The historic 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China starts on November 8. The Congress will usher in a new leadership. Our Group Foreign Editor, Tendai Hildegarde Manzvanzvike (TM) rece-ntly spoke with the People's Republic of China ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin (LL) about the leadership transition and the current state of Sino-Zimbabwe and Sino-Africa relations.
Your Excellency, you were recently posted to Zimbabwe. What are your impressions so far?
Zimbabwe is my fourth posting in Africa after Ethiopia from 2004 to 2008. Before that, I worked in South Africa from 1994 to 1998.
My first posting was in Uganda 27 years ago, and this is where I started my diplomatic career. So, you may find out that up to now my diplomatic career has all been spent in Africa. I consider myself and was considered by my colleagues a half African.
I had been to Zimbabwe a couple of times for short visits. At that time, I fell in love with this beautiful land and her friendly people. Ever since I arrived in Harare three months ago, everyday, I feel the fraternal sentiments Zimbabwean people have for Chinese people. I often come across people on the streets that greet me in Chinese.
Zimbabwe is a country endowed with abundant natural resources and boasts a well-educated and diligent people. I'm pleased to see that under the leadership of His Excellency President Mugabe and, with the joint efforts of all parties concerned, Zimbabwe has enjoyed political stability and economic recovery. I have full confidence in Zimbabwe's even brighter and more prosperous future.
How would you describe the bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and China?
China and Zimbabwe enjoy a profound traditional friendship. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Chinese Government and people firmly supported the Zimbabwean people in their fight for national liberation. Our two countries established diplomatic relations on the very day of Zimbabwe's independence. I am happy to see that the year 2012 witnessed a rapid growth of China-Zimbabwe friendly relations. This year, we have enjoyed frequent high-level exchanges.
Chinese vice prime minister Hui Liangyu visited Zimbabwe. Mr Liu Qi, politburo member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China came to Zimbabwe and paid a courtesy call on His Excellency President Mugabe.
Another 13 delegations from different provinces of China also visited Zimbabwe. From the Zimbabwean side, about 20 ministerial delegations went to China on various occasions.
We have made great achievements in mutually beneficial economic co-operation. The trade volume between China and Zimbabwe was US$662 million in the first eight months of this year and is expected to reach US$1 billion by the end of 2012. Many China-aid projects such as the China-Zimbabwe Friendship Hospital and the Defence College were built and handed over to Zimbabwe.
An orphanage school is nearly completed. The expansion of Victoria Falls Airport is about to start. Within the framework of the Forum on China-African Co-operation (Focac), we are pushing forward the building of a middle school, a primary school and a mini-hydropower station.
We also made quite a few donations, for example US$14 million worth of urgent food aid, US$2,4 million worth of agricultural machineries, US$1,5 million worth of fertiliser, 85 vehicles and US$200 000 worth of office supplies to the Parliament.
We have seen prosperity in people-to-people exchanges. Just one month ago, Chinese Acrobatic and Juniors' Performing Art Troupe paid a successful visit to Zimbabwe.
Last June, the chorus from the Confucius Institute of University of Zimbabwe visited Beijing and impressed the Chinese audience with their beautiful Chinese folk songs. Regarding the co-operation in areas of education and human resources, the Chinese government provided 55 scholarships to Zimbabwean students and trained more than 200 Zimbabwean officials so far this year.
The Chinese side highly appreciates Zimbabwe's firm commitment to the One-China Policy and its support of China's great cause of reunification.
The Chinese government and people value the traditional friendship with Zimbabwe and view Zimbabwe as a trustworthy friend and important partner. China is ready to work with Zimbabwe to further strengthen the existing friendly relations and co-operation so as to bring more benefits to the two peoples.
Sino-Africa relations have endured the test of time. What are some of the challenges that the relations face? What does the future hold?
With the expansion of China-Africa co-operation, it inevitably produces this or that problem. For example, some African people complain that the massive retailing stores owned by Chinese are bankrupting local businesses.
Some say that Chinese companies in Africa bring little benefit to local communities as they prefer to hire Chinese workers rather than local people and local employees are forced to work overtime while underpaid.
Some of the problems do exist while others are misunderstandings caused by lack of information. For instance, as to the criticism that Chinese companies hire more Chinese workers than local ones, it is unjustified and simply not the fact. According to a report by The Standard Bank of South Africa, of all the employees hired by Chinese companies in Africa, 85 percent are locals. A research institute based in the United States concluded that the proportion of local employees to Chinese employees was 13:1.
In Zimbabwe particularly, I could show you what the Chinese companies have done in providing jobs to local people and making contribution to community development at large:
- Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co-operation (AFECC) has provided more than 5 000 employment opportunities for local people and sponsored China-Zimbabwe Friendship Brightness Trip to visit Zimbabwe twice. Its mining company Anjin spent more than US$80 million to build a beautiful relocation area, with 474 modern houses.
In the relocation area, more than 45 kilometres of tarred roads have been completed. Primary and secondary schools, clinic, water pumping and purification station and other infrastructure have been built.
- Upon establishment of Zimasco in 2007, Sinosteel has only sent four Chinese to work in Zimasco management team and employed more than 3 000 Zimbabweans directly, while another 4 000 Zimbabweans have been indirectly employed as contractors of the company.
- Tianze Tobacco has conducted contract farming in Zimbabwe and bought the largest amount of tobacco at the highest price from the local market every year, which benefits thousands of tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe. Tianze also provided financial support to more than 100 orphans, set up a primary school for Beatrice Farm and provided study materials and food to an orphanage in Harare.
- Sino-Zimbabwe Cement Company has provided more than 500 employment opportunities for Zimbabweans. It has build roads for local communities. Every year, the company spends US$50 000 in donations and other charity activities for local people.
- Huawei Company has provided more than 2 000 employment opportunities for Zimbabweans. It provides donations to local orphanage almost every month. Recently, the company donated computers to local schools.
While the China-Africa co-operation is getting momentum, it has been the envy of some countries. China has been accused of plundering resources and implementing neo-colonialism in Africa, which is so untrue. If we look into the sources of those accusations, we will find that they do not come from Africa. The African governments and people instead believe in the mutually beneficial nature of China-Africa co-operation.
A survey conducted in 10 African countries by Pew Research Centre based in the United States shows that 86 percent of Senegalese think that China-Africa co-operation has brought benefits to Africa, and 91 percent of Kenyans think that China has a positive influence in Africa.
Although faced with some unjustified accusations, we must carry on with the China-Africa co-operation. Meantime, both China and African countries have the responsibility to present to the world the achievements of our co-operation. Media from both sides should try harder to let the voice of our peoples, especially the voice of African people heard.
The China-Africa co-operation has by now reached a very high level. To further strengthen and enhance our friendly co-operation, we believe that China and Africa should:
- Expand the areas of co-operation. At present, the China-Africa co-operation has been focused in areas like agriculture and infrastructure construction.
In future, we will strengthen our co-operation in people-oriented areas like education and health so as to bring more benefits to the African people. Meanwhile, we will further explore our co-operation in peace and security as well as cultural exchanges.
- Enrich the content of co-operation. China will further develop relations with not only individual African countries but also regional organisations in Africa, strengthen co-operation with not only African governments but also non-governmental organisations; and, promote exchanges with not only regional powers, but also medium-sized and small countries