Xi Jinping pushes back against criticism of new colonialism

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa (left) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping after his speech during the opening ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Sept 3, 2018.
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa (left) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping after his speech during the opening ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Sept 3, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday forgave the debts of some poorer African nations in an apparent pushback against criticism that China engages in "debt trap diplomacy" and new colonialism.

This was as African leaders came to China's defence, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa saying the betterment of people's lives in Africa as a result of cooperation with China belies the view that there is a new colonialism in Africa.

The leaders were speaking at the opening of the 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac), a platform for cooperation that ranges from economics to security.

This year's triennial meeting has greater significance as China faces a trade war with the United States, and rising protectionism threatens the multilateral trading system.

It also comes as Beijing is facing criticism that it is engaging in a new form of colonialism in its exploitation of Africa's resources and practising "debt trap diplomacy" to gain control of Africa's strategic ports and secure access to its oil.

In an apparent response to the criticism, Mr Xi in his speech said China followed a five-nos approach, including "no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa".

Mr Ramaphosa in his speech said the forum was an effective platform for cooperation focused "on the tangible improvement of the quality of lives of all the people of Africa".

 
 

"In the values that it promotes, in the manner that it operates and in the impact that it has on African countries, Focac refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa, as our detractors would have us believe," he added.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the current chair of the African Union, while highlighting the bonds between China and Africa, sought to reassure other countries anxious about Beijing's engagement in the continent.

"Africa is not a zero-sum game, our growing ties with China do not come at anyone's expense. Indeed, the gains are enjoyed by everyone who does business on our continent," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2018, with the headline 'Xi pushes back against criticism of new colonialism'. Print Edition | Subscribe