Every time the Chinese head of state visited Africa, there were voices saying that China is "plundering" Africa's resources and implementing "neocolonialism" in the continent. In fact, the countries that President Xi Jinping visited this time are not resource-rich ones, such as Senegal, Rwanda and Mauritius. Besides the above clichés, there are new terms such as "debt imperialism" and "exporting the China model to Africa." They also view the exchanges on governing experience between China and Africa as a way of exporting the China model to Africa.
Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times
Before President Xi's visit to Africa, a dialogue between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and some 40 parties and organizations from nearly 40 African countries was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They shared ideas on "theories and practices of Chinese and African political parties in exploring development paths suitable to national situation." The open discussion had nothing to do with the so-called "exporting the China model."
Exchanging experiences and exporting a model are two entirely different things which should not be mixed up. Every country needs to learn from another's successful experiences to avoid making mistakes or wasting time.
Take China as an example. It has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty and has become the second largest economy in the world. Its per capita GDP was lower than Burkina Faso and Malawi 40 years ago.
Not only African countries want to know what's behind China's success, but also Western scholars who study China's development. They have invented terms such as "the Beijing consensus" and "the China model."
It's a new task for all developing countries to achieve modernization in the context of globalization, and they are all exploring a new development model. Instead of copying the West, China selectively learned from other countries' experience. During the 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has acquired experience in industry, agriculture, poverty alleviation, education, foreign trade and other areas.
China's experience has two ingredients. On the one hand, China's gradual reform balances relations among reform, development and stability; on the other, China has a powerful government which focuses on development and keeps its sights fixed on the future.
As a developing country undergoing transition, reform will influence social structure and stability. However, stability should be a prerequisite to reform. Stability has been a top priority during China's reform and opening-up. Beijing seeks development with balance between stability and reform. The Chinese government has been steering its view of development to keep pace with the times.
Although the world has seen China's achievements in economic development, only few people understand that the country's economic reform is inseparable from political and social reform. Although China's economic reform has been most notable, the changes have been comprehensive, influencing political, cultural and social systems.
By implementing gradual reform in the supervision and balancing of power, China has promoted economic reform and ensured harmony among different nations and classes in the context of extensive social and economic transition.
Although China is facing many developmental challenges including the wealth gap and unbalanced regional development, it is enjoying unprecedented economic, social and political benefits. That's also the reason why the development-oriented "Beijing consensus" can compete with the "Washington consensus" that aims to promote liberal ideas and is increasingly becoming popular among developing countries.
Different from the exchanges of experience between China and Africa, the US has been promoting the US model. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said about Africa during his speech at Detroit Economic Club: "I am confident that that growth will occur with a model that looks more like the West than China."
In fact, no country can impose its own development model on Africa. Africa has been exploring its own model since the 21st century and it has the right to choose whom to learn from. It's easy to tell which one is better: the US' "America First" doctrine or China's Belt and Road initiative and concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
African countries have enough wisdom and courage to choose a model to draw lessons from, and to create one that suits their own culture and economy.
The author is a research fellow at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute.