China/Africa co-operation in general and Nigeria in particular have notched several milestones and have become a beacon of regional co-operation for the practical results it delivers. In his first elaborate media interview, since arriving in Nigeria six months ago, with Peoples Daily Special Correspondent, Charles Onunaiju, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Nigeria, His Excellency Mr. Gu Xiaojie, gave a great insight on the trajectories of the existing co-operation and his resolve to further expand its frontiers.
Having served as China’s envoy to the African Union and the State of Ethiopia, how would you assess Africa’s response to China’s robust engagement? From your experience how does Africa contribute to nurturing Africa-China cooperation?
The development of China-Africa relations in contemporary history can be dated back to more than half a century ago. Ever since the beginning, the two sides have been committed to nurturing a cordial relationship based on equality and mutual benefit. When Premier Zhou Enlai visited Africa 50 years ago, he proposed five standpoints of China-Africa relations and eight principles regarding China’s aid to Africa. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa last year, he put forward the concept of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” in developing China-Africa relations. Then in May this year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was on an official visit to four African countries. In his speech delivered at the African Union (AU) headquarters, he proposed the “4-6-1” Africa-China Cooperation Framework, a new framework of four principles, six areas and one platform for advancing China-Africa cooperation. Cooperation between the two sides has stood the test of past several decades and continues to grow from strength to strength.
As a Chinese saying goes, “no one can clap with one hand only.” The smooth and significant development of China-Africa relations presupposes the active involvement and contribution from both sides. Take my own experience for example. I have served as the Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia and Representative of China to the African Union (AU) from 2008 to 2011. During my tenure, I was privileged to witness and facilitate the construction of the AU Conference Center and Office Complex (AUCC), which is funded by the Chinese government and is now a symbol of China-Africa friendship. Of course, China contributed a lot to this project. However, what I want to point out is that, this could never have been achieved without the coordination and collaboration from the African side.
In his speech delivered at the AU headquarters, Premier Li Keqiang mentioned that neither the Pyramids nor the Great Wall is built by one person only. Unity and collaboration always serve as the precondition for a win-win situation. I believe our two sides will work even more closely with each other, so as to upgrade China-Africa cooperation and promote the new type of strategic partnership between the two sides to a new level.
In the 1970s, American legendry diplomat Mr. Henry Kissinger once growled about the dilemma Washington faces, whenever she wished to place a call to Europe. Does Beijing also face similar challenge about which capital among the 54 capitals it could call when she wishes to call Africa.
Still I want to refer to Premier Li Keqiang’s speeches at the AU headquarters and the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), in which he defined Africa, a continent full of vitality, as a major pole in the world political arena, a major pole in global economic growth and a colorful pole in human civilization. With 54 countries involving in an accelerated integration process and speaking with one voice, Africa has become a significant player in the political stage of the world and a major emerging market in the global economic stage.
China-Africa relations are based on principles of equality, sincerity and mutual trust. This also applies to relations between China and individual African countries. No matter how small a country is, as far as diplomatic ties are built between the two sides, the Chinese Embassy would be established there just as well. We respect and attach great importance to each and every member of the African community.
On his recent visit to Africa, Premier Li Keqiang, spoke about a suggestion by some African leaders for China to help with a network of infrastructure to connect the whole region and bring to reality her desire for integration. Will Beijing give serious consideration to this and what it will take to translate this from mere aspiration to reality.
Of course, China is serious about this. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius, said, “People should always be true in word and resolute in deed.” While Chinese and African people shared similar historical experiences in the past, common development tasks and aspirations once again bring the two sides together. China and Africa are now working together closely to scale new heights in African development and mutual beneficial cooperation.
Premier Li Keqiang made it very clear that China would continue to prioritize infrastructural development in its cooperation with Africa. This decision is based on the need to promote connectivity on the African continent, which will pave the way for the fulfilment of Africa’s great potentials. Premier Li elaborated on this idea further by singling out three networks, namely a network of high-speed railway, a network of expressway and an aviation network. As the CEO of the Chinese government, Premier Li knows too well that China has the capacity in rendering assistance and support to Africa in these areas. For one thing, China has advance technology and skilled personnel; for another, China is ready to provide financial support to infrastructure development in Africa. So far China has pledged a total of 30 billion US dollars in credit to Africa and 5 billion US dollars in the China-Africa Development Fund.
Africa’s current renowned growth is deficient for not seriously tackling poverty and generating jobs especially among the teeming youth population, contrary to China’s more inclusive growth in the 1980s and 90s. How much of your experience in inclusive growth are you sharing with your African counterparts?
