Gabonese President kicks off Beijing trip for closer China-Africa cooperation
Published: Apr 18, 2023 09:47 PM
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba Photo: Xinhua

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba Photo: Xinhua

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba on Tuesday kicked off his four-day state visit to China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Besides the significance of advancing bilateral ties, President Bongo's visit is constructive in boosting Africa's confidence in economic recovery and advancing practical cooperation with China, especially in the wake of the pandemic and amid the Ukraine crisis, Chinese analysts said. 

Following a flurry of Asian, European and Latin American leaders' diplomatic activities in Beijing, the visit by an African head of state would be beneficial to promoting the construction of a new type of international relations, and indicates that the full-fledged Chinese diplomacy is setting off a global effect, they said.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, President Ali Bongo is the first African head of state to be received by Xi since his reelection as Chinese president. The two heads of state will hold talks and attend a signing ceremony of cooperation documents after a welcome ceremony and banquet in Beijing. 

On April 14, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin hailed that Ali Bongo Ondimba's visit to China will provide new impetus for the comprehensive and deep-going growth of China-Gabon relations and generate new outcomes in the friendly cooperation between the two countries.

Wang said China and Gabon enjoy a traditional friendship, and firmly support each other on issues that bear on the core interests and major concerns of each side, with deepened mutual trust and fruitful practical cooperation.

This is President Ali Bongo's second state visit to China after more than six years. In December 2016, President Xi held talks with the Gabonese leader in Beijing when they decided to upgrade China-Gabon relations to a comprehensive cooperative partnership. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry, President Ali Bongo has visited China 11 times. April 20 will mark the 49th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Song Wei, a professor at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that China-Gabon relations, especially since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was proposed, have shown a positive development momentum.

2023 marks the 10-year anniversary of China's BRI. It is also the 10th anniversary of China's African policy of "sincerity, affinity and good faith." 

Given that Gabon is an important exporter of raw materials, such as timber and ore, Song said China may provide more support for Gabon's processing and manufacturing industry under the existing cooperation framework.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, China was Gabon's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years until 2022. In 2022, China-Gabon trade reached $4.55 billion, up more than 50.8 percent year-on-year. China mainly imports petroleum, manganese ore and wood, and exports mechanical and electrical products, steel and cement.

As the first African leader to pay a state visit to China in 2023, the ties with China will certainly boost Africa's overall confidence of recovery in the post-COVID era, Song said.

In addition, with the US tightening its grip on Africa, the visit also sends a signal to the world that China has always been Africa's strongest development partner and important driving force for Africa's growth, Song said. 

He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the upcoming exchanges between the Chinese and Gabonese leaders will be a representative case in mapping out the next stage of China-Africa cooperation.

"Africa is the BRI's leading partner worldwide, with almost full coverage in cooperation fields," He said. "China plays a tangible role in promoting economic and social development and improving people's well-being in Africa."

Mutually beneficial China-Africa cooperation sets a good example for building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind, He remarked. 

In an article published in the People's Daily on April 17, Chinese ambassador to Gabon Li Jinjin said that the China-Gabon friendship was forged by the older generation of leaders of the two countries and the rock-solid relations has withstood the test.

China and Gabon have always understood and supported each other on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns, and worked closely on multilateral occasions such as the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council to firmly safeguard international fairness and justice, reads Li's article.