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Wang Yi heads to Africa for first visit of year

This June 12, 2018 photo shows Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaking at a press conference in Beijing. (ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY)

Defeating the pandemic, achieving economic recovery and dovetailing new measures for practical cooperation between China and Africa will be high on the agenda as State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi kicks off his first overseas visit of the new year to the continent on Tuesday, officials and experts said.

The four-day trip to the continent will take Wang to Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros. He will also visit the Maldives and Sri Lanka afterward.

Since 1991, Africa has been the first overseas destination of the year for China's foreign minister.

Noting that it is a fine tradition of China's diplomacy, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier that it fully demonstrated the priority China gives to China-Africa relations and the growing profound friendship between the two sides.

It also showed China's firm support for Africa as it seeks strength through unity, development and revitalization, he added.

"Neither the evolving international landscape nor the raging COVID-19 pandemic can weaken the will and determination of China and Africa to maintain friendly exchanges, enhance strategic communication and render each other firm support or diminish China's attention and support to Africa," Zhao said.

Zeng Aiping, deputy director of the Department for Developing Countries Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said China and Africa had become an important strategic force by both being committed to upholding equity and justice and supporting each other. The two sides had upheld the rights and interests of developing countries, he added

The past year was a milestone in Sino-African ties as it marked the 65th anniversary of the start of China-Africa diplomatic relations. Also, the year marked the 21st anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

The eighth Ministerial Meeting of FOCAC was held in November, during which President Xi Jinping proposed the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation for the first time.

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Li Wentao, deputy director of the Institute of African Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the spirit was the upgraded version of the principles of China's Africa policy-sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, adding that it would provide a source of strength for furthering China-Africa ties.

Zeng Aiping, deputy director of the Department for Developing Countries Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said China and Africa had become an important strategic force by both being committed to upholding equity and justice and supporting each other. The two sides had upheld the rights and interests of developing countries, he added.

Li said every item of the practical programs Xi proposed at the meeting contains concrete measures in terms of cooperation, which once again shows the world the confidence and resilience of bilateral cooperation, adding that the forum has become a standard-bearer of international development and cooperation, and a fine example of South-South cooperation.

As Xi also announced at the meeting that China would provide an additional 1 billion vaccine doses to Africa, Li said it was the largest vaccine assistance plan undertaken by a single country to help Africa since the start of the pandemic.

"China not only lends hope to Africa in bridging the immunization gap, but also enhances its public health capacity building through varied means including the joint production of vaccines and technology transfer," Li said, adding that China had taken the lead and was a model in terms of helping the continent.

According to the scholars, China not only consolidated its traditional spheres of cooperation with African countries, but also fostered new growth drivers including the digital economy and climate change cooperation.

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Li said practical cooperation in the digital field is a highlight of bilateral cooperation, which would help the continent seize the opportunity presented by the information revolution, bridge the digital divide and build a digital Africa.

In August, China and African countries formulated and implemented a plan for China-Africa digital innovation partnership.