"We're Brothers, Sisters, and All-weather Loyal Friends"— Zambia's Founding President Kenneth Kaunda's Friendship with China
Published: Jul 13, 2021 04:49 PM
Kenneth Kaunda singing his self-composed song at the Chinese Spring Festival temple fair
Kenneth Kaunda singing his self-composed song at the Chinese Spring Festival temple fair

In 2013, at the "Happy Spring Festival" temple fair hosted by the Chinese embassy in Zambia, an old man, with a big smile, was playing guitar and singing a song written by himself - "Tiyende Pamodzi" (With One Heart). The Zambians and Chinese present were dancing and humming along with the tunes. They were enjoying the moment like one big family.

Kenneth Kaunda, the founding president of Zambia, had dedicated his life to national liberation and progress - a common cause of China and Zambia - and the friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Kaunda was a defining figure in the independence movement in southern Africa. He led Zambia in overthrowing British colonial rule and winning independence in 1964. Since then, Zambia had been at the forefront of the struggle against colonialism in southern Africa, and supported freedom fighters in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia in pursuit of national liberation through armed struggles. In those glorious days, China and African countries stood together in the strong belief that the majority of the oppressed will secure the victory. China provided firm and concrete assistance to the liberation movements in southern Africa, ranging from media support and military strategies, to funds, weapons, supplies and personnel training. By so doing, China joined hands with Zambia to take tangible actions to ensure the success of the struggle for justice.

Moreover, Kaunda is a symbol of China-Africa friendship. He witnessed many milestone moments in China-Zambia and China-Africa relations.

- In October 1964, Zambia declared the establishment of diplomatic relations with China right after its independence. It was the first southern African country to establish diplomatic ties with China.

- Kaunda spoke up on international occasions, saying it was wrong that people of New China were not represented at the United Nations. In 1971, as one of the 23 sponsor countries of Resolution 2758, Zambia, together with other Asian, African and Latin American countries, "carried China into the United Nations".

- In 1974, during his meeting with Kaunda, Chairman Mao Zedong for the first time openly elaborated the well-known Three Worlds theory, and declared that China would stand firmly with all other Third World countries including Zambia.

Chairman Mao Zedong meeting with Kenneth Kaunda

Chairman Mao Zedong meeting with Kenneth Kaunda

The Chinese people are ready to help when Africa is in difficulties. The newly independent Zambia and Tanzania were in urgent need of a railway connecting them, in order to secure their independence and break the imperialists' economic blockade. China responded that "We will help you build this railway even at the cost of our own railway." This was how the world-renowned Tazara Railway came into being. Kaunda lauded it as a signature project for sincere cooperation between China and Africa. He was deeply touched whenever thinking about this. He said, "When the Western countries refused to help us, our Chinese brothers and sisters came and fought together with us. Is there anything that could surpass this friendship?"

The much-told phrase "all-weather friend" was actually coined by Kaunda. It has been used on many occasions and often exclusively refers to the solid friendship between China and Zambia and between China and Africa who have been through thick and thin together.

Chinese and Zambian people working together to build Tazara Railway

Chinese and Zambian people working together to build Tazara Railway

Kaunda was committed to advancing Zambia-China and Africa-China relations and called on African countries to deepen friendly cooperation with China. He held that China was helping Zambia and other African countries boost local economic and social development. Based on his experience in the revolution and governance of Zambia, he concluded that China, a major country with great influence, is willing to treat smaller countries with less influence as equals and engage in sincere, practical and win-win cooperation. African countries should seize the development opportunities brought about by cooperation with China.

Even after retiring from office and despite his senior age, Kaunda had as always cared about China-Zambia relations and was happy to make personal contribution to the longstanding friendship and cooperation between the two countries. The author had the honor to witness some episodes during his tenure at the Chinese embassy in Zambia. Back then, Kaunda was in his 90s and was hospitalized several times. Nonetheless, he always tried his best to engage in the friendly exchanges between China and Zambia including activities in commemoration of the diplomatic ties. And wherever he went, he brought friendship and joy to everyone present. Whenever Chinese friends came, he would always accord them a warm welcome as long as his health condition permitted. He would pat them on the foreheads with his white handkerchief to give bless and talk with them about the history and future of China-Zambia friendship. When it was time to say goodbye, he would insist on seeing them off, waving his white handkerchief. Those were indeed touching moments.

Kenneth Kaunda bidding farewell to Chinese guests

Kenneth Kaunda bidding farewell to Chinese guests

Is there anything that could surpass this friendship? To honor his outstanding contributions, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the Chinese-African People's Friendship Association conferred the China-Africa Friendship Award to Kaunda in 2009, who topped the list of the "Five African People Who Deeply Moved the Chinese People". When coming to China to receive the award, Kaunda said he was convinced that Africa-China friendship and cooperation would see further development in the new era. As he wished, China and Zambia, though far apart geographically, share one heart and mind and always come to each other's assistance. Especially since the 18th CPC National Congress, under the strategic guidance of the two heads of state, China and Zambia have achieved fruitful practical cooperation in all fields, witnessed thriving people-to-people exchanges and profound friendship. The two countries keep close communication and coordination and firmly support each other in international affairs, and are striving to build a closer China-Zambia community with a shared future. China-Zambia friendship has been carried forward to the benefit of the two countries and peoples.

On June 17, Kenneth Kaunda completed an extraordinary life and passed away in Lusaka, Zambia's capital, at the age of 97.

The Zambian people moaned that their legend was gone. The land of Africa sighed that the roaring lion fell asleep. And the Chinese people lost an old, good friend.

History will remember Kaunda and the older generations of Chinese leaders for their brave and resolute struggle against foreign aggression. With the concerted efforts of the Chinese and Zambian people, the "all-weather friendship," created and nurtured by the older generations, will continue to thrive. 
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