China Clarifies Its Namibian Interests

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What gave impetus to China-Africa cooperation [FOCAC], and why now? There has been a long traditional friendship between China and Africa dating back many years. When most African countries struggled for independence, China was standing firmly to support the just cause of the African people. After African countries gained their independence, China positively supported their endeavours to maintain independence and sovereignty, and to develop their national economies. In the new historical era, while African countries are striving for economic development to improve the living standards of its peoples, China has witnessed a rapid development period, which facilitates the necessity and opportunities to strengthen the friendly cooperation between the two parties. China is the largest developing country in the world and Africa is the continent where most of the developing countries gather. Therefore, both parties share a lot of common interests, and the demand for strengthening cooperation on international affairs has been on the rise. It is the need of mutual cooperation, mutual support, mutual assistance, and the need to learn from each other in the fields of politics, economics, culture and others that gave the new impetus to FOCAC to strengthen the cooperation in a wider range, wider fields and at a higher level. The China-Africa Cooperation Forum Beijing Summit, which was held recently, made the political resolution that China and Africa will build a new type of strategic partnership on the basis of equality and mutual trust in politics, cooperation and a win-win situation in the economy and exchanges, and to learn from each other in culture. This resolution is a political decision made by the two parties under the new circumstances. What characterises China’s relationship with Namibia in particular, and southern Africa and the rest of Africa in general? The most outstanding features are sincerity, friendship, mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits, mutual support and learning from each other. There is no hatred in the history between China and Africa. China has never invaded Africa and has never done anything that hurt the feelings of African people, and vice versa. China and Africa have all along respected the independence and sovereignty of each other, their choices of social systems and economic development modes, the adoption of principles of non-interference into each other’s internal affairs. The two parties have conducted friendly cooperation under the principles of equality and mutual benefit. And all along China and African countries have been learning from each other during the development of their countries, and have been supporting each other in international affairs to jointly maintain the legal rights of all developing nations. The China-Africa relationship can be deemed as a model of South-South cooperation, and it can also be a model for handling bilateral relations between different countries in the world. What intrinsic benefit does this relationship hold for Namibia? China was actively in support of the struggle of the Namibian people to gain independence, which positively contributed to the liberation and independence of Namibia. After independence, China’s relationship with Namibia is on the basis of the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’. China has provided economic aid to Namibia for the implementation of projects such as low-cost housing, borehole drilling, irrigation, building of a children’s centre and regional council buildings, and so on. And based on the principle of mutual benefit, China has developed trade relations with Namibia, which has brought low-cost commodities to Namibia and has enlarged the export market for Namibia’s products at fair prices in China. Similarly, science teachers and medical teams have been dispatched to work in Namibia, which was warmly welcomed by the Namibian Government and its people. China’s construction companies’ presence in Namibia has cut down the cost of construction in this country, which means that the Namibian Government and its people can pay less for more. During his state visit to Namibia, President Hu Jintao declared that China would provide Namibia with a range of newly added economic aid in February. Currently, the two countries are negotiating the implementation of the projects. We believe that this relationship will be raised to a new level through the joint efforts of both countries. Criticism has been levelled against China’s apparent scramble for Africa’s natural resources to feed its immense economic boom. Do you think such concerns are warranted? It is a fact that African countries have a lot of resources and they hope that foreign investors will come to develop these; they have commodities that need to be exported in exchange for commodities they do not produce locally. Those who are producing resources in Africa, who are importing raw materials from Africa, and those who are exporting commodities to Africa, are mainly Western countries. China has its investment, export and import businesses in Africa, but it covers only a small portion of the total. China does not enjoy special preference in this regard, and its investment conditions and prices of imported and exported commodities are the same as those from the Western countries. How can these critics justify themselves when they say China is scrambling for Africa’s resources while they know for a fact that others are controlling the lion’s share? Actually, those who are making these noises are not Africans, but those who are afraid of losing their vested interests gained through inequality and unjustness, or unfairness. Are you suggesting that Africans do not have a vested interest in their natural resources, and are thus not concerned how these are explored? The Chinese government is only interested to work within the framework of the laws and will of Namibia. If Namibia doesn’t allow any Chinese companies to come to the country, the Chinese cannot. Namibia has its policies to protect and develop its resources. It will gradually improve the utilisation of these resources. That is our sincere hope, and through that we will ensure that the cooperation will continue longer. I know a lot of knowledgeable African friends who hold the view that thanks to the imported commodities from China, which cannot be produced locally, African countries do not need to pay extra for the same commodities from other countries. And thanks to the enlargement of China’s import of African products, the market of African exports has been expanded and the prices have been raised. China’s investment in Africa’s resources sector helps the development in Africa. It is a fact that China has long been attaching great importance to Africa and many other countries followed. There was the speculation that Africa would be marginalised after the Cold War, but this did not happen. I believe most African people are clear, or will be clear, about the benefits that will be brought to them by China’s investment, trade and other forms of economic cooperation in Africa. How many Chinese nationals are currently in Namibia, and what are the businesses they are involved in? Our Embassy does not have accurate statistics, but currently there are roughly 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500 to 2ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 Chinese nationals here. An exaggeration