Chaired by Hon. Maureen O’Sullivan TD and Hon. Olivia Mitchell TD, and attended by 11 other prominent members of the Irish AWEPA Section, Ambassador Xu spoke about China’s engagement with Africa based on the principles of “common interest, mutual benefit and shared values.”
Ambassador Xu, who has spent 5 years in Africa as Ambassador to Nigeria and has served in South Africa, pointed out the enduring strength of China’s 50-year relationship with Africa. As China is also a developing country, he said, it places a great emphasis on “partnership” with Africa, focusing on trade and technical co-operation, as well as on peace and security, and educational and training exchanges.
Fielding concerns about the use of imported Chinese labour at the expense of African workers, Ambassador Xu said that the Chinese government tries to encourage the use of local labour but that, ultimately, the market decides. However, Ambassador Xu insisted that China’s towering trade with Africa is hugely beneficial to Africa’s development, breaking the European and US monopoly in trade and industry and adding value in areas like oil refinery and food production. Many Irish AWEPA members were also surprised to learn that China is serving in 7 of the current 9 UN peace-keeping missions in Africa and that it has made a major contribution to fighting Ebola in West Africa.
The Ambassador complemented Ireland on its role in Africa and called for the relationship between Chinese and Irish actors in Africa to further develop and continue. Joint initiatives that were discussed included empowering African politicians to combat corruption and revenue loss, and ways to increase food security and nutrition.