HKIAC helps to forge stronger ties between China and Africa
On 11 May in Port-Louis, Mauritius, HKIAC organised a seminar to bring together leaders from the business and legal worlds to discuss the many opportunities created by Chinese investment in Africa. The seminar included a keynote address by China’s Ambassador to Mauritius Mr. Li Li as well as a panel discussion between Dr. Rama Sithanen, former Finance Minister and Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, Mr. Raju Jaddoo Secretary General of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Teresa Cheng, Chairperson of HKIAC and Mr. Neil Kaplan, Honorary Chairman of HKIAC. The discussion identified many areas of potential cooperation and collaboration between Hong Kong and Mauritius in helping to build stronger ties between Africa and China.
Please also find a translation of His Excellency's speech below:
Speech by His Excellency Mr LI Li, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Mauritius at the Seminar organised by the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre on 11 May 2016
Speech by His Excellency Mr LI Li, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Mauritius
At the Seminar organised by the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre on 11 May 2016
Distinguished Chairperson of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, Mrs. Teresa Cheng,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is my honor to be invited to today’s seminar by Madam Chairperson of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre to discuss the future and opportunities which lie ahead in China-Africa cooperation with such eminent representatives of the worlds of law and commerce from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Mauritius and Africa as yourselves. I would like to congratulate Madam Chairperson for convening this seminar. My congratulations also extend to the Mauritian government for the successful ICCA Congress which has often been likened to the Olympic Games of arbitration. This event reaffirms Mauritius’ commitment to advancing international cooperation in the field of commercial arbitration. The participation by Chinese legal and arbitral institutions in the event has also paved the way for future cooperation between both parties in this regard.
I would like to come back for a moment to the theme of today’s conference which really grabbed my attention: Chinese Colbertism with a question mark. And I would like to add that the one thing which I agree with is the question mark.
As you may know, 600 hundred years ago, the Chinese navigator Zheng He led the most powerful fleet of its time to undertake seven exploratory voyages to the ‘Western oceans’. Whether in South-East Asia or Africa, wherever they went, these explorers brought porcelain, silk, friendship, respect, never war, slavery, hatred or death to the local populations.
Two hundred years later, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s eminent finance minister practised mercantilism to amass great wealth for the Sun King. Certain scholars and historians consider that it is this Colbertism which incited colonialism in Africa which then entered the darkest chapter in its history.
Another time, another world. Today’s Africa is no longer what is was, and neither is China. I know that ‘Chinese colbertism’ is not an expression coined for the purpose of today’s seminar. But in reality there are Westerners and perhaps even Africans who consider that China’s relationship with Africa is marked by neo-colonialism and that China is purchasing Africa’s natural resources to then re-sell products made at low cost back to Africa.
In fact, Ladies and Gentlemen, China has developed a win-win relationship with Africa. To the difference of old colonizers who helped themselves to Africa’s natural resources, the price of every drop of oil which China has bought has been determined on international markets and China has contributed to building the capacity for self-development of African countries.
China has built schools, stadiums, highways and electrical power plants in Africa which have truly benefited African countries by changing the living conditions of African people. By having a very dynamic manufacturing sector, China is exporting goods to Africa which deliver very good value for money. This in turn gives African consumers more choice. If you can afford to buy a very high quality Chinese smartphone for a third of the price of an Iphone, then why not buy it? The Chinese themselves use these products and this has truly increased their quality of life. It can be said that China-Africa cooperation has contributed to the true economic independence of African countries.
At the same time, cooperation between China and Africa does not end here. In December 2015, approximately 40 heads of State from Africa met in Johannesburg for the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation.
I had the honor of accompanying the President of Mauritius, Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim to this important event. Chinese President Mr. Xi announced ‘Ten Big Projects’ at the Forum and a total of US$60 billion for investments in China-Africa cooperation in the sectors of industry, agriculture, infrastructure, finance, environmental protection, commerce, health and security etc. You can find a lot more information about the Forum on the Internet.
Let’s get back to Mauritius. At the beginning of the year, the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs made a visit to Mauritius. He outlined new directions for the development of the China-Mauritius relationship: on the one hand, it is necessary to integrate that relationship within the larger framework of China-Africa cooperation and align the development priorities of both countries; on the other hand, it is important to expand the China-Mauritius relationship towards the East, towards the Indian Ocean and towards the West, towards the African Continent. Minister Wang Yi indicated that Mauritius has its natural place on the extension of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which means that China-Mauritius relations have extended beyond bilateral relations to gain a more strategic place.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the objective of today’s seminar is to reveal to companies and investors, the opportunities which exist in China-Africa commercial relations. To my mind, the initiatives announced by President Xi and the new ideas advocated by Minister Wang Yi have revealed the largest opportunities and have established the framework within which the China-Africa and China-Mauritius opportunities exist. You are the pioneers and stakeholders of this relationship and you have pertinent and in-depth knowledge of these areas.
I am convinced that with your genius and hard work, you can seize these precious opportunities which our times offer to the development of China-Africa relations and will become excellent dancers on the vast stage of China-Africa cooperation and inject dynamism while achieving grandiose objectives.
In this process, the government and embassy of China are ready to create favorable conditions to enable this work. I will give you an example. Since the beginning of last year, the embassy has been working tirelessly to help set up a branch of the Bank of China in Mauritius which has just obtained a banking permit to set up its operations in Mauritius in the near future. This excellent news will enable Chinese companies to take full advantage of the geographical and financial assets of Mauritius to develop investments and financial operations on the African continent.
Legal services also form an important part of China-Africa cooperation. Mrs. Cheng and her team are leaders in this respect. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly introduce the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. It is the third most preferred arbitration centre in the world outside of Europe. Not only because it possesses a professional team with an international vision, but especially because it has accumulated vast experience of working with businesses in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. I am convinced that it will help find solutions to conflicts in economic and commercial relations between China and Africa.
Additionally, I would like to advertise the merits of Hong Kong. I recently visited Hong Kong upon an invitation from the Hong Kong government. I had in-depth discussions with the local authorities and was able to become better acquainted with Hong Kong. As many African countries, Hong Kong is a former colony. But given its proximate situation to the Chinese mainland, it progressively became a meeting point for Western and Eastern cultures as well as a trading hub. Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong has received substantial support from the central government. The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy has been very effectively implemented and Hong Kong has maintained its political and legal system as well as its way of life. In Hong Kong, English is widely spoken and the common law is practiced. Hong Kong has direct flights to most places in the world, including Mauritius and has signed visa exemption treaties with 170 countries. These are some of Hong Kong’s assets. During my stay in Hong Kong, when I explained to a Hong Kong officer Mauritius’ desire to find inspiration from Singapore and Dubai on how to build a smart-city and a large shipping hub, the officer interrupted me to ask why our Mauritian friends are not trying to collaborate with Hong Kong, which is the world’s fifth largest port and which possesses a wealth of experience and capacity in terms of building and maintaining a smart-city. I would therefore like to recommend to our Mauritian friends and friends from Africa to visit Hong Kong and see for themselves the great potential for cooperation which exists. For my part, as China’s Ambassador to Mauritius, it is my duty to serve and enable the cooperation between Mauritius, Africa and Hong Kong.
I thank you for your attention.