Netizens comment on the third Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which wrapped up last weekend in Beijing
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.
One Big V, boasting how FOCAC demonstrated China’s economic clout, attracted some sarcastic commentary:
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]