China committed to global development, considers Africa an important partner

by Tanaka Chitsa
China has pledged to continue with an active role in promoting global socio-economic development and considers Africa as an important partner in reforming world affairs.

This was part of the discussion at the recent National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) often referred to as the “Two Sessions” held from 5-15 March in Beijing.

The Two Sessions are a major policy debate held annually at this time, through which China reviews its national, regional and global development priorities, and implementation of annual and five-year plans.

In reviewing the annual work plan, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said it is critical for all countries to continue working together to revive the global economy, which is experiencing some challenges due to a number of factors.

“All countries must work together on global trade,” Premier Li said, adding that China will remain an important engine for global socio-economic development.

He said China supports globalization, free trade as well as opening up its economy, and the country is already involved in various initiatives with different partners to promote global socio-economic development.

One such initiative is the One Belt One Road Strategy that was first announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

Titled “Visions and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” and collectively known as “Belt and Road”, this a development policy with a holistic vision of economic, political and security development to reach out and initiate action to jointly build a new world order that is development-oriented, for mutual prosperity and human security.

This vision for the overland Silk Road Economic Belt, and the Maritime Silk Road by sea has the potential to change the global political and economic landscape through rapid development of infrastructure and transport corridors of countries along the routes, and the emphasis is on “joint”.

The initiative will establish new routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe. It has two parts — a new Silk Road Economic Belt linking China to Europe through Central Asia; and the Maritime Silk Road that links China’s ports with India and the African coast and through Suez to Europe.

There is already significant impact in some countries in Africa, and some ports are being constructed or reconstructed in Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Kenya.

In Kenya, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway line (SGR) is one of the first entry points in Africa and is already taking shape with the initial shipment of locomotives received in January.

Significant rehabilitation work has also been done at the port of Nacala and related road/rail infrastructure in northern Mozambique.

The SGR is expected to connect other countries in Africa including Rwanda and Uganda, as part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 vision of a continent interconnected by road and rail.

Various finance institutions have been set up to finance infrastructure projects under the One Belt One Road Initiative such as the Silk Road Fund, Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the New Development Bank.

Some of the domestic issues discussed by the Two Sessions in Beijing include unemployment and poverty reduction, a revision on the 70-year land-use of properties among others, and environmental pollution including a smog research fund.

A new fund will be set up to pool the knowledge of the country’s top scientists to discover the cause of smog that frequently blankets northern China in winter.

Foreign policy issues were discussed in the context of the need to promote global peace and stability as well as China’s role in reforming world affairs.

The NPC is China’s parliament in which 3,000 delegates review the government’s annual work report on results for the previous year, draft provisions of the law, and approve the work plan for the coming year in the context of the targets of the five-year plan.

The new year in China, sometimes called the lunar new year, begins after the Spring Festival, usually in February.

The “Two Sessions” held in March refers to the dual role of the CPPCC, a political advisory chamber which meets during the same period, as a system of consultative democracy. The 2,200 delegates who meet at CPPCC represent various political parties, private sector and civil society backgrounds to discuss and share ideas with policymakers.

Both the NPC and the CPPCC have secretariats that work year round to support the governance process.

There are a number of political parties in China, including the Communist Party of China (CPC) which is in power, and they are involved in a system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation that also includes the national organizations for women, youth, trade unions, and industry/commerce.

When the state is to adopt major policies or decide on major issues concerning the national economy and livelihoods, the CPC, as the ruling party, will consult with various ethnic groups (there are 56), political parties, people’s organizations, and unaffiliated experts, to reach common understanding through conferences, forums and briefings, before final decisions are made.

After years of practice, the multiparty cooperation and political consultation have been institutionalized and standardized in content and procedures, to become an important part of the regular political activity in the country.