The third Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) wrapped up last weekend in Beijing, and this iteration of the week-long event, inaugurated in 2000, was perhaps the most newsworthy yet.
Under the spotlight in particular was the Belt and Road Initiative. Anticipation was immense, at least according to foreign minister Wang Yi: “It will be the biggest summit of all time…an event of global significance, which Beijing awaits with feverish enthusiasm.”
Despite this fever-pitch excitement, China’s internet was mostly devoid of any controversial commentary on FOCAC. The main focus was the 82 billion USD that Xi Jinping promised for African infrastructure over the next three years, the same amount pledged when FOCAC last gathered in 2015—but this time, notably, included promises for investment in local enterprises and the cancellation of some debts for poorest nations.
These remarks were clearly made to allay fears over growing political influence, economic dominance, and debt-trap diplomacy that have lately attached themselves to BRI. But many Chinese are also less than happy to see billions of dollars flow abroad to developing nations when there remains a great deal of poverty and deprivations in many Chinese provinces—such comments were mostly erased.
Most comments focused on the destiny of blue skies and traffic jams that herald any major diplomatic events.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is over, and the blue sky is gone…but these are nothing compared with the absence of [Black Panther’s] Wakanda in the forum. That’s a real pity.
FOCAC is over, no more double security checks when taking trains to Beijing.
Should this not be the normal sky? Why would a blue sky be worth bragging about? Is it intended to mislead people not to require investigation on [the government’s] inaction on the haze?
Let’s have meetings every day.
One Big V, boasting how FOCAC demonstrated China’s economic clout, attracted some sarcastic commentary:
Fifty-three African countries, except one [Swaziland], gathered in Beijing for the forum, only China can make this possible. All the African countries present have committed to support the One-China principle and reunification of China. Swaziland, do you feel lonely?
All the “gold and silver” sent out have been recorded, but who knows the amount actually received [ie. not embezzled]?
This is the only party where the participants dine without paying, and leave with money.
As money will be offered, who would refuse to come?
Jack Ma’s invitation to several African presidents to visit Alibaba’s Hangzhou headquarters attracted some of the most lively commentary, as Ma is always a popular and much-discussed figure online. [Note: the comments were made before Ma’s announcement to step back from day-to-day operations]
The civilian foreign minister
It’s very dangerous for him to overshadow the leaders’ achievements.
Ma Yun has led Alibaba out from China to the world. I’m proud of such an outstanding entrepreneur.
Cover image from Xinhua