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China’s Overview of the Program of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

China’s Overview of the Program of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

Aug. 18, 2022 (EIRNS)–The FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) Coordinators’ meeting to follow up on FOCAC program implementation, took place Aug. 18. In anticipation of the meeting, Li Zhigang, Chargé d’ Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, wrote an overview of these programs, which appeared in the Independent Online (IOL) Aug. 17.

One project of especial interest: “The two sides have set up a China-Africa RMB [renminbi] center to explore RMB settlement for China-Africa trade, logistics, and industrial cooperation.”

The nine broad points are presented here in brief:

The medical and health program: China has provided more than 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa, covering almost all African countries, and launched joint production of COVID-19 vaccine in Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. China has made constant efforts to pair up Chinese and African hospitals for cooperation, and the African CDC headquarters project (Phase I) is expected to be completed in early 2023. China has also been helping with control of malaria, schistosomiasis and AIDS.

Poverty reduction and agricultural development program: China has provided emergency food aid and other humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa and other regions. China has offered locust control insecticides, irrigation equipment, and technical assistance. The first four “China-Africa joint centers for modern agrotechnology exchange, demonstration and training” have been set up to train professionals in the fields of tropical crops, aquaculture, biomass energy and dry farming.

Trade promotion: From January to June this year, China-Africa trade volume registered U.S. $137.38 billion, up by 16.6% year-on-year, of which China’s exports to and imports from Africa increased by 14.7% and 19.1% respectively. China has opened “green lanes” for faster export of African agricultural products to China. As a result, products such as Rwandan stevia, South African fresh pears and soybeans, and Zimbabwean citrus have gained access to the Chinese market. China has signed agreements with Togo, Eritrea, Djibouti, Guinea, Rwanda, Mozambique, Sudan, Chad and Central Africa, among other LDCs, on expanding the scope of zero-tariff treatment to 98% for products exported to China, covering 350 kinds of African products.

Investment promotion program: From January to June this year, China’s industry-wide direct investment in Africa amounted to U.S. $1.74 billion, growing by 1.5% against all the odds. The turnover of Chinese enterprises’ contracted projects in Africa amounted to U.S. $18.32 billion, an increase of 8.4% year-on-year. The two sides have set up a China-Africa RMB center to explore RMB settlement for China-Africa trade, logistics and industrial cooperation. China has continued to provide aid in the form of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans to help African countries achieve independent and sustainable development.

Digital innovation program: To expand Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, China and Africa have jointly made a success out of the “Quality African Products Online Shopping Festival” to market African products in China. Fifteen China-Africa science and technology cooperation projects have been initiated.

Green development program: China has completed the construction of hydroelectric power stations, photo-voltaic power stations, and water supply projects. China participates in the “Great Green Wall of Africa” initiative, and strengthens cooperation with Africa in desertification control.

Capacity-building program: China provides vocational skills training for local youths where there are Chinese enterprises in Africa, and give the graduates jobs in these enterprises. China helps African students who have completed study courses in China to find jobs in Chinese enterprises in Africa.

People-to-people exchange program: The first Conference on Dialogue Between Chinese and African Civilizations and the 11th Meeting of the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum were successfully held, contributing to the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future.

The African Film Festival project: It has introduced well-made African films and TV shows to the Chinese audience. The “2022 China Culture and Tourism Month” has served as a window for African friends to learn and understand more about China.

The peace and security program: At the second China-Africa Peace and Security Forum, the two sides agreed to maintain strategic communication, strengthen cooperation in equipment and technology, expand maritime exercises and training, and enhance exchanges in professional fields. Chinese peacekeeping troops to Africa have performed to satisfaction, and the 25th batch of Chinese peacekeeping troops sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo was awarded the United Nations “Peace Medal.”

The full text of Li Zhigang’s article is here.


Rhine Valley Railway Tunnel Would Be Cheaper Than Previously Believed

Rhine Valley Railway Tunnel Would Be Cheaper Than Previously Believed

Aug. 15, 2022 (EIRNS)–The official feasibility study for building a railway tunnel along the Rhine Valley between Bonn and Wiesbaden, concluded that it would be cheaper to build than it had been believed in the past. The 118 kilometer tunnel dedicated to freight traffic would enable freight trains to avoid the narrow part of the Rhine valley where the infrastructure is in many places over 150 years old and creates unacceptable noise pollution for the communities along the valley. The route is one of the most important and heavily utilized railway routes in Europe and connects the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp with the Italian port of Genoa. The project has been featured in both EIR and the EIR Eurasian landbridge reports. The study, commissioned for the German States of Rhineland Palatinate and Hesse found that the project would cost 6.8 billion euros, rather than the 8 to 10 billion euros of previous estimates.

