This week Eric & Cobus sit down with Wu Peng, the director-general of the department of African affairs in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for his perspective on a wide range of issues that are impacting relations between the two regions.
The conversation also features questions from a trio of experts in China-Africa relations including:
- Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development (@gyude_moore)
- Zainab Usman, director of the Africa program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (@MssZeeUsman)
- Aggrey Mutambo, senior diplomatic affairs writer for the Daily Nation and The East African newspaper (@agmutambo)
About Wu Peng:
Wu Peng is the Director-General of the Department of African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. Prior to assuming this role in Beijing, Wu was the ambassador to Kenya and prior to that he served as China’s ambassador to Sierra Leone. The Director-General is on Twitter at @wupeng_mfachina.
Full Transcript of the interview with Director-General Wu Peng from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
ERIC OLANDER: Director-General Wu, thank you so much for taking the time to join us, it’s really an honor to have the chance to speak with you.
WU PENG: Thank you Eric for having me here.
ERIC: So let’s start our conversation with a topic that is in a lot of peoples’ minds, the FOCAC summit. The Forum on China Africa Cooperation happens every three years, it’s supposed to happen this year; rumors are that it will happen sometime in September, but we’ve also heard that it might be moved back to November. We’re not sure if it’s going to be a virtual summit or a hybrid summit. Could you tell us more about the plan for the FOCAC and any details that you can tell us in terms of logistics?
WU PENG: About the exact date of the meeting, we’re still consulting African countries and I think the upcoming FOCAC meeting is a big event between China and Africa this year. As you may be aware, this FOCAC meeting will be held in Dakar Senegal. As I said, the exact date, we are not certain.
As usual, we will review the implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing summit 2018 and adopt a new declaration and acting plan.
I think the pandemic, has brought uncertainties, to the upholding of such a large-scale international meeting, but anyway both China and Africa have a strong determination to make the meeting a success. The preparation work is now underway; I hope we could have more impetus for future cooperation between China and Africa. And if you may, I would like to highlight three views:
Three: Investment and Agriculture: China has been Africa’s largest trade partner country for 12 consecutive years, of course, and by the way, the European Union (EU) is the largest trading partner but not in terms of countries. Despite the impact of the pandemic, the trade volume between China and Africa has grown by 42% year on year in the first half of this year; reaching about 117 billion USD. This is encouraging recovery growth.
This year also marks the official launch of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA). China will continue to support the creation of the AFCTA secretariat and explore free trade cooperation with African countries. I would like to point out that, China never pursues a trade surplus with Africa.
As a country, we hope that China-Africa trade will be balanced and especially promote the export of African products, including Agriculture products to China.
Secondly about Investment, China has encouraged various types of enterprises including SOEs, private companies, and SME’s to invest more in Africa and promote new models of cooperation. In this regard, neither the Nairobi expressway in Kenya or the Lekki deepwater port project in Nigeria, are among the good examples. A few days ago, the China-Africa business council, a Chinese NGO, released a report on China’s investment in Africa. The report titled “Market power and rule of the private sector” means that Africa’s promising future is attracting more and more Chinese investment and we will push harder for that.
My colleagues have sent the report to you Eric before it was published, right?
ERIC: Yes it was. If we could ask a few questions about the report; Cobus. Why don’t you pick up the conversation from there?
COBUS: The report is really interesting, and I was surprised to see that there’s quite a lot of increase in Chinese investment in Africa despite the covid-19 pandemic. What do you think of some of the biggest challenges that Chinese companies face when they invest in Africa?
WU PENG: Actually, I have also read through the report carefully being very inspired by the depths and breadth of China’s investment in Africa as described in the report. I think there are some challenges, for example, how those Chinese companies can have long-term strategies in Africa. I mean, Chinese enterprises, are transferring from going into Africa to taking root in Africa.
From my observations through this report, I found that coordination, among different entities, has been widely adopted. We can see that Chinese companies would like to work with more players entering the investment practice, no matter if they are African enterprises, business councils, or international organizations. They are all welcome to join the investment cooperation to leverage the respective plans to make investment bolder and efficient.
The second observation for me is, more and more private enterprises are giving more attention to Africa. In the past very small-sized companies, family companies were willing to go to Africa. But now at least, large private companies are. I got from the report that out of the top 500 Chinese private enterprises, 60 have invested in Africa. Moreover, in South America, they are 36 and Oceania has 46 and those big private enterprises mainly invest in Africa in building factories and establishing markets and the logistics network.
