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Deepen Asia-Africa cooperation to promote rejuvenation of civilization

Author: Zhong FeitengSilver Editor Source: CCTV.comTime :2015-04-24 15:37:31

By Zhong Feiteng, associate professor, National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Sixty years ago, 29 Asian and African countries gathered at Bandung, Indonesia to discuss independence and anti-colonialism, which symbolized an important turning point in the history of human civilization. According to some Western observers at that time, the first Asia-Africa Conference was a “color curtain” to confront Western powers. Before the Bandung conference, almost all international affairs were controlled by the white man in Western countries, with no space left for Third World countries. This situation, however, has greatly changed since the Bandung conference. The newly independent countries united to find a new way to maintain survival during the Cold War era, and became an important player in world affairs.

“Asia and Africa are the cradles of human civilization … Asian and African cooperation has more and more important global implications,” President Xi Jinping said at the Asian African Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on Wednesday. To some extent, Asia and Africa will return back to civilization in the near future. The countries that attended the 1955 Bandung conference once dominated sub-regions for nearly 2,000 years. According to the late Angus Maddison’s data, 28 countries, excluding Japan, accounted for 67 per cent of the world’s GDP in 1 AD. In the following 1,800 years, the Bandung countries were still a major force in the world economy.

The transition took place in the mid-19th century. The GDP share of Bandung countries declined from 55 percent in 1820 to 35 percent in 1870. The background was the Western rise based on the Industrial Revolution. During the industrialization of the West in the 19th century, traditional civilized countries like Egypt, India and China became colonial or semi-colonial societies. This kind of common memory is important to their new thinking on international relations.

The Second World War seriously weakened old imperialism and lead to the collapse of the colonial system.This change shed some new lights on the destiny of Bandung countries. For example their share of GDP began to rise from the lowest point in 1940 to 15 percent in 1955, although the structure was still not favorable for developing countries. On the political side, the Cold War compelled newly established countries to side with either the Soviet Union or the United States. In terms of economics, the structure of world economy changed significantly due to industrialization. The powerful countries were also industrialized countries. The gap between developing countries and developed ones was very huge.

At that time, there emerged two alternatives in national survival and development thinking. The first was dependency theory which argued for decoupling from the capitalist world economy. The countries that insisted on these kinds of thoughts mainly came from Latin America. The second was from Bandung countries. The strategic objective for these countries was to survive the Cold War. The development element in their national strategies was subordinated to survival. For survival, they must find a new way to deal with international relations. With this background, peaceful coexistence principles were accepted by the Bandung countries. Furthermore, they realized that south-south cooperation could help them improve their economic situation.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, these two ways began to converge into building a new international economic order. China benefited from this campaign. The United Nations reinstated the People’s Republic of China as a member in 1971, with the support of most Asian and African countries. Chinese will never forget that story. That’s also one of the reasons why China always insists that it should stand alongside developing countries. As Xi stated at the Asian-Africa Summit, “China is always a reliable friend and sincere partner with developing countries.”

The biggest change in developed countries took place in the late 1970s. When former US President Ronald Regan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took power, liberalization gradually diffused into the whole world. Many developing countries joined this process. China and India were also interwoven with this trend and continued to promote their opening up to the outside and reform within the nation. The world economy entered a new stage of high-speed growth.

However, the trend reversed again with the 2008 global financial crisis. Developed countries seemed to retreat from openness and adopt more protectionism than before. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank lost some credit with developing countries as they could not resolve their development challenges. In the three decades since the late 1970s, infrastructure facilities in developing countries remained poor and trade conditions were still unfavorable.

The world needs a new solution. The emerging countries now occupy half of the world’s GDP. They are actively seeking new international cooperation. Xi proposed that Asia and Africa should “promote the construction of a new type of international relations based on mutual benefit and win-win spirit, and promote the international order toward a more just and equitable one.” Enhancing Asia-Africa cooperation and extending south-south cooperation will help realize this strategic objective.

In this sense, Bandung Spirit remains relevant. Sixty years ago, the Bandung countries had a strong willingness to find a new way. Now it is time again for the Bandung countries to exchange deeply on their policies and development strategies in the new situation. China would like to share its experience with Bandung countries and prepare for a rejuvenation of civilization through common development.





Deepen Asia-Africa cooperation to promote rejuvenation of civilization