China-Africa friendship consolidated in joint fight against COVID-19

By Zhu Weidong Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/20 18:05:45

Staff of the Standard Bank in Africa dressed in red on January 31 under the theme "Wear Red for China" to show their solidarity with the Chinese people in the battle against the COVID-19. Photo: cnsphoto

The friendship between China and Africa was formed at a time of difficulties and has been strengthened through constant mutual help and support. Thanks to joint efforts from both sides, it will be everlasting and unchanging. This has once again been proven by Africa's support of China during the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  

Prosperity makes friends, adversity tests them. In the 1950s and 1960s, the first generation of leaders of the People's Republic of China kick started a new era of China-Africa relations. In the early years, after African countries won their independence, the Chinese people offered them as much help that was within their reach at a time when China's economy was sluggish and their lives were difficult. The Tazara Railway in East Africa, built in the 1970s is an example. At that time, the Chinese government provided interest-free loans, equipment, and engineering and technical personnel during construction. 

According to incomplete statistics, after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province and the 2010 Yushu earthquake in Qinghai Province, Sub-Saharan African countries donated about 66.56 million yuan ($9.5 million) to China. At that time, quite a few Africans were earning less than $1.25 per day and living below the international poverty line. 

After the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, some countries closed their embassies, evacuated diplomats and personnel from the region. But the Chinese government immediately sent medical supplies and medical teams to the most severely hit areas. The Chinese embassies, diplomats and medical experts also chose to stand by and fight alongside local people.

For a long time, China has offered African countries substantial quantities of assistance in the public health sector, improving people's livelihood and local infrastructure, which have subtly changed the way Africans view China. According to opinion polls, more and more Africans have a favorable opinion of China, and most Africans believe China's influence in their continent has been positive. 

During the ongoing fight against the COVID-19, the African Union (AU), many governments of African countries, civil organizations and individuals in the continent have shown solidarity, support and assistance toward China. In a statement issued during the 2020 AU summit, which took place from January 21 to February 10, ministers of foreign affairs of AU member states expressed their "solidarity with the government and people of the People's Republic of China in their efforts to counter the spread of the new coronavirus and to cope with its health and social ramifications" and their "confidence in the ability of the Chinese authorities to deal with the challenges this epidemic poses."

Staff of the Standard Bank in Africa dressed in red on January 31 under the theme "Wear Red for China," to show their solidarity with the Chinese people in the battle against the COVID-19. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's largest airline, stressed the need for cooperation with Chinese authorities and noted that there is no proof that canceling flights would help contain the virus. Some African students in China proactively donated or signed up as volunteers to fight the disease. Such support not only boosted China's confidence to battle the virus, but also deepened the friendship between China and Africa. 

At the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed that China and Africa should join hands to build a China-Africa community with a shared future that features joint responsibility, win-win cooperation, happiness for all, common cultural prosperity, common security, and harmonious co-existence. He also proposed the two sides advance cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, and pool the strength of this initiative with that of Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations, and national development strategies of African countries. The proposal received warm response and support from a vast number of African countries. 

Forty-four African countries and the African Union (AU) Commission have signed cooperation documents under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative with China.

With the joint efforts, the friendship between China and Africa is bound to last forever. As President Xi said in his speech at the Johannesburg Summit of the FOCAC in 2015, the sound development momentum of China-Africa cooperation will remain as strong as ever.

The author is a senior research fellow with the China-Africa Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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