BEIJING – China Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi will starting January 13-18 visit Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire for the annual visit to Africa.
Announcing the trip on Thursday, China Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said it will be the 34th consecutive Chinese foreign ministers’ annual first overseas visit.
“Foreign Minister Wang Yi will then go on to visit Brazil and Jamaica at their invitation from January 18 to 22,” Mao said during the Regular Press Conference in Beijing.
The purpose of Wang Yi’s visit, she said, is to implement the follow-ups of the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue, compare notes with the African side on the 2024 FOCAC, carry forward the traditional China-Africa friendship and consolidate the momentum of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation.
“At the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue last year, President Xi Jinping made three proposals to support Africa’s industrialization, agricultural modernization and talent development, which were well-received by Africa. This year, FOCAC will meet again. Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire are all China’s friendly cooperation partners,” she said.
The four-state visit seems to focus mainly on North and West Africa, returning to Egypt for the second consecutive time in the annual visit.
Last year, then Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, Egypt, the African Union Headquarters and the League of Arab States Headquarters.
On the sidelines of the Third Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing last year, Egypt Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly met President Xi Jinping on October 19 and held bilateral talks on among other issues, on trade, investment and infrastructure development cooperation.
Egypt, the first Arab and African country to establish diplomatic relations with China, on January 1, 2023, joined the BRICS bloc, alongside Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
President Xi told PM Madbouly at the time that China was ready to strengthen cooperation with Egypt within the China-Arab and China-Africa frameworks, enhance coordination and cooperation at the United Nations, BRICS and other multilateral platforms.
“China will work with Egypt to follow through on the outcomes of the third BRF, strengthen cooperation in such fields as infrastructure, agricultural technology and renewable energy, expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cooperation, and continuously advance the development of China-Egypt comprehensive strategic partnership,” President Xi said.
China and Tunisia this week marked 60 years of diplomatic relations, with the two leaders exchanging congratulatory messages, and pledging to further deepen bilateral relations.
Jinping and Tunisian President Kais Saied last met in December 2022 at the China-Arab States Summit in Riyadh.
Togo and China marked 50 years of ties in September 2022.
In December 2019, Togo President Faure Gnassingbe visited Beijing, held talks with President Xi and witnessed the signing of cooperation documents on foreign affairs, economy, technology and infrastructure development.
For Ivory Coast, there has been a sustained warming of relations with China in the last two decades, in 2013 signing an economic cooperation agreement of 8 billion CFA Francs (about $16 million) for the construction of socioeconomic infrastructure.
Among the key issues of interest for China in Ivory Coast include exports, which grew to $1.57 billion in 2020; investments, which are estimated at $7.5 billion mostly in infrastructure projects, military cooperation in equipment and technology sales as well as cementing influence in the country.
However, most important is number one China’s foreign policy priority: Taiwan.
China is hell-bent to undo Taiwan’s activities in the country, especially after the reopening of a representative office in the Ivorian capital in November 2022 after being closed in 2017. Taipei named Shin Chi-chih as its new envoy in February 2023.
As Taiwan seeks to increase its trade relations with Ivory Coast, China is pushing for the One-China policy, thus uncomfortable with the revitalised Taiwan-Ivory Coast relations.
Dennis Munene, Executive Director China-Africa Center, says Wang Yi’s visit will affirm China’s comprehensive and strategic relationship with African countries.
“Minister Wang’s visit to North and West African countries continues to underscore China’s commitment for an equal and multipolar world, and a collectively beneficial and inclusive economic globalization,” he says.