And the other thing is to think is that they are facing challenges of transferring the field from the very traditional field to a new field. I mean more focus that has been given to emerging industries such as, as you have noticed that we encourage, more Chinese enterprises to work with African partners, in industries like high technology, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, digital economy or e-commerce, and space industry to boost the industrialization process. Thank you.
ERIC: Staying with the report very quickly, one of the other findings of the report was that 62% of all of the foreign investment from China into Africa goes to about 12 countries. That also goes mirrors in many respects the trade dynamics as well where 70% of African exports come from about 10 countries. So there is a very unequal distribution of where trade and investment are going mostly from resource-rich exporting countries.
You mention for example that China does not like to have trade surpluses with African countries which makes sense but the reality is that the majority of African countries do have trade deficits with China. What are you doing in the foreign ministry and together with your partners in the ministry of commerce and other government ministries to help spread out Chinese investments and trade in Africa and to reduce some of those trade deficits which do put a lot of pressure on some African governments?
WU PENG: We are working on that with the ministry of commerce general, customs authority, and related Chinese authorities. We are preparing some new measures to promote China-Africa trade relations especially encouraging the importation of more agricultural products from Africa but I cannot say too much at this moment because those new measures will be announced in the upcoming FOCAC meeting. But let just touch upon one field, for example, agriculture. I think agriculture is the key to food security and the foundation of the national economy and even social stability. So we are thinking about, how we can provide more easy access to the Chinese market for African agricultural products. Actually, there are a lot of African products that can enter the Chinese market, but it’s not enough. So, what we can do now, is to put some even more privileged policies or measures to encourage Chinese companies to import more products from Africa, I really cannot say too much about that, we will have to wait and see at the FOCAC meeting.
COBUS: Related to trade and investment, China is also a massive provider of infrastructure in Africa and we’ve seen over the last three years that China has been quite thoughtful about which projects it will choose to finance and there have been quite significant changes in the field over the last two or three years bout which projects get chosen, which don’t. Given the importance of infrastructure development in Africa, could you talk a little bit about these changes and what you foresee the future of Chinese infrastructure provision will be?
WU PENG: Of course, infrastructure cooperation is a very important and successful part of China-Africa pragmatic cooperation, at least for me; it is also an area where there are many challenges and even misunderstandings. From china’s experience, infrastructure is crucial for economic development, we all know that Africa had a big gap and an argent need for infrastructure and China took it as a priority for China Africa cooperation. Like no one else.
Due to the COVID-19 global economic recession, the investment and financial support for large-scale infrastructure projects in Africa have become more cautious from both sides: the Chinese and African sides. This is understandable, but we are trying to find a new way to navigate the saturation, we encourage Chinese companies to join the government efforts in this regard. For example, adopt models such as build Operate Transfer (BOT) or Private Participation in Infrastructure Projects (PPP) considered to reduce project size, to make it more economically feasible, etc.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about a case regarding the operation of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya. Of course, obviously, I am a former Chinese ambassador to Kenya, so I personally have an interest in that case. I noticed an article published in Kenya’s business daily, which asserted that Afristar, the operating company of the SGR demanded billions of shillings of operating fees owed before handing over the SGR.
ERIC: Yes: It was about 350 million dollars.
WU PENG: I think this is misleading. Actually, the Kenya Railways (KR) has already taken over ticketing, security, and fuelling functions. This is why Kenya Railways made an instant statement to respond to the article in the same newspaper. But I regret that some media friends ignored the response of the Kenya Railways.
Let me take this opportunity to say a little bit more about the SGR. In 2020 when global business was severely hit by the pandemic, the company itself, Afristar, had estimated revenues because they had handed over some operations of the SGR. So the total revenue reached about 124 million USD. This is not easy in the context of the pandemic. In the first half of this year compared to the same period of last year, the revenue of the SGR increased by about 30%. By this I mean the cargo, revenue. So the railway has almost surpassed the breaking even point but of course, not very much.
Its current profits are not enough to cover the loans, I understand that. I know that. But at least, its operation does not cause new spending for the Kenyan government. And to my knowledge, the company and Kenya Railways are in close and very professional communication on how to reduce expenditure and they have made good progress. My point is, it is all about business and the spirit of contract that is the pillar of the free market. No government could force any company into a bad deal. Not to mention even a country.
I wish the media could cover China-Africa cooperation story in an objective and balanced way.
