The November FOCAC ministerial meeting in Dakar adopted four documents: The Dakar Action Plan (2022-2024); Vision 2035 for Sino-African cooperation; the China-Africa Declaration on Climate Change; and the Declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC. There is considerable overlap in terms of coverage and substance in the four documents. All of them present long and comprehensive lists of issues and areas of cooperation between China and Africa.
Vision 2035 for China-Africa cooperation is particularly important as the first medium and long-term cooperation plan jointly developed by China and Africa. The Vision sets the general framework for China-Africa cooperation for the next 15 years. The timing of its publication, the framing of the issues, as well as the specificities of economic cooperation are particularly interesting and deserve to be examined.
The first interesting issue to note about Vision 2035 for China-Africa cooperation is the timing of its release. Usually observers would expect such an important document to be released at the FOCAC meeting where the principles were adopted. This time around, however, none of the four documents listed above were released during the summit, but rather a few days to over a week after the summit was concluded. Experts speculated that the delay potentially hinted at differences that needed to be ironed out during and after the FOCAC meeting.
For any Chinese observer, the most striking thing about Vision 2035 is that its timeline coincides with China’s own 2035 plan: Vision 2035. Adopted at the Fifth Plenary of the 19th Party Congress in 2020, Vision 2035 is a list of intermediate goals set for 2035 before the centenary year of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It states that âChina will fundamentally achieve socialist modernization(To become a rudimentary modern socialist country) by 2035, which will have accelerated Deng Xiaoping’s initial timeline by 15 years to achieve this goal by the middle of the 21st century.
According to Vision China 2035, China will have become a strong and technologically advanced country, a world leader both in terms of innovation and new forms of industrialization. The country will have consolidated its status as a great world power and improved its ability to participate in international economic cooperation, as well as new high competitive advantages, with considerably strengthened soft power and a fundamentally improved ecological environment. This will improve the life of the Chinese people.
Notably, Vision 2035 for China-Africa cooperation aligns with China’s own Vision 2035. According to the cooperation document, China and Africa envisage eight areas of cooperation for the next 14 years: 1) partnerships in the development agenda; 2) trade / investment / finance; 3) industrial cooperation; 4) green cooperation; 5) health; 6) interpersonal exchanges; 7) peace and security; and 8) cooperation on global governance.
It is not difficult to see the alignment between the two documents: overall, China’s cooperation with Africa on general development, security and governance issues is presented as part of the China’s rise to great power status, as reflected in its own Vision document. Mutually beneficial economic cooperation stimulates China’s economic growth and meets the demand of the Chinese domestic market, which will improve the quality of life of Chinese people. And people-to-people exchanges are an intrinsic component of China’s global soft power campaign.
The economic plan
Like the financial commitments announced to FOCAC every three years, the most revealing elements of Vision 2035 for China-Africa cooperation are the specific commitments and deliverables. Indeed, the Chinese commitments of the Dakar meeting suggest a withdrawal or, at the very least, a reorientation of China’s economic engagement with Africa. This impression and direction is further reflected in Vision 2035 for China-Africa cooperation.
First, infrastructure development continues to be understated. Although the Vision 2035 document mentions âinfrastructureâ four times, it does not mention Chinese loans as a source of funding at all. Instead, they are framed specifically in the context of Chinese investment, the diversification of areas of infrastructure cooperation, quality infrastructure in terms of industrial capacity cooperation and digital infrastructure. , respectively. It should also be noted that infrastructure is only a small and not an essential part of the economic commitment.
Second, the most visible financial commitment is investment: China promises to invest $ 60 billion in Africa in total by 2035, in agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, protection of the environment, the digital economy and the blue economy. Compared to the previous financial commitments of FOCAC which covered every three years, this commitment is unorthodox in its maturity (14 years) and its formulation (with regard to the origin of the investment). Given that China had committed $ 10 billion in investments in 2018 and again this year, $ 60 billion does not seem like a difficult goal to achieve in 14 years. According to Chinese official media, Chinese investments in Africa amounted to $ 2.96 billion in 2020, a growth of 9.6% compared to the previous year. At this rate and taking inflation into account, $ 60 billion will not be a major departure from the current trajectory. The composition of investment between the public and private sectors remains unclear.
Third, trade is the biggest area of ââgrowth in economic relations, with annual trade volume between China and Africa amounting to $ 300 billion. This amount is in line with FOCAC’s focus in 2021 on trade promotion and facilitation, particularly with regard to increasing African exports of agricultural products and non-natural resources.
China appears particularly optimistic on imports from Africa. After a 10% drop in bilateral trade last year to $ 187 billion, Sino-African bilateral trade is accelerating, reaching $ 185 billion in the first nine months of 2021, a growth rate of 38.2%. At the Dakar FOCAC meeting, China pledged to import a total of $ 300 billion in products from Africa over the next three years. This confidence has its origins in the impressive growth of African exports to China due to “the increasing adoption of African products in China.” Already in the first seven months of 2021, African exports to China have increased by 46.3 percent. Agricultural products performed particularly well: African exports of rubber, cotton and coffee doubled from July 2020 to July 2021.
The 2035 Vision for China-Africa Cooperation is aligned with China’s own 2035 Vision for Development and is a continuation of trends, developments and adjustments in China’s Africa strategy. However, 14 years is quite a long time and a stark digression from past commitments. How things will turn out for Africa during this period deserves continued observation.