SEVERAL years ago I was posted at the Chinese Embassy in Lesotho. Over a month ago, I was notified that I would be assigned to work at the Chinese Embassy in Zambia. On my way to Lusaka, I made a transit via OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. This time I felt familiar and yet not quite so, as this flight is Northbound instead of southbound. This time around when I returned to Africa it was just dozens of days before the convening of 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit when China and African countries would join hands in building a even closer community with a shared future. As I now recall the road which China-African relations have traversed, and look forward to the brilliant future prospects of China-Africa cooperation, I am so excited that lots of feelings well up in my mind.
At the political level, China and Africa are bosom friends and they will assume joint responsibility in world affairs. China-Africa relations with a long history have stood firm and gone through the test of time. With shared historical experiences, development tasks and political appeals, China and Africa have always been a community with a shared future through weal and woe. With mutual respect for and understanding and support of each other, China consistently upheld the Zambian and African peoples’ cause of independence and national liberation and it was African countries that resolutely supported China’s resumption of the latter’s lawful seat at the United Nations and “carried China into the UN”. In recent years,with the constant increase of political trust between the two sides, the new type of China-Africa Strategic Partnership was been elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership.
As President Xi Jinping rightly pointed out at the keynote speech of the opening ceremony of the Summit, China has followed the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests. We respect Africa, love Africa and support Africa. We follow a “five-no” approach in our relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa.
President Xi proposed that China and Africa should strengthen political and policy dialogue at various levels, enhance mutual understanding and support on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, and boost coordination on major international and regional issues. Such efforts will enable us to uphold the common interests of China and Africa as well as other developing countries.
Recently, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, founding father of the Republic of Zambia gave a high appraisal to Chinese government for the latter’s hosting of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, where the Chinese and African leaders gathered to discuss the important issues essential for Africa’s development. Although the international situation has undergone profound changes, the Third World Theory proposed by late Chairman Mao Zedong during his meeting with Dr Kaunda is still relevant.
It could be predicted that with China and Africa pursuing common development to fulfilling the dream of national prosperity and rejuvenation, the international power configuration would be more balanced and harmonious.
At the economic level, China-Africa cooperation aims at a win-win result. In the Sixties and Seventies of the 20th century, China helped the construction of Tazara, giving a strong impetus to the economic development of Zambia and Tanzania.
During the process, 64 Chinese technicians, engineers and workers sacrificed their lives. Their glorious deeds are still remembered and eulogized by the peoples of the three countries. Today, China endeavored to align the Belt and Road initiative with the AU Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development programs of African countries including the Seventh National Development Plan of Zambia in a joint effort to forge a China-Africa community with a shared future.
At the Summit, President Xi announced Eight Major Initiatives which include industrial promotion, facility interconnection, trade facilitation, capacity building,etc.
It demonstrated that China is fully committed to helping African countries including Zambia to step up their industrialization and agricultural modernization in pursuit for economic independence and sustainable development.
During President Edgar Lungu’s trip to China, China and Zambia signed a series of co-operative agreements including a MoU on the Cooperation on Belt and Road Initiative.
President Lungu said that Zambia would like to build One Belt one Road Initiative, expand the cooperation in various sectors within the FOCAC framework and thus leading the development of the African continent and the sub-regions.
There are always some force which China and Africa should go ahead steadily on the path of win-win cooperation, would speak foul or find faults with the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Africa, China-Zambia relations.
However, ultimately, it is for the peoples of China and Africa to judge the performance of China-Africa cooperation. There is a Bemba proverb which says,Uwingila mu mushitu, tomfwa nswaswa.
It means that “he who enters the thicket does not fear and turn back when hearing sticks breaking. Therefore, we should never be disturbed by any outside imaginations or assumptions.”
At the people-to-people exchange level, China-Africa mutual learning will bring the two peoples closer. President Xi stressed that by enhancing exchanges, mutual learning and harmonious co-existence of China-Africa civilizations, we will inject lasting impetus into invigorating our civilizations and cultures, enriching our artistic creations, and provide rich cultural nourishment for China-Africa cooperation. With more people-to-people exchanges in culture and art, education, sports, and between our think tanks, the media, and women and young people, we will strengthen the bond between the people of China and Africa. Recently, I visited Lusaka National Museum and the Confucius Institute at the University of Lusaka, and met with some scholars and experts from local think tanks. I found that these Zambian friends have shown great interest in and are quite eager to enhancing exchanges and cooperation with the Chinese side. Not long ago, a group of Chinese artists came to Zambia on a field tour and have had very in-depth exchange of views with their Zambian colleagues. They got plenty of artistic inspirations from the latter and from the local traditions and customs, instilling fresh vigor and vitality to their artistic creations. “The key to sound relations between states lies in the affinity between their peoples, which largely stems from mutual understanding”. Therefore, it is essential that China and Zambia should made joint efforts to expand and deepen people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.
On the security level, China and Africa will join hands in safeguarding stability and peace.China champions a new vision of security featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. We firmly support African countries and the African Union as well as other regional organisations in Africa in solving African issues in the African way. China is ready to play a constructive role in promoting peace and stability in Africa and will support African countries to strengthen their independent capacity for safeguarding stability and peace.
Zambia has been called an oasis of peace in Africa and it plays a very important role in maintaining regional peace and actively participating in UN peace-keeping operations. In this aspect, there is great potential for cooperation between China and Africa including Zambia.
On the health care level, China-Africa cooperation will serve to overcoming all types of diseases. China has decided to upgrade 50 medical and health aid programmes for Africa, particularly flagship projects such as the headquarters of the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and China-Africa Friendship Hospitals.
Exchange and information cooperation will be carried out on public health. Cooperation programs will be launched on the prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases, schistosomiasis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.
China will train more medical specialists for Africa and continue to send medical teams that better meet Africa’s needs. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Chinese Medical Team coming to Zambia.
The Chinese Medical Teams have contributed a lot to improving local medical and heath care conditions and upgrading local people’s livelihood.
In the future, the Chinese side will work together with the Zambian side in constantly enhancing the cooperation in the medical and health care sector.
On the ecological level, China-Africa cooperation will boost the harmonious development of themselves and the rest of the world. President Xi appealed at the summit that China will work with Africa to pursue green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development and protect our lush mountains and lucid waters and all living beings on our planet in order to build a China-Africa community with a shared future that promotes harmony between man and nature. To this end, China decided to undertake 50 projects for green development and ecological and environmental protection in Africa to expand exchanges and cooperation with Africa on climate change, ocean, desertification prevention and control, and wildlife protection.
A China-Africa environmental cooperation center will be set up, and more policy dialogue and joint research on environmental issues will be conducted.
The China-Africa Green Envoys Programme will be implemented to strengthen Africa’s human capacity for environmental management, pollution prevention and control, and green development. China will also work with Africa to raise public awareness of environmental protection. Of course, I believe China and Zambia can do more things together in this regard.
Above all, the Eight Major Initiatives speak loud and clear that there are a lot of things that China and Africa, and China and Zambia can do together. Let us join hands and make greater contributions to forging a even closer China-Africa community with a shared future!
The author is Chargé d’affaires, Chinese Embassy in Lusaka.