ERIC: Let me just make sure that I understand what you’re saying. So we can go back to the question of the loan. So this was a loan payment that Kenya railway missed last year for approximately, 350 million USD. Business daily, they said, according to their reporting, that “unless KR repays Afristar for this loan, then they will not complete the transition of the handover that was being done 5 years earlier in order to help KR to reduce about 120 million USD a year in service fees that would normally have been paid. Your understanding is that that loan now has been settled, and it is not an issue and that the handover can continue as originally planned. Is that what you’re saying?
WU PENG: I cannot speak on behalf of the bank or the company, but I can assure you that the loan is not related to the handover issue. You know the handover issue is only according to the business contract signed by Afristar and KR. I think that is what I want to say. Not related to the loan and not related to the issue of Kenyan railway owing some money to Afristar. No relation to that. I am fully convinced that they can, through friendly and professional negotiation to handle this handover issue. That’s my point.
ERIC: One of the things that we want to do with our discussion today because this is such a rare opportunity to have the chance to speak with someone like yourself, is we want to open up the discussion to beyond just Cobus and me and include scholars, journalist and analysts from around Africa and the world and since we are talking about the SGR, and because of your expertise on the SGR related to your time as ambassador in Nairobi, our first question is going to come from who you may actually be familiar with, his name is Gyude Moore, he is the former minister of public works in Liberia, he is now a senior policy fellow at the center for global development. He has a question for you Mr. Director-General about how China is managing its loan portfolio in Kenya and the repayment of the debt for the SGR.
Gyude Moore: My question is about the conclusions African countries are supposed to draw from what is unfolding between China and Kenya especially when it comes to the deferral of interest payments. China has always described this relationship with its African partners as an all-weather one; that China is an all-weather friend, the economic weather isn’t going too well across Africa right now because of the consequences of COVID-19, but we’ve seen Chinese policy banks refuse to accept deferral of interest payments. So what conclusions are African countries to draw from what is happening between China and Kenya?
WU PENG: I can understand you asking me about the debt of the loan in question. But very frankly, I’m not in the position to elaborate on many details on that. But, I’m willing to respond to the debt issue in a very general way.
I think the discussion of the African debt problem is already under track within the framework of the G-20. As an important development partner of Africa and a G-20 member, China attaches great importance to the debt issue of the African countries and gives priority to; for example the debt service suspension initiative (DSSI) of the G20. To date, China has signed agreements and reached agreements on debt suspension with 19 African countries. With this fact, we can learn that Chinese official creditors have made great contributions to the implementation of the DSSI.
Meanwhile, Chinese commercial creditors, such as the Chinese Development Bank (CDB) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) are strongly encouraged to provide debt relief with comparable terms on a volunteer basis and hold friendly consultations on commercial loans with relevant African countries.
From what I know, the commercial banks did a good job. For example, CDB signed agreements with some African countries involving about 748 million USD which brought considerable benefits to Africa.
I think you are talking about Kenya’s loan. I think that from the second half of this year; the Kenyan government did not raise the request to enter the debt freeze of the SSR. So, they already paid back the loan to the Chinese Exim bank of China. And why they make this decision I don’t know. I don’t touch upon the details about this new agreement between the Exim Bank and Kenya side.
COBUS: Debt relief in Africa as you mentioned was a big topic of discussion last year, and it continues to be a big one in Africa particularly as African countries are trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. So there was attention paid to that last year, but it’s been a long time since there’s really been much new news or information on China’s broad-scale debt relief programs. In the run-up to the FOCAC summit, where are we now in debt relief in relation to debt relief rescheduling and repackaging of Chinese debt relief in Africa as we move towards the FOCAC summit?
WU PENG: I think in the forthcoming FOCAC meeting, debt relief is not a very important topic. I think the discussion of the African debt problem is indeed not a hard as last year. As I said, I believe that maybe this is already under the framework of the G20 but of course there are also some new developments I can share with you. China is rallying to work closely with the international community to deal with the debt problem of For example Chad, and other needed African countries under the common framework for debt treatment beyond the DSSI. I think the common framework of the G-20 is a new thing for everyone. We must respect the consensus and follow the rule.
In my opinion, to help Africa out of these difficulties, the international community needs to provide debt relief on one hand, and also financing support on the other. China has been pushing for the general occasion of SDR in the IMF so as to help Africa address the liquidity problem and narrow the continent’s financial gap for development; we support and call on allocating more quotas to Africa, supporting their economic recovery. But more importantly, it is not enough to get SDR quotas only, it’s just quotas, if the IMF, does not change its strict terms and very complicated procedures, it will still be difficult for African countries to get money through the, for example, IMF, ECF, or EFF arrangements. I think that the IMF needs some reforms so that It can provide financial assistance to Africa in a more timely manner and allocate more funds for investments expenditure rather than an expenditure of African countries.
ERIC: Has China publicly committed to devote its allocation of SDRs, which is considerable, to developing countries?
WU PENG: I think the allocation of SDR quotas, we will, through international institutions discuss, but before reaching any agreements, we cannot announce. But we are ready to do so.
ERIC: Let’s continue with our conversation. We are now going to Washington DC with Zainab Usman, who is the Director of the African program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. She has a question about climate change. We are going to turn to the environment and energy now. She wants to know about the role of Chinese investment, really dealing with this issue of climate change which is very urgent in many places in Africa.
Zainab Usman: How will Chinese economic engagement in Africa respond to the imperatives of climate change? Specifically, will Chinese entities reorient their investments in African countries? For example, are we going to see more investments in clean energy industries such as solar panels, battery manufacturing, and electric vehicles assembly plants in African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, and South Africa which are rich in mineral resources like Cobalt and Nickel that are essential to these industries? Will there be an increase or decrease in investments in hydrocarbon projects such as oil and gas pipelines in oil and gas-rich countries in Africa?
And finally, will there be an effort to invest in climate-resilient infrastructures such as roads, ports, bridges, etc that can withstand extreme weather events which occur a lot more frequently in several African countries. In short, how will Chinese economic engagement in Africa respond to the imperatives of global climate action?
WU PENG: It’s a very big question and climate change is a very hot topic. You know even in the world, China is very actively involved in discussions and taking action in dealing with climate change. Of course in Africa, we will contribute towards more green energy but before I mention that, I have to make some clarification about some allegation that China support a lot of coal mining or coal power stations in Africa because that is very important.
It is noticeable that China Africa cooperation on coal-powered stations was once in the spotlight. I have been following Chinese company’s participation in coal power plants in Africa for some time. Here is the truth I believe. China was only involved in four coal power plants under construction in Africa. They are located in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Among them, two projects, Kusile, and Medupi are in South Africa and are financed by the CDB). And Chinese companies did not directly participate in the construction of these two projects. The other two in Zimbabwe are called the Hwange power station extension project and the Zimbabwe Zhongxin electrical energy power station project; they are being constructed by Chinese companies.
In fact, since 2020, last year, China has never participated in any new coal power project in Africa. Therefore, I think it’s unfair to criticize china for damaging Africa’s environment by supporting china’s coal power projects. On the contrary, some large-scale clean energy plants have been financed or constructed by Chinese companies. As the world’s largest producer of solar energy products and other green energy products China fully supports green energy production.
Also, back to Kenya, because I’m familiar with that, a Chinese company completed East Africa’s first large-scale solar panel program in 2019. The 50 megawatts facility is expected to amplify Kenya’s quest for energy needs while creating jobs and transfer technology.
I also want to emphasize that developing countries should keep eyes on their private capital which mean resources to support Africa’s coal power projects, in addition, I think we must ask the question; it is easy to urge Africa to reduce coal power projects, but the international community should do more to help Africa find alternative and effective solutions to insufficient power supply. It can’t be denied that Africa desperately needs energy, so for the forthcoming FOCAC meeting, green energy is a priority. It is on the list in our action plan.
Same here, I cannot say much about the new measures, but I think, even about the climate change, the next coming FOFCAC meeting will have the big move in dealing with climate change between cooperation with china Africa.
COBUS: Staying on the issue of the environment, one of the issues at the moment in Africa- China relations is that there have been several controversies over the work of specific Chinese companies, and the impact on the natural environment. One that became particularly controversial is the fishing and fishmeal factory in Sierra Leone and we know that you also have personal experience in Sierra Leone. What are your views about these kinds of environmental concerns? Particularly some of the challenges between local communities in Africa and Chinese companies in making sure that some of these projects are environmentally sustainable?
WU PENG: Recently, I noticed the fish harbor project in Sierra Leone was discussed in the media. I used to be the Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone; I love this country very much.
As to the project, I will post some comments. In terms of development assistance programs, I think the fisheries harbor project is a donation from the Chinese government. China has a set of procedures for decision-making. The Chinese embassy and the related relevant ministry always have full discussion with African governments before and action. Actually, I mean the Sierra Leone government.
