China’s foreign minister’s first trip abroad, like all visits, began with a trip to Africa. It marked the 33rd consecutive year the continent was the destination of Chinese foreign minister’s annual first overseas visit. That trip was followed by a subsequent trip to Africa by the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
The new Chinese foreign minister and former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, embarked on a five-country tour. He began in Ethiopia and met with the Chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
During a ceremony for the completion of the China-aided Project of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters, which the U.S. backed out of during the Trump administration, Qin made several statements. “We are in the 10th year since President Xi Jinping put forth, in 2013, the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and of pursuing the greater good and shared interests for China’s relations with Africa. Over the past decade, with the joint guidance and commitment of Chinese and African leaders, China-Africa relations have made historic achievements that impressed the whole world, and entered a new era of building a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future,” he said.
“President Xi Jinping has visited Africa four times. The FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) Summit has been held twice. Our two sides have worked together to advance the ten cooperation plans, eight major initiatives and nine programs. Our cooperation against COVID-19 has delivered good results. All this embodies the vibrant spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation,” added Qin.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed met with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin in Addis Ababa. According to Fmprc.com, Ahmed said that Qin Gang’s choice of Ethiopia as the first stop of his first overseas visit since taking office fully demonstrates the profound friendship between the two countries and the importance of bilateral relations.
Ethiopia’s cooperation with China in such areas as infrastructure, green economy, agriculture and industrial park construction has been exemplary and produced remarkable results, helping Ethiopia to rank among the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Ahmed added, more Chinese enterprises are welcome to invest and do business in Ethiopia. Qin also visited Angola, Benin and Gabon during the tour which was from January 9-16.
The Biden administration’s response to the Chinese foreign minister’s tour of Africa was to send Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on a 10-day trip to the continent, which included Senegal, Zambia and South Africa. Her trip started Jan. 17 and goes through Jan. 28.
Regarding why the timing of this matters, Axios reported, “The Biden administration is trying to counter China’s entrenched influence and infrastructure in the region by offering African countries an alternative path on economic and political security.”
The U.S. is trying to mitigate China’s influence in Africa by suggesting “debt burdens of doing business with Beijing (and) calling … infrastructure projects ‘exploitive,’” noted Al Mayadeen, an independent Arab media channel.
During a press conference on his first stop in Addis Ababa, Qin stated, “Africa should be a big stage for international cooperation, not an arena for major-force rivalry.” He added, as though preempting the U.S. response, “The China-United States relationship should not be about a competitive one or a zero-sum game that enlarges one’s own gain at the expense of the other,” he said. “Otherwise, it will only hurt both sides and even the world.”
The last leg of China’s chief diplomat tour was in Cairo, where he met separately with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit. Qin also met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.
During a meeting with el-Sissi, the Chinese foreign minister said Beijing would continue to develop its investment in Egypt’s infrastructure projects, including those with links to China’s Belt and Road initiative, reported the Associated Press.
AP noted that China “has invested billions of dollars in Egyptian state-led projects such as the Suez Canal Economic Zone and the new administrative capital, which is being built east of Cairo.”
During a joint press briefing with his Egyptian counterpart Shoukry, in the Egyptian capital Cairo, Qin said, “China is deeply worried” about the recent escalation of tensions between Israel and Palestine. “Israel should stop all incitement and provocation and avoid any unilateral actions that might lead to aggravation of the situation,” he said.
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