China Daily

Japan should not politicize its aid to Africa

That Japan has pledged to invest $30 billion over three years in Africa should be good news for the development of the continent. But that is true only if it is used for that purpose.

On the sidelines of the Japan-Africa summit in Tunisia, when Japan unveiled the investment, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told the media on Friday that Africa’s sustainable and steady growth “must not be impaired by unfair and opaque lending”. And those remarks were widely seen as a criticism of Beijing’s alleged “debt-trap” policy, in which “debt is used as leverage to gain concessions from borrowing nations”, as the Japanese Times commented.

China, as a major development partner of Africa, welcomes Japan’s move, which was announced at the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development on Saturday, but at the same time hopes that such aid will not be politicized.

If Japan politicizes its aid as a means to counter China’s influence in Africa, its investment will not function to the benefit of Africa as it should. Africa needs aid from the international community as it bears the brunt of all international crises such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the spillover effects from the Ukraine crisis.

If Japan, like some others, harbors the intention of competing with China in Africa, its politicians are being narrow-minded and viewing China’s cooperation with African countries from the wrong perspective. China has long maintained that its Belt and Road Initiative is open to all countries, as it is meant to promote connectivity among developing countries to facilitate their development for global common prosperity.

There is no reason for Japan and other developed countries to look at China’s rise and what it has done to help developing countries through the prism of geopolitics, thinking that China is expanding its sphere of influence in order to change the postwar order. China has reiterated that its aid to African countries has no political strings attached, and it is meant to promote mutually beneficial cooperation between China and its African partners, and common development of developing countries.

As far as the accusations that it is laying “debt traps” are concerned, the fact that China has repeatedly waived the repayment of interest-free loans and other loans to African countries when such loans are due speaks volumes about China meaning what it says about its cooperation with developing countries.

If Japan and other Western countries, instead of entrenching themselves against China, can have sincere talks with the world’s second-largest economy with the aim of making concerted efforts to address the common challenges humanity faces, such as the food crisis, climate change and other issues, it would be a great boon for global development and peace.

For Japan, its aid to Africa, if not used to counter China or for other ulterior motives, such as shopping for support for its bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, will be welcomed and appreciated.

Editorial, China Daily

Categories China Daily Opinion