Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Zimbabwe and South Africa

by Phyllis Johnson – SANF 15 no 64
The leader of the world’s largest economy and most populous nation will visit Zimbabwe on 1-2 December before going to South Africa to attend the 2nd Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on 3-5 December.

Both visits are significant for the countries, the region and the continent of Africa as some transformational agreements will be signed during the visit to Zimbabwe, and the FOCAC Summit is expected to strengthen and expand China-Africa cooperation, including a strong regional dimension.

President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China will first call on President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who is the current chair of the African Union, and the two leaders are expected to sign several agreements, largely on infrastructure development and investment.

His Excellency Xi Jinping is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

He is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee.

He is married to Peng Liyuan, an opera singer by profession, who inspired international coverage of China’s first modern Presidential couple. They have one child, a grown daughter who is a graduate of Harvard University in the United States.

Xi is the sixth man to rule the PRC, and the first who was born after the revolution in 1949.

Born in the capital, Beijing, on 15 June 1953, his family roots are in Fuping, Shaanxi Province. He has spent more than three decades in public life at all levels, from county, municipal, provincial and national leadership.

“During my meetings with some foreign leaders, they asked me in amazement: How to govern such a big country as China?” he said in an interview soon after taking office in 2012.

“Indeed, it is not easy to govern a country with 1.3 billion people. To get to know the situation is already a difficult task.

“I often say, it takes much effort to know China and it is not enough to just visit one or two places. China has 9.6 million square kilometres of land, 56 ethnic groups and 1.3 billion people.

“Thus, to get to know China, one needs to avoid the mistake of drawing conclusions based on partial information.”

He quoted a Chinese proverb that says, ‘Prime ministers used to be lowly officials; great generals rise from the ranks’.

“The system for selecting officials in China requires local work experience. For instance, I have worked in the rural areas as the party branch secretary of a production team. I have also served in county, municipal, provincial and central governments.

“Extensive experience gained from working at the community level enables an official to develop a people’s perspective and know what the country is truly like and what the people need.

“To accumulate experience and professional knowledge and enhance skills and capabilities in the course of practice is essential to doing one’s job well. …People are the source of our strength. As long as we stand with the people through thick and thin and work with them with one heart and one mind, there is nothing we can’t conquer or accomplish.”

He said he has little leisure time, but tries to make sure he has some time with his family. “I love reading most. Reading has become a way of life for me. I am also a sports fan, and I like swimming and mountain climbing.”

A former senior US official whose book on Dealing with China describes a decade of contact with President Xi, said, “He has been very forthright and candid—privately and publicly—about the fact that the Chinese are rejecting Western values and multiparty democracy. …

“He sees a strong Party as essential to stability, and the only institution that’s strong enough to help him accomplish his other goals.”

Former Australian foreign minister and prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who is fluent in the mandarin language, told The New Yorker that, “The bottom line in any understanding of who Xi Jinping is must begin with his dedication to the Party as an institution—despite the fact that through his personal life, and his political life, he has experienced the best of the Party and the worst of the Party.”

President Xi was previously Vice President from 2008-2013.

Like many of his generation, he was sent to the rural areas as a youth to work on a farm, returning later to register for higher education.

From 1969-1975 he worked as an educated youth sent to the countryside at Liangjiahe Brigade, Wen’anyi Commune, Yanchuan County, Shaanxi Province, where he joined the CPC and served as party branch secretary.

He studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing from1975-1979 as a student of basic organic synthesis at the Chemical Engineering Department.

He later returned to Tsinghua University for an on-the-job postgraduate programme at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences 1998-2002 and graduated with an LLD.

Xi has served in many senior positions of national leadership, starting as secretary at the General Office of the State Council and the General Office of the Central Military Commission from 1979-1982, before returning again to the provinces.

He served in Hebei province 1982-1985 and then Fujian province 1988-2002, rising to governor of the province, before transferring to Zhejiang as acting governor, and later Secretary of the CPC Zhejiang provincial committee and chair of the standing committee of the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Congress until 2007 when he was party secretary of the Shanghai municipal committee.

The year 2007 saw his rise through the ranks to national politics and governance as a member of the standing committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of CPC, as well as a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and President of the Party School until 2010. He became Vice President in 2008 and Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission in 2010.

Xi was an alternate member of the 15th CPC Central Committee, and member of the 16th CPC Central Committee. He is a member of the 17th CPC Central Committee, member of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee, and member of the Secretariat of the 17th CPC Central Committee.

China’s Africa Policy
China’s Africa Policy statement from the new Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping was presented at African Union headquarters in Ethiopia in 2014 by Premier Li Keqiang, who said:

“We should not limit our cooperation to energy, resources and infrastructure but expand it to industrialization, urbanization, agricultural modernization and many other areas, and put greater emphasis on green and low-carbon development as well as ecological and environmental protection.

“What is more, we should combine the role of the market with that of the government, enhance the synergy of business-society interactions and innovate on practical cooperation, so as to make China-Africa cooperation a model of complementarity, practical results and efficiency.”

Six areas were proposed to upgrade cooperation, including industrial and financial cooperation, poverty reduction, ecological and environmental protection, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, peace and security. These will inform the 6th ministerial meeting of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to be hosted by South Africa in Johannesburg in early December, followed by the 2nd FOCAC Summit.

Changing the structure of global development
China’s vision of the future was presented in a new policy framework announced by President Xi Jinping in March 2015, titled “Visions and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”

Collectively known as “Belt and Road”, this is 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, with mutual prosperity as its goal, and human security at its heart.

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 the African coast and through Suez to Europe.

China’s vision for the overland Silk Road Economic Belt, and the Maritime Silk Road by sea is expected to change the world political and economic landscape through rapid development of infrastructure and transport corridors of countries along the routes, and the emphasis is on “joint”.

African aspirations for the future are expressed in Agenda 2063 The Africa We Want, a development agenda approved by African leaders in 2013, with a 50-year horizon, founded on the African Union vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”

Agenda 2063 also reaches out to meet the Maritime Silk Road, saying that “Africa’s Blue/ocean economy, which is three times the size of its landmass, shall be a major contributor to continental transformation and growth, through knowledge on marine and aquatic biotechnology, the growth of an Africa-wide shipping industry, the development of sea, river and lake transport and fishing; and exploitation and beneficiation of deep sea mineral and other resources.”

While China is establishing global mechanisms for financing, such as the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank which attracted large-scale investments from Europe, the Silk Road Infrastructure Fund, and the New Development Bank propelled by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) countries, recipient countries are expected to grasp the vision and contribute to development in their own country and region.

Together these financial institutions are expected to amass 240 billion dollars in capital, and offer substantial international financing that provides alternatives to the Washington-based World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This article from the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) through its Institute for China-Africa Studies in Southern Africa, is part of a series exploring the dimensions of China Africa relations in advance of the FOCAC Summit to be held in Johannesburg in early December.