No. 24 | 12.12.2021
On April 6, 2020, China-aided medical supplies to Africa fighting Covid-19 arrived in Ghana. [Xinhua News Agency]
How China and Africa have developed cooperation over the past two decades
Zhang Zhongxiang
Zhang Zhongxiang (张忠祥) is director of the Center for African Studies and professor and doctoral supervisor of Shanghai Normal University
Tao Tao
Tao Tao (陶陶) is a doctoral student at the Center for African Studies, Shanghai Normal University

Zhang Zhongxiang and Tao Tao points out that since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) (中非合作论坛 zhōng fēi hézuò lùntán) in October 2000, China has supported Africa addressing problems that have severely restricted economic development – including inadequate infrastructure and shortage of funds – and has become a driving force in the continent's development. For example, over the last two decades, the scope of China's duty-free access to African products expanded steadily. Between 2000 and 2012, China-Africa trade increased from 3.82 percent to 16.13 percent of Africa's total foreign trade. Chinese companies have built 10,000 km of roads, 6,000 km of railroads, 30 ports, 20 airports, and 80 power stations on the continent in ten years (2008-2018). Furthermore, China has provided aid to Africa in areas such as debt relief, human resource training, and dispatching of medical and agricultural experts. The number of Africans trained in these cooperation projects have increased from 7,000 to 50,000 people between 2000 and 2018, totaling 172,000 people. Adhering to its core principles, China's aid is provided without political conditionality (不附加任何政治条件 bù fùjiā rènhé zhèngzhì tiáojiàn) and interference in the internal affairs of receiving countries (不干涉别国内政 bù gānshè bié guónèi zhèng). The authors point out that Africa's international attention has grown significantly recently, in part due to the successful China-Africa cooperation. However, as China's influence in Africa grows, the US government has begun to suppress and discredit China, "seeing it as a threat to African democracy," and Western public opinion continues to stigmatize China-Africa cooperation. The Covid-19 pandemic has also impacted African economies and this cooperation. In conclusion, the authors point to the two-decades worth of accumulated experiences that have promoted mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, noting the importance of continuing to follow these successful experiences in future development. At the same time, against the backdrop of significant global challenges, it is important to actively plan post-pandemic cooperation and build a community of common destiny for China and African countries.

Ten questions about “American democracy”
Wang Wen
Wang Wen (王文) is executive director of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He is a columnist for the English edition of the Global Times and

The "Summit for Democracy" convened by the US on December 9-10 has sparked doubts and criticisms in the United States and internationally. Days before the summit, Wang Wen and his team published "Ten Questions for American Democracy," criticizing the fact that US democracy is one in which the "minority dominates the majority" and "power serves the capital." The "key minority" is increasingly decisive in US elections and power tends to serve the wealthy few, making it increasingly difficult to meet the aspirations of the people. The founders of the US designed the separation of powers to prevent corruption and abuse, but politics in the country has become "hyperpolarized" and Congress members exploit loopholes in the system of lobbying and political contributions for personal gain. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 10.5 percent of families and 38.3 million people faced food insecurity in 2020, and 14.8 percent of families with children and 6.1 million children faced the same problem. The US regards "protecting human rights" as one of the reasons for promoting democracy abroad, yet during 2015-2019, more than 38,000 deaths per year were related to gun violence in the US, 20 percent of whom were under 18-years-old. Regarding ethnic minorities, 229 black people have been killed by the police since George Floyd's death and the FBI reported an increase of hate crimes against people of Latino and Hispanic (by 21 percent, 2019) and Asian (by 150 percent, 2020) backgrounds. The US exports its democratic system, which has directly led to years of war in many countries, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where 20 years of invasion led to 241,000 people being killed. This has made the US a veritable "refugee-maker." According to Wang's team, there is no single model of democracy in the world, and the US political practice has made its democracy a "minority democracy," a "money democracy," a "democracy destroyer," and a "world bully," and "international rule trampler."

Shifting strategies for China’s nearly 300 million “informal workers”
Philip C. C. Huang
Philip C. C. Huang (黄宗智) is chair professor at Law School, Renming University of China and professor of history at the University of California