In an interview in Germany’s SWR TV on August 12 Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the report was a “Thumbs up” for the states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, and said: “It’s very gratifying that we have positive news from this feasibility study. Now the question is: How is the benefit-cost ratio to be assessed? And for that we need the traffic forecast for 2040. That’s the next step. But the first signal for the region is: thumbs up!”


Northern Brazil State Eager to Join the Belt and Road

Aug. 3, 2022 (EIRNS)–Leading representatives of industrial, port and rail interests in the northeastern state of Maranhão turned out in force for a three-day seminar July 11-13, sponsored by the state government, on the subject of “Maranhão’s Potential in China’s New Silk Road: Business and Development Opportunities for Brazil.” The central subject was the proposal to transform the Itaqui port complex at the state capital, São Luis, which already handles major grain and metals exports from Maranhão and several surrounding states, into a logistics, distribution and manufacturing center on the Belt and Road. The featured speaker was Paul Tae-Woo Lee, a professor of International Logistics and Maritime Transport at Zhejiang University, who came from China specifically for the seminar. Lee was one of the authors of the 2022 study, “Strategic Locations for Logistics Distribution Centers along the Belt and Road,” which includes the Maranhão port in the potential sites it takes up, and he briefed the seminar at length on the global scope and current status of the BRI.

 The key organizer of seminar was the state of Maranhão’s Secretary for Economic Development and Strategic Projects, José Reinaldo Tavares, a civil engineer known for getting things done. He has played a key role for decades in great infrastructure projects aimed at developing Brazil’s poor but resource-rich northeast. He headed SUDENE, the big northeast Brazilian development agency created in 1959 on the model of the TVA; is described as the “author” of the São Francisco Water Transfer project (also modeled on the TVA); and as (federal) Transport Minister under President Sarney, was responsible for the creation of the North-South Railway.

“The Maranhão capital possesses extraordinary conditions for joining [the BRI] because of its road, rail connections and exceptional port conditions. The connection with the North-South Railway, Brazil’s leading cargo transport axis, linking the railroads of the country’s five regions, is an example. In the region called the ‘Northern arc,’ that is, above the 16th parallel, no state has similar transport logistics conditions,” local media emphasized. “Including São Luís in the greatest economic expansion program in the world, that of China, will guarantee tremendous resources for infrastructure, commodity distribution centers, and privileged access to the other countries which make up the project.”

 The president of Itaqui Port, Ted Lago, emphasized to the seminar that while the port is already a leading point of cargo shipments to China, by Maranhão becoming a major center on the BRI, South America as a whole can be brought into that global project. He also insisted that Brazil wants its trade relations with China to be more than its shipping commodities; it wants Chinese industries to set up in Maranhão, to add value and generate jobs.


Transregional Connectivity Projects Debated at Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan

Aug. 1 (EIRNS)—As the organizer and host of the July 26-27 conference in Tashkent, entitled “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development,” the government of Uzbekistan issued a summary report on some of the major points of discussion which took place there, with an important focus on priority infrastructure projects to enhance regional connectivity.

Published July 27 by The Diplomat, the report emphasizes participants’ understanding that lasting peace will only be achieved through stabilization and recovery of Afghanistan’s economy. It is therefore necessary, it states, “to promote the integration of Afghanistan into interregional economic processes, to promote the implementation of socially significant and infrastructure projects, including the formation of transregional transport, energy and other corridors.”

Among the projects were those put forward by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to advance the construction of the trans-Afghanistan railroad as a means of connecting South Asia via Afghanistan. Other projects include laying the (Uzbekistan to Afghanistan) Surkhan-Pul-i-Khumri power transmission line, the creation of the Termez, Uzbekistan, cargo transport and logistics hub, as well as the transformation of the training center in Termez into an educational cluster for training Afghan personnel.

According to The Diplomat, Uzbekistan is the major promoter of the 573 km Trans-Afghan railroad. First proposed in December 2018, it would extend the Afghan rail network from Mazar-e-Sharif—a regional hub in northern Afghanistan, close to both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan—to Kabul and then to Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, where the railway would cross the border with Pakistan at Torkham and run into Pakistan via Peshawar. Goods will then be offloaded to connect with the Pakistan rail system and from there travel down to the seaports of Karachi, Gwadar, and Qasim.

The railroad would have an estimated capacity of 20 million tons of cargo per annum, and once operational, would cut down travel time from 35 days to 3-5 days from Uzbekistan to Pakistan, The Diplomat reports. There are many challenges to be overcome in building the project, including very difficult geography, security issues, different rail gauges, and not least of which is the $4.8 billion in financing.

Another important project is the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000), a $1.2 billion project that would bring 1,300 MW of seasonal power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because of their hydroelectric power capacity, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have excess electricity to sell. Although the project was put on hold when the Taliban took power, construction has now been resumed with an estimated completion date of 2024. It is financed by a consortium of international financial organizations.


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Visit to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Has Development Focus

Aug. 1 (EIRNS)—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi continued on his Central Asian diplomatic tour, which brought him to high level meetings in Uzbekistan July 28-29, including the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting, and then to Kyrgyzstan on July 30, and Tajikistan July 31-Aug. 1, all focused on the growth of both the nations, and Central Asia as a whole.

In Kyrgyzstan, Wang met with Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev in the town of Cholpon-Ata. The Chinese Foreign Ministry readout reported that Wang said “the Chinese side has felt the great importance and ardent expectations by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan [CKU] railway project, and will jointly advance this important project at a faster pace…. The Chinese side is ready to import more green and quality livestock products from Kyrgyzstan.” Wang said that China and Kyrgyzstan are ready to increase the frequency of direct flights. Kulubaev said he looks forward to accelerating the CKU railway and welcomed Chinese experts’ arrival in Kyrgyzstan to “carry out the survey work.” His country is “ready to work with China to speed up the implementation of key projects such as the new North-South Highway” and the renovation of the municipal roads of Bishkek, the nation’s capital.

Kulubaev attached special importance to China’s pledge to construct in his nation the Luban Workshop, a program China has developed in several nations, in which Chinese engineers and professionals educate host country’s students and labor force in such subjects as industrial robots, cloud computing, high-speed train maintenance, and vocational training.

On July 31, Wang set foot in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he met with President Emomali Rahmon, who noted on his website that China is one of the major trading partners of Tajikistan and its largest investor. Bilateral trade between Tajikistan and China during the first six months of 2022 increased by 82%, compared to the same period last year, and accounted for one-fifth of Tajikistan’s foreign trade.

Some of the groundwork for this trip was worked out at the third China + Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on June 12. The C-5 include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; at the ministerial, Wang outlined a 10-point program, stemming from the Belt and Road, for the region’s development. It is significant that for the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Russia helped to found in 2014, both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are full-time members, and Uzbekistan is an observer.

It is not accidental that both the China and Russian headed organizations seek the agricultural and industrial development of landlocked Central Asia, including Afghanistan, over the Anglo-American looting eyes.


Russia Helping Hungary to Build Rail Link to Ukraine

Russia Helping Hungary to Build Rail Link to Ukraine

Feb. 2 (EIRNS)–President Vladimir Putin informed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during their joint press conference after meeting in Moscow yesterday, that he had confirmed that Russian Railways could provide $2 billion in additional funding to help finance the construction of railway line V0, the Hungarian bypass around Budapest that is to connect Hungary’s border with Ukraine to the border with Austria—a key connection for Hungary intention to become a key center for Belt and Road cargo coming from China, through Russia, into Europe.

The project was a major point of discussion between the two Presidents. As Orban reported, “Hungary made a big investment in the construction of a terminal on its border with Ukraine. This cutting-edge terminal is capable of reloading goods from trucks much faster than any other facility of this kind. This is a tremendous opportunity. We discussed the formation of a Russia-Hungary joint venture on shipments … [which] will improve the Hungarian economy and will allow us to use Hungary’s good geographical location. It is suitable for transport routes, pipes, roads and railways.”

The “Railfreight” site summarized the  project on January 31st: “Hungary is moving fast to gain its position as a transit country on the New Silk Road. In Fenyestlitke, a city close to the border with Ukraine in the Záhony region, a state-of-the-art terminal is currently under construction and expected to be operative in April….

The role of Hungary on the Eurasian corridor has been acknowledged by Russia and Austria. In December, the three countries formed a joint venture that will take the role of freight forwarder and logistics provider on the New Silk Road. The partnership consists of Russian Railways Holding, CER Cargo Holding (Hungary) and Rail Cargo Group (Austria).

The focus of the newly formed team will be on cargo transportation from Chinese provinces to South Europe and Balkan countries, through Russia and Hungary and backwards. The route via Ukraine will be of particular importance, as this route serves that particular part of Europe on the Eurasian corridor. (For more information and details see: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67690, and https://www.railfreight.com/beltandroad/2022/01/31/russia-sides-with-hungary-in-building-budapest-bypass/, and https://www.railfreight.com/specials/2021/10/15/hungary-back-on-the-map-with-replenished-border-area.)