By Wang Qing
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in a weeklong tour to Africa, visited some strategic nations in the continent. From the 9th to the 16th January, Mr Qin Gang visited Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, Egypt, the African Union Headquarters and the League of Arab States Headquarters upo n invitation. This is his first overseas trip as the Chinese Foreign Minister. It is also the 33rd consecutive year that the Chinese Foreign Minister visits Africa on the first overseas trip of the new year.
During the visit, Foreign Minister Qin Gang made a four-point proposal on the development of China-Africa Relations: First, intensify in-person interactions and connectivity of ideas between China and Africa Second, further deepen friendly relations between China and the Africa Union. Third, do more to upgrade and elevate China-Africa cooperation. Fourth, stand firm in defending the unity and cooperation of developing countries. Foreign Minister Qin Gang also reiterated that strengthening solidarity and cooperation with African countries will always be a diplomatic priority for China. No matter how the international environment changes, China and Africa will always be a community with a shared vision.
This visit clearly stated that carrying forward and advancing the China-Africa friendship has been a noble tradition and a defining feature of China’s diplomacy. Even mountains and seas cannot distance people with common aspirations. China is the largest developing country in the world, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. Shared past experiences and similar aims and goals have brought China and Africa closer together. Since the 1950s and the 1960s, the first generation of leaders of China including Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai joined hands with their African counterparts to usher in a new era of China-Africa friendship. From then on, the Chinese and African people have supported and cooperated with each other and forged a brotherly bond sharing weal and woe. The Chinese people will not forget that it was the African brothers who “carried”the New China into the United Nations. African people will also never forget that China extended a helping hand to support Africa’s development in its own very difficult times. The Chinese and African people share good feelings with each other, which have become the unbreakable foundation of China-Africa friendship.
This visit vividly demonstrated China’s firm will and practical actions to build a high-level China-Africa community with a shared vision and future. Entering the new era, President Xi Jinping put forward the principles of China’s Africa policy – sincerity, real results, unity and good faith, and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, and advocated building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, which has been unanimously endorsed by African leaders and has pointed out the way forward and provided a fundamental guideline for China-Africa cooperation in the new era. Under the joint leadership and impetus of the Chinese and African leaders, China-Africa cooperation has continued to make new progress and reached unprecedented heights. The “Ten Major Plans”, “Eight Major Initiatives” and “Nine Programs” proposed on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) are progressing smoothly. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years, and the trade volume between China and Africa is expected to exceed $260 billion by 2022. During his visit to Africa, Foreign Minister Qin Gang attended the completion ceremony of the headquarter of the African Center for Disease Control, adding a new landmark project to China-Africa cooperation. At present, 52 African countries and the African Union Commission have signed Belt and Road Initiative Cooperation Documents with China, and cooperation projects on roads, electricity, communications and ports have spread across Africa, enhancing Africa’s capacity for autonomous and sustainable development. China will continue to respect the will of the African people, and bring tangible benefits to the Africa people under the actual situation to achieve better common development.
China and Sierra Leone are time-bonded friends. During the past 52 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-Sierra Leone relations have developed smoothly and become a model of China-Africa friendship and cooperation. In recent years, under the strategic leadership of the two Heads of State, political trust between China and Sierra Leone has continued to grow, practical cooperation has been steadily promoted, international collaboration has become closer, and solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 has been effective, giving new energy to the traditional friendship between the two countries. Although I have only been in office for a short time, I can already feel the fruitfulness of the practical cooperation between the two countries. On the second day after I presented my credentials, I attended the handover ceremony of the China-aided Foreign Service Academy, where President Bio said “thank you” in Chinese, drawing a warm response. I have visited Youyi Building a number of times. It is one of the landmarks of China-Sierra Leone friendship. Chinese Military Medical Expert Group, China CDC Expert Team and Chinese Medical Team in Sierra Leone fought with the Sierra Leonean people against Ebola and COVID-19, vividly illustrating the China-Africa friendship of mutual help and common destiny. The Chinese language courses offered by the Confucius Institute at the University of Sierra Leone are attracting more and more people and have become a bridge between the two countries to strengthen people-to-people exchange.
China-Sierra Leone relations are facing new opportunities for development in the new era. As the new Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, I will work with my colleagues and the Sierra Leonean friends to implement the important consensus reached by the two Heads of State to enhance the relations between our two countries, deepen political mutual trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation, promote the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to a new level, and jointly build the high-level China-Africa community with a shared future in the New Era.