China is more than willing to share her experiences with her African counterparts because we believe both sides have much to gain from each other’s development. Our premier’s proposal of “three networks” is adequate evidence. The enormous potential in Africa’s economy has attracted Chinese investment here and provided greater room for China’s own economic development, while China has the spare financing and production capacity in the fields of infrastructure and industrial development, which Africa needs urgently. China-Africa cooperation, which features complementarities and mutual benefit, will certainly give a strong boost to the development of both sides.
However, I do not think Africa should just follow China’s footsteps blindly, since each part of the world has its own situation. We welcome a course of development which is of African characteristics and is charted by the African people.
Nigeria and China maintains high valued strategic partnership and thanks to your predecessors and their Nigerian counterparts who have worked very hard. What would you like to emphasize to further expand the frontiers of the existing bilateral relations?
I feel very lucky that China and Nigeria are now enjoying very cordial relationship, and the strategic partnership between our two sides is currently progressing in the fast lane. I hope during my tenure, I may carry forward traditional friendship between our two countries, strengthen mutual trust and deepen practical cooperation in various fields, consolidating the foundation for China-Nigeria cooperation. I will try my best to facilitate the high-level exchanges and strategic dialogues, enhance cooperation in the fields of economy and trade as well as people-to-people and cultural engagement, and promote the bilateral strategic partnership to new levels.
In spite of excellent bilateral relations, there are still challenges in following to the letter, signed MOUs and bilateral agreements like the Mambila plateau and the green refinery. In your view how are the challenges to be overcome to make way for a very good co-operation between Nigeria and China?
I believe both sides have been taking concrete follow-up measures since the MOUs and bilateral agreements were signed. There is no doubt, that we all hope the implementation could go smoothly so that Nigerian people can benefit from the projects as early as possible. However, if problems did arise in the meantime, I think both sides should rise to the challenges together—first identify the problems, and then figure out the means of resolution.
Recently Ebola was rampant in some West African countries, with the death toll and number of people infected climbing up every day. What has China been doing to help contain the Ebola outbreak?
As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to escalate, it not only poses a serious threat to the health and life of people in the region, but also presents a real threat to the public health of each and every nation all over the world. On August 8th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola virus a “public health emergency of international concern.” Then on September 18th, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution that deemed the epidemic to constitute “a threat to international peace and security.” The spreading of Ebola has been considered one of those non-traditional security threats the whole international community has to face together.
The Chinese government and people highly commend the governments and peoples of the affected countries for the considerable efforts they made in combating the epidemic, and will always stand together with them. As early as April this year, China came to the aid by providing cash and necessary health materials to countries concerned. In August, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent messages to presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia respectively to show sympathy to the three African countries over massive human and economic losses caused by the Ebola outbreak. After the heads of state of the three countries and the Director-General of the WHO, Margaret Chan Fun Fu-chun, appealed for emergency humanitarian aid in this respect, the Chinese government initiated a contingency plan immediately, renting a charter plane to deliver the much-needed medical supplies worth of 30 million Yuan (US$ 4.9 million) to the affected nations, so that the emergency medical materials could be used in the fight against Ebola as early as possible.
Then on September 18th, during his state visit in India, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an additional aid package of 200 million Yuan (US $32.5 million) for West African countries including Nigeria to combat Ebola. The aid, which includes cash, food and health materials, is aimed at helping the affected countries combat the disease, enhancing epidemic prevention capability of surrounding countries, and supporting organizations concerned to play a leading and coordinating role in the fight against Ebola. For Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, China will provide each of them with US$ 1 million in cash and food worth of US$ 2 million. For Nigeria, China is to offer protective and medical supplies worth of 10 million Yuan (US$ 1.6 million). Besides, China plans to give health supplies worth of 5 million Yuan to each of the other 6 countries, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. China will also provide the WHO and African Union with US$ 2 million in cash each.
In addition, Chinese medical experts meanwhile have been engaging themselves in the battle against Ebola in spite of high risk of infection. In August, China sent expert groups composed of epidemiologists and specialists in disinfection and protection to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. At the same time, instead of withdrawing China’s medical teams previously working in the countries, the Chinese government asked the Chinese doctors to work closely with local staff to contain the epidemic. Then only a few days ago, a 59-member Chinese laboratory team was dispatched to Sierra Leone to assist in improving lab testing facilities through the mobile and non-mobile laboratories contributed by China. Currently, there are 174 Chinese medical professionals working in the Ebola-stricken countries to prevent and control the epidemic.
I believe it is not only the responsibility of the African countries and people, but also the shared responsibility of the whole world to fight Ebola. China will continue to make joint efforts with the international community, taking immediate action and practical measures, to prevent and contain the Ebola outbreak until the final victory is won in the battle against the epidemic.