By Chen Liye, Peng Kuang, Sun Qi and Zhang Xiaoyu
BEIJING, July 17 (ChinaMil) -- The first China-Africa Peace and Security Forum kicked off in Beijing on July 15, gathering nearly 100 senior representatives from the defense departments of 50 African countries and the African Union, including 15 defense ministers and chiefs of general staff, to discuss new approaches of China-Africa security cooperation in the new era.
"In face of new situations, the common languages, aspirations and interests of China and Africa in peace and security field have been increasing. Closer cooperation between the two sides is embracing new and precious historical opportunities," said Major General Song Yanchao, deputy director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Ministry of National Defense.
Commitment to common security
"Security in Africa is a barometer of the global security governance system," said Xu Weizhong, director of the Institute of African Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, at the forum.
According to Xu, security issues such as terrorism, fundamentalism, drugs, human trafficking and arms proliferation nowadays are not limited by national border or continental boundary, but have formed a de facto global network, with Africa being a part of it. Therefore, security in Africa is closely related to global security.
Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, said the forum is a timely event not only because China is an important partner of the AU. What has more realistic significance is that China and AU member states have carried out more pragmatic cooperation in peace, trade and security, and held more co-response to the challenges in the African region.
"In today's world, all countries' peace and security interests are entwined and no one can stay away intact. It’s hard to resist attacks by building high walls. We hope to have sincere cooperation with countries that respect others' sovereignty and uphold equity and justice," said Cameroon's Minister of Defense Joseph Beti Assomo.
In the opinion of Ji Zhiye, former president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the fight against international terrorist organizations cannot be carried out by one single country, or by external forces alone. All nations concerned should join hands in the anti-terrorism campaign and make full use of comprehensive resources instead of relying solely on military forces.
Focus on comprehensive security
Ji Zhiye said an integrated approach to governance is the right way to address terrorism.
Many representatives mentioned China's efforts to strengthen the overall capability of African countries in its assistance to them. South Sudan's Assistant to Chief of Staff pointed out that China helped South Sudan to build a road that runs across the country, which largely improves the traffic conditions in South Sudan.
A representative from Sierra Leone expressed that the cooperation between China and Sierra Leone covers a wide range of areas. It was China that sent them timely medical assistance when his country was suffering from serious contagious diseases. He hoped for more Chinese investment in Sierra Leone in the future because "it's impossible to ensure security in Africa if the young people cannot find jobs."
Hamed Bakayoko, defense minister of the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire, mentioned China's contribution to UN peacekeeping operations in his speech at the opening ceremony of the forum. Noting that China has sent the largest number of peacekeepers among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, he highlighted that "most of those peacekeeping operations are carried out in Africa".
There is a saying in Chinese which says it is always better to teach a person who are hungry to fish than to give him some fish. The most important part of our assistance to Africa is the sharing of experience and wisdom. According to Major General Xu Hui, Dean of the International College of Defense Studies under National Defense University (NDU) of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, "The great importance of this forum lies in the gathering of senior Chinese and African representatives to jointly diagnose security issues faced by Africa, share their governing experience and wisdom, and then take targeted and suitable measures."
Adherence to collaborative security
With Uganda being one of the five contributors to the AU peacekeeping forces in Somali, General David Muhoozi, the Chief of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), introduced at the forum how the five contributors cooperated to deal with security issues.
"When we just began to deploy the peacekeeping forces, most people thought it was mission impossible," Muhoozi said, adding that although the interests of the stakeholders might differ, they shared the same goal of world peace and security anyway, which formed the basis for their joint actions.
In his speech, Smail Chergui introduced the steps the AU has taken to promote common security cooperation, including creating the early warning system to help decision makers to access information in a timely manner, make analysis and take countermeasures; establishing the African Standby Force to perform fast response, prevent conflicts and sustain peace; forming the AU Mechanism for Police Cooperation; and setting up the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism.
"We are facing continuous challenges relating to the timeliness to generate all the required resources and capabilities," Smail Chergui said, "this is why we appreciate the strategic and reliable partnership between the AU and China, who has been helping Africa to enhance its peacekeeping capacity through cooperation."
In the opinion of General Guo Ruobing, Commandant of the National Security College under China’s NDU, the interests of all nations are deeply intertwined in the age of globalization and no country can keep itself aside. This determines that international security cooperation should be conducted in a principled, normative and faithful manner. He said: "We oppose the selfish act of pursing one's own interests at the expense of others'. Only when we strike a balance between justice and interest could we truly achieve win-win or multi-win outcomes among the nations."
Striving for sustainable security
According to Xu, Africa today is in a relatively stable period after the Africa Independence Movements. Especially in recent years, many African countries have rolled out medium-to-long-term development plans, in which peace and development are the central tasks, and security and stability are the primary objectives. All African countries and regions have intensified institutional construction in those aspects.
"For developing countries, development concerns security and holds the master key to solving security issues," said Guo.
"The African continent sees the co-existence of worries and hope," said Beti Assomo, "It is necessary for us to establish a brand new security concept. Meanwhile, we should step up win-win cooperation and build a closer China-Africa community of shared future."
China is the largest developing country and Africa is the continent where developing countries are most concentrated. China-Africa cooperation for common development not only concerns their respective future and destiny, but will also exert profound and far-reaching impacts on world peace and development and the evolution of international landscape.