Chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat paid an official visit to China this week, his first since assuming office in March 2017. On February 8, Faki, who previously served as prime minister of Chad, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-hosted the seventh China-AU strategic dialogue.
What would have been a fairly routine example of China’s cooperation with the AU gained more dramatic overtones thanks to the release of an explosive report in the French newspaper Le Monde. The report, published at the end of January, claimed that China had bugged the AU headquarters, after both funding and constructing the new building.
China immediately denied the allegations, and that was reiterated on Thursday. In a joint press conference with Wang after the strategic dialogue, Faki called the Le Monde report “totally false,” saying that the AU was “completely disregarding” the rumors, according to Reuters.
“The African Union is an international political organization. It doesn’t process secret defense dossiers. We are an administration and I don’t see what interest there is to China to offer up a building of this type and then to spy,” he told reporters. Faki added that relations between China and Africa are “unwavering.”
Wang agreed, suggesting that the report stemmed from “a feeling of sour grapes about the achievements of China’s cooperation with Africa.” Sino-Africa friendship, Wang said, “cannot be tarnished by any person or any force.”
Just in case the point wasn’t clear enough, China’s Foreign Ministry issued special statement on Wang and Faki “jointly refuting the rumors spread by Western media.”
Aside from defusing the Le Monde bombshell, Wang and Fakit promised to strengthen communication and cooperation between China and the AU. At the strategic dialogue, they agreed on five key areas of cooperation moving forward: AU capacity building; infrastructure construction in Africa (with a particular focus on transnational and transregional connectivity); peace and security; public health and disease prevention; and tourism and aviation.
Wang added that the two sides would also cooperate on African “hotspots,” counterterrorism, poverty reduction, and international and regional issues of common concern.
“Both sides have always thought that China and the African Union should speak with a common voice and coordinate a common position on the world stage,” Wang said. “[…]China is ready to become Africa’s most reliable firm strategic partner.”
Wang also made two more concrete announcements on China-Africa relations. First, the AU will be establishing a representative’s office in China. Second, Wang confirmed that the next Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit will be held in Beijing this September. The last FOCAC summit, hosted by South Africa in 2015, saw China pledge a massive $60 billion in investment for the continent.