Due to the booming digital platform economy or "gig economy" in recent years, "informal economy" has also become a hot topic. Introduced by Western countries, the "informal economy" includes workers who have no employment security, receive few or no benefits, and are often unprotected by labor laws. Currently, informal work is the most common employment situation in China. Professor Huang points out that one of the key drivers of the rising informal economy is the country's strategic decision to "let some people get rich first" (让一部分人先富起来ràngyībùfènrénxiānfùqǐlái). During the planned economy period, all Chinese workers were protected by socialist labor laws that were first formulated by the Communist Party in the 1920s. Since the emergence of township and village enterprises (乡镇企业 xiāngzhènqǐyè) in the 1980s, massive migrant workers (农民工 nóngmíngōng) “left the land but not the village” (离地不离乡 lídìbùlíxiāng) and became "semi-workers and semi-farmers" (半工半耕 bàngōngbàngēng). In the 1990s, many migrant workers got employed in the cities, “leaving both the land and the home village” (离地离乡 lídìlíxiāng). After 2010, the total number of migrant workers reached nearly 300 million. Huang states that the "informal economy" boosts China's attractiveness to foreign capital, making it "the world's factory," and reduces the burden of labor costs on enterprises, including state-owned enterprises. However, it also creates inequality between the rich and poor, and increases labor-management conflicts. Since 2018, China has shifted from the principle of "letting some people get rich first" to the pursuit of "fundamental interests of the majority of people” (最大多数人民的根本利益 zuìdà duōshù rénmín de gēnběn lìyì), which is repeatedly affirmed in the country's Constitution, as well as the socialist concept of "common prosperity." After eradicating extreme poverty last year, China is carrying out rural revitalization plan to boost rural development and increase income for peasants. Some third and fourth tier cities have also relaxed residency rules (户口 hùkǒu) for migrant workers. Huang suggests that it is necessary to further reduce the urban and rural gap in order to pave the way for migrant workers to integrate into urban societies.

Issues that should be considered in China’s property tax experimentation
Zhao Yanjing
Zhao Yanjing (赵燕菁) is a professor at Xiamen University and former director of Xiamen Municipal Bureau of Urban Planning Administration

After twenty years of debate, last month, China's top legislature authorized the State Council to launch a five-year pilot program for property tax in some regions. The goal is to reduce unequal income distribution, guide rational housing consumption and the economical use of land resources. Zhao Yanjing points out this pilot program is a major advancement from previous ones in Shanghai and Chongqing by allowing many more cities to experiment with property taxes based on their local conditions. In this sense, the decentralization of property taxation enables provincial-level governments to maximize the value of local economic development based on the resource endowment of different areas. An example of issues arising from today's centralized taxation system is Hainan Island, where its resource endowment is suitable for tourism. However, since the current source of tax revenues is collected from production chains, rather than consumption, the Hainan government has had to develop its chemical industry to meet its public expenditure. Zhao warns that there are several factors that should be considered when implementing property tax. First is institutional mismatch (制度错配 zhìdù cuò pèi), meaning that the tax system is not aligned with the country's political institutions. Property tax, a direct tax typically paid by property and land owners, is the main source of Western public expenditure. Meanwhile, the revenue of Chinese governments at different levels mostly depend on indirect taxation, in which enterprises and organizations are the main taxpayers, rather than individuals. Secondly, land transfer is the largest source of revenue for local governments, helping them provide public goods and boost the economy. Therefore, introducing a property tax would negatively impact China's main source of capital and threaten local economies. Accordingly, Zhao suggests that creating a dual-track system in the real estate market like Singapore, where public housing runs parallel to commercial housing, is a good way to mitigate potential risks linked to implementing property tax.

An international perspective on China’s National Memorial Day for the Nanjiing Massacre
Tang Zhongnan
Tang Zhongnan (汤重南) is a researcher at Institute of World History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

On December 13, China commemorates the 84th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre. Eight years ago, China's top legislature designated December 13 as the national memorial day for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre. According to Tang Zhongnan, this day marks the highest-level mourning among Chinese people for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre and the Japanese imperialist war of aggression against China. This legal affirmation also reflects the country's firm will to defend the fruits of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (中国人民抗日战争 zhōngguó rénmín kàngrì zhànzhēng), the Worldwide Anti-fascist War (世界反法西斯战争 shìjiè fǎn fàxīsī zhànzhēng), and the safeguarding of world peace. On December 13, 1937, the Japanese army invaded Nanjing, and over the next 40 days, pillaged the city and systematically killed over 300,000 civilians and soldiers who had already laid down their arms. Recently declassified reports published by the Liaoning Archives show that in March 1938, the Japanese army still needed five or six trucks and two or three hundred civilian workers to clean up the bodies every day. Evidence of the Nanjing Massacre – a blatant violation of international law – is overwhelming. However, since the 1980s, Japanese right-wing forces have frequently denied the history of Japanese aggression and the Nanjing Massacre and have even worshipped Class-A war criminals memorialized at the Yasukuni Shrine, which has been visited by leaders like former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Tang points out that the establishment of the National Memorial Day is not only a reminder to the Chinese people to not forget the national humiliation and to cherish peace, but also serves as a strong rebuttal to the historical denial by Japan's right-wing. Furthermore, this recognition will help China and the world establish lasting consensus on issues, such as Japanese militarism and the Nanjing Massacre, with the goal of jointly maintaining peace in East Asia and across the globe.

Subscribe to Chinese Voices. The digest is published every Sunday in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.Download the PDF of the complete articles (automatically translated) of this issue. The opinions of the articles are not necessarily shared by Dongsheng editorial collective.

Follow our social media channels: