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Wang Yi Unveiled a 7-Point Policy Framework That Will Guide Chinese Engagement in Africa This Year

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi unveiled a list of seven “priorities” that he said will guide Chinese engagement in Africa in 2021. Wang made the announcement during a press conference on Friday in Chato with his Tanzanian counterpart Palamagamba Kabudi.

The seven themes or priorities are, for the most part, quite broad and generic. Other than the list itself, neither Wang nor the Foreign Ministry provided any additional details on what each of these new “priorities” would entail and how this list differs from current Chinese policy priorities on the continent. China, for example, already prioritizes health, agriculture, security, and green initiatives in its Africa policy so, by itself, this appears just to be a repackaging of the status quo:

  • “China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
  • “China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
  • “China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
  • “China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
  • “China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
  • “China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
  • “China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.

However, what Wang may be trying to do is begin the process of framing the agenda for the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit that is scheduled to take place later this year in Dakar, Senegal. 

While it may be easy to dismiss a list like this for being so broad that it’s almost useless, it does nonetheless serve as a clear articulation of what China wants from its engagement in Africa, which is more than what many competing powers have done with their own African agendas. 

Now that China has laid out what it plans to focus on in Africa for the year ahead, the more interesting question is whether individual African countries have engaged in a similar exercise to articulate what they want from China?

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