with many of China’s top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premiere Wen Jiabao. Determined to cement Sino-African relations and to establish itself as a responsible regional partner, Beijing has used several occasions to highlight its extensive relations with the region. On October 19, China’s Ministry of Commerce released a report announcing that since Wen’s promise at the 2003 2nd FOCAC ministerial conference in Addis Ababa to help train 10,000 professionals, some 11,000 Africans have received work-related training in China (Xinhua, October 19).
The exchange of African professionals has been beneficial, not only to the African countries but also for Chinese companies attempting to obtain a foothold in the African market. Many of the engineers and businessmen who come to China for professional training “help create a platform for the Chinese enterprises to develop their business in Africa,” said Li Yuanyuan of Peking University. Sino-African relations, particularly economic ones, have seen spectacular growth, with two-way trade volume increasing ten times in the last ten years, from US$4 billion in 1995 to US$40 billion in 2005. Bilateral military relations have also continued to develop, as evidenced by the Chinese delegation of military instructors that completed their 12-month study tour at the Zimbabwe Staff College. At the farewell reception for the PLA instructor team on October 20, Zimbabwean Army Chief of Staff Major General Engelbert Rugeje praised the close relationship between the two counties and also thanked the delegation for their donation of equipment for a new computer laboratory as well as for a battle simulation center (Xinhua, October 24).