of “more than 40ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000″ was published in the media months ago. There are different categories of Chinese nationals in Namibia. There are the investors of manufacturing and trade, as well as employees that – including their spouses and children – account for roughly 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 persons. Chinese workers currently employed by Ramatex amounts to less than 200. At its peak in 2004, Ramatex employed 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 300 Chinese workers. Chinese construction contractors and their employees from China vary between 300 and 400, according to seasonal demand. We also have a team of teachers and a medical team that consist of less than 10 people. The major sectors involving Chinese investment include manufacturing of bricks, fabrics, detergents, mattresses, quilts, lighters, water processing, assembling of diesel engines and power generators, vegetable farming on four private farms, and trade. Namibia has confirmed its willingness to facilitate access of Chinese enterprises to underdeveloped mineral deposits in Namibia. What does this entail? Namibia has been welcoming foreign investment even in the mineral resources sector. Currently, most in this sector are those from Western countries. Namibia hopes to diversify its investment and Chinese companies are willing to participate in the development of mineral resources under the guidance of relevant laws and regulations of Namibia. They do not have more privileges than others. On the contrary, they have frequently been elbowed out of some games for reasons unknown to me. The Namibian Government has further agreed to provide information on the projects in the mining and energy sectors to its Chinese counterpart. China and Namibia have reached an agreement to cooperatively develop Namibia’s resources. A framework agreement is under negotiation that will form one package to be called ‘Resources, Loans and Projects’. The Namibian Government does not only want to develop its natural resources, but also its infrastructure and other areas. This is presently under negotiation. The resources are used as guarantee for concessional loans provided by China to finance the projects of Namibia. Once this agreement is concluded, we will enter into high-profile cooperation. As far as the provision of information goes, all the information obtained is that which the Namibian Government publishes to foreign companies. In fact, the information the Chinese obtain is far less than companies from other countries, not more. I’ve never heard that the Namibian Government has ever, or will, provide exclusive information to the Chinese. Following the second joint commission, the Chinese government has agreed to encourage Chinese companies to expand their imports from Namibia through the provision of financial assistance. How does this play out? During the Second Session of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation last month, 13 sales agreements were concluded. These include the export to China of marble slabs, fishmeal, leather, copper blister, manganese and seal oil, and so on. The total turnover of these deals amounts to US$30 million, and this achievement owes a great deal to the endeavours made by the Chinese Government to promote Namibian products to Chinese importers by granting allowances and subsidies to the importers. This also coincides with what Namibia expects. With China’s imports from Namibia being expanded, including mineral resources, I believe no one would say that China is “scrambling for resources in Namibia”. What does the SACU-China Free Trade Zone entail, and how does Namibia stand to benefit from it? The concept of “free trade zone” is a prevalent arrangement worldwide, adopted to promote trade on the basis of mutual benefit. I believe that the establishment thereof will not only benefit China, but also SACU countries, including Namibia. What does the agreement on reciprocal promotion and protection of investment arrangement hold for Namibia on the one hand, and China on the other? The agreement will form a legal document, which will reciprocally provide protection for Chinese investment in Namibia, and vice versa. I believe that the Namibian Government welcomes investment from China as much as from other countries. And so does the Chinese government. In China we take foreign investment as a short cut to industrialization, and foreign investors enjoy super-national treatment, and no one takes it as a “plundering of resources”. Likewise, China’s investment in Africa should not be taken as “scrambling for resources”. How many Chinese companies are currently involved in the exploration and processing of Namibian mineral resources? Currently, there are two Chinese-funded companies that have registered here to conduct exploration of mineral resources. Up to now they are only at the exploration stage, and not in mining and processing [yet], which they do in strict conformity with the laws and regulations of the country. They do not enjoy more preferences and privileges than any other foreign company. For various reasons, these Chinese companies have encountered a lot of difficulties in operation and very little progress has been made. One license granted is for uranium prospecting near the RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium Mine. The other is exploring in lead and zinc. Namibia has asked China to write off its debts with that country. What does Namibia owe China and how has this been incurred? After the independence of Namibia, China provided it with several interest-free loans in addition to grants to finance and implement the various projects I’ve mentioned earlier. This was in support of Namibia’s economic construction and to improve the living standards of the people. But I do not have the exact figure at hand. But to my knowledge, the sum of loans owned by Namibia accounts for a very small portion of Namibia’s foreign debt, and it will never be a big burden. The Chinese government has long maintained that it will never press for repayments of debts, and if the Namibian Government has difficulty in repaying its matured debts owed to China, a solution could be found through friendly negotiations. What projects currently fall under the Chinese Aid Programme? In addition to the projects already mentioned, and the two regional offices which were completed and turned over to Namibia last year, other projects have been approved by the Chinese government to utilise the grants and interest-free loans provided, which include part of the new State House, the construction of the Berg Auchas Vocational Training Centre and the Military Academy at Okahandja. What new projects are envisaged under this programme? In February this year, President Hu Jintao announced that China would provide Namibia with a grant of Yuan RMB30 million (US$1 = 7.75 Yuan RMB), an interest-free loan of RMB30 million, a preferential loan of RMB1 billion, and US$100 million as Preferential Buyer’s Credit. He also announced that by utilising the surplus of grant, China would aid Namibia to build two rural primary schools – one with 100 to 150 hospital beds. Currently, the two governments are negotiating how and on what to utilize the grants and loans provided. The projects prioritised by the Namibian side are power transmission and transformation, railway and road construction, the Walvis Bay port terminal expansion, the Green Scheme and aquaculture development.