If someone says that China does not respect the people’s will, think I cannot agree but I can understand what they’re talking about. You know China as a foreign government or our embassy as a foreign government representative; we must respect the official channel. In other words, what we can and must consult with our African government. China only asks what the African government wants us to do. Because the African government is elected by its people; it represents the interests of its own people. From this point, to respect the view of the request of the government is to respect the will and the request of the people. This is a common practice for all African partners.
Of course, on the other hand, I know you are talking about experience to deal with these NGOs and local communities, I cannot deny that, but it’s not necessarily that never talk with them. We also attach importance to the voice of the local people. When I was ambassador to Kenya, I had once discussed the construction of a coal power station with the social groups who opposed the project face to face. I want to make it clear; China never thinks it’s appropriate to give lectures to our African friends; this is a basic norm of respect; even in our Chinese philosophy and culture. So, on the issue of the fisheries project, the Chinese side is responsible and professional, we do not only listen to the African countries, but we also make our own judgments based on our own experience.
We believe this is a good project for them. So, on that, we agree. I have been to black Johnson, the site of the planned fisheries port for a site visit; I found no green forest. The project’s estimated cost is only 40 million USD, not a large-scale port. We already spent, (you know sometimes I feel very embarrassed), three years already passed in discussions about the port, maybe we even need 30 years, we will not be able to complete the project. Frankly speaking, in my opinion, it’s a waste of development opportunity and against the view and interests of the people. As we know to build the fisheries hub, was at the request of the Sierra Leone government, not pushed by China. If the government of Sierra Leone decides to cancel this project, whatever the reason is, China will respect it. We must be very responsible. I mean China is very responsible for the Chinese taxpayers’ money and never wastes any penny on what African countries do not need or do not like.
ERIC: This touches big problem that seems to exist between China-Africa relations where this is just a perception, there is no way to scientifically determine if its fact or not. There is a perception that the Chinese Embassy is very good at building relationships with the government, but they are not as good as doing what you did. And what you did was highly exceptional, by meeting with DECOLONIZE and the Lamu group, which doesn’t happen very often in the Chinese Embassy around Africa. The perception is that on the civil society side China doesn’t invest time and resources to build that relationship and that’s why there is a perception of mistrust and distrust and these tensions that seem to come up through social media and NGO’s and whatnot. Can you address that perception and how China deals with civil societies in Africa and how China deals with governments?
WU PENG: Although Eric I cannot agree with your perception, let me put it into the display. Yes maybe there are is a lot of room to improve. We are learning alright, and I think we also noticed that public opinion is very important for our relationship with Africa. But the problem is the staff in our embassies is very small, especially in African countries and a lot of things we have to deal with. That is not an excuse but a fact. But I hear and thank you so much to remind this suggestion to us pay attention to social media, to the local community it’s good advice. I got it and we will try to improve.
ERIC: I’d like to say one thing very quickly. In the new joint guidelines that came out from the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Commerce, there are new guidelines on green development. Also in the China-Africa business council report, there is a lot more emphasis on local engagements; engage with local media; engage with local NGOs. That is a new form of rhetoric coming from Chinese officials stakeholders that we have not seen. I will say that I have noticed in the past one or two years.
We are running out of time; let me make sure we get to a couple of more questions. I do appreciate how much time you are spending with us. The next question is going to come from somebody you may also know from your time in Kenya his name is Aggrey Mutambo, he is a reporter for the Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya and he has a question on Chinas role in the blue maritime economy.
Aggrey Mutambo: From an African perspective, of course, the biggest question of the year has been always been about China and debt. But of late, there have been a series of accusations that Chinese vessels are taking away fish belonging to African waters without following due procedures. Without going into the specifics of whether there has been exploitation, I just wanted to know, what is Chinas proposal to improve Africa’s blue economy, as you may know, most African countries are slowly beginning to identify marine resources as some of the areas that need to be explored?
ERIC: China maritime and the blue water and the distance fishing issue is a big concern in many parts of Africa. What can you tell us about that?
WU PENG: Thank you for the question from our Kenyan friends. But for me, I really don’t understand what is meant by the blue economy. Is it just a means of fishing? Maybe, but it also demonstrates that when we are talking about the blue economy, often you just refer to a very conceptual idea, very difficult to turn it into real action.
For example, whether China promotes fisheries Industry in Africa; personally, I don’t like it because, from my personal experience working in Africa, it causes a lot of disputes in the fishery industry. I don’t like it at all. We just talked about Sierra Leone and the fishing port. Do you know why the Sierra Leonean government wants the fishing port? It’s because they want to levy more tax on the fishing boats and most fishing boats are actually from China. Do you know who is against the fishing port? Ironically, it’s those Chinese fishing companies that own and operate in Sierra Leone. So it doesn’t matter, I think the fishery Industry in Africa is very complicated and as a diplomat, I would rather the African governments make a decision. We can only do what African countries want us to do, including in the marine blue economy. For example, if they think ocean farm is a good idea; that it’s an environmentally friendly project, okay we can cooperate and China has a lot of experience in marine farming, but if we do that. I call tell you, it will also generate a lot of criticism from the media. So I personally do not like the so-called blue economy cooperation. We must be very cautious. I don’t say too much on this topic
COBUS: I just like to move the conversation to COVID-19 vaccines. Obviously, Chinese vaccines are being used in Africa but we have also seen quite large differences between China’s distribution to Africa and other parts of the global south like Latin America for example. And at the same time within Africa, many more vaccines are going to few counties, about five countries than other countries. So I was wondering if you could explain what factors are involved in the choice of where Chinese vaccines go in Africa and how that fits into the broader Silk Road agenda.
WU PENG: Your question surprises me a little bit because am very busy in my daily life and work to deal with COVID-19 distribution issue. I never think about what factors influence my decision. So, I would like to put it into this way; since the beginning of this year, China began to provide vaccine assistance and export to Africa countries in need. My routine work, when one African country requests vaccine assistance through the official channel, I care about three points.
- Do we get emergency use authorization in that country?
- Do have financial support from the Chinese side on vaccine donations.
- Do we have enough vaccines from Chinese companies?
To tell the truth, we were under pressure to provide vacancies for our foreign friends due to huge domestic needs especially earlier this year. From last February, we started to provide vaccine assistance to African countries, while at the same time; I remember more than 95% of the population in China had not been vaccinated. China provided assistance to Africa in the face of our own vaccination shortage. Fortunately, with the development of vaccine production capacity, supply has been improved very much and the price of Chinese vaccines sold in foreign countries has declined a lot and so, export volume to Africa will continue to increase.
I believe we must support Africa to enhance its own vaccine production capacity. China encouraged its vaccines companies to transfer technology to African countries and has successfully kicked off its local manufacturing cooperation with a few African countries like Egypt and Morocco. At least, I try my best to develop this kind of manufacturing operation in sub-Saharan Africa but frankly, it’s not easy at all. We formally support the river of intellectual property protection for vaccines, and we call on the international community to promote equal vaccine distribution and oppose any kind of vaccine nationalism. Let me put it in short; you know we provide vaccines to African countries under their request. I remember, no country made a request. We try our best within our capacity to provide vaccine assistance no matter donation or sale to those African countries that really need Chinese vaccines
ERIC: I assured your staff that you would get you out on time and I want to live up to my promise Director-General Wu Peng. Thank you so much for taking your time to speak to us it was great just to be able to hear your insights on some of these matters because we don’t hear from Chinese officials like yourself very often we really appreciate the time.
WU PENG: Eric thank you so much. Let me say a few words at the last minute. You always say that we Chinese officials are reluctant to communicate with the media. I really don’t think so. I appreciate you Eric and your colleague for your close attention to China-Africa cooperation and I always find time for me to read your articles and comments. I listen to your podcast despite my very tight schedule. From this point actually, I read your reports. Why do I spend time on your website? Because you are objective and your constructive reports and comments attract me. They make me better understand China-Africa cooperation from a different perspective.
But we honestly don’t agree on a lot about your report but that doesn’t matter. You know you say some people say Chinese officials do not like interviews but you know Chinese are actually willing to communicate with media but due to cultural shock, in a particular language barrier, even for me it’s very difficult to speak in English. We seem not active to communicate with foreigners. Next time if you raised a question in Chinese more Chinese officials will be eager to engage. However, I know your listeners are English native speakers so we have to speak English in your program. Why not raise questions in Chinese? I hope that there will be more and more journalists or reporters like you Eric who can speak Chinese and try to find out more about the real China. Thank you.
ERIC: Thank you we are glad and honored that you take your time to read our writing every day in the newsletter. We are glad that we can have some points of disagreement and have this conversation.
I will take you up on the offer of interviewing Chinese officials and scholars even if we have to use Chinese to speak Chinese. The problem is when we have webinars, you will have Africans, Americans, Europeans, and no Chinese.
WU PENG: Okay things are changing. Next time I can help you to interview Chinese officials, scholars, and experts on Africa.
ERIC: wonderful we will take you up on that offer. Thank you again for that offer.
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