LATER this week, H. E. President Mugabe will be on his way to China for a State visit. This will be his 13th visit to China, and it will start a new chapter for our bilateral relations. China-Zimbabwe friendship dates back to the Zimbabwean independence struggles. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1980, the all-weather partnership between China and Zimbabwe has been smooth and fruitful, and the two countries have stood together in weal and woe.
In recent years, China and Zimbabwe have enjoyed frequent high-level political exchanges, sound economic and trade relations, effective financial and humanitarian aid co-operation as well as fruitful people-to-people exchanges.
Politically, we have always enjoyed good co-operation and mutual trust. Last year, Vice Premier Wang Yang visited Zimbabwe, becoming the third Chinese Vice Premier to visit Zimbabwe in the past three years.
President Xi Jinping sent a special envoy to attend H.E. President Mugabe's inauguration ceremony. Just last month, a high-level Chinese delegation headed by Cde Guo Jinlong, Member of the Politburo of CPC Central Committee and Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, visited Zimbabwe. Quite a few Zimbabwean Cabinet ministers and senior Government officials visit China every year.
Our two countries also maintain close co-operation in international affairs.
China is now one of the largest economic partners of Zimbabwe. Our bilateral trade has been rapidly expanding. The trade volume in 2013 surpassed US$1,1 billion, almost doubling that of 2010, which was US$562 million. Trade is in Zimbabwe's favour as Zimbabwe's exports to China were US$688 million while imports were US$414 million. China's investment in Zimbabwe reached US$602 million in 2013, which was the largest amount of Chinese investment among African nations.
China Exim-Bank has provided over US$1 billion worth of preferential, concessionary and commercial loans to Zimbabwe in recent years for projects including the National Defence College, Harare water project, medical equipment for hospitals, Victoria Falls Airport expansion and Kariba South hydropower station expansion, among others. In the past three years, the total amount of China's official assistance to Zimbabwe, namely grant and interest-free loans, amounts to over US$100 million.
People-to-people exchanges in art, education and human resources development have also gained momentum. Chinese art troupes have come here to give wonderful performances, just as the children's troupe that shone at this year's Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).
The "Night of Beijing" performance at the Celebration Centre in Harare last month fascinated and left unforgettable memories in the hearts of an audience of over 3000. The Zimbabwean culture, such as the stone sculpture, also attracts many Chinese.
Every year, dozens of Zimbabwean students are studying in Chinese universities with scholarships provided by the Chinese side. In the past five years, over 1 700 Zimbabwean officials and technicians were financially supported to be trained in China.
A few weeks ago, the Chinese Embassy and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) co-hosted the first ever China-Zimbabwe Quiz Show to further increase the mutual knowledge and understanding between the two peoples, which was broadcast on ZTV last weekend.
A professional filming crew from China Central Television is now in Zimbabwe to shoot a tourism promotion documentary, which will attract more Chinese people's eyes to this wonderland.
China and Zimbabwe have shared characteristics and aspirations. We are both developing countries facing the same task of reform and development. Both peoples are diligent and are working hard for a better life.
Both governments are endeavouring to improve people's livelihoods. Both nations are promoting the establishment of a new international political and economic order that is more fair and reasonable. Our shared destinations can uncover vast development potentials
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa last year, and described the China-Africa relations in the new era with four phrases "sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith". During his visit to Africa in May this year, Premier Li Keqiang put forward four principles to further deepen China-Africa co-operation. Guided by these principles, China is ready to work hand-in-hand with Zimbabwe to lift our bilateral relations to a new high.
Firstly, we treat each other with full sincerity and as complete equals. Both China and Zimbabwe used to be subjected to aggression and oppression by colonialism and imperialism, so we both deeply value independence and equality.
Neither of us should impose our own will on the other side or interfere in each other's internal affairs, and we should resolve problems through equal and friendly consultation.
Secondly, we strive to enhance solidarity and mutual trust. China and Zimbabwe have treated each other's core interests and major concerns with consistent respect. China has spoken out for Zimbabwe on various multilateral occasions, and Zimbabwe has consistently supported China in upholding its major interests. The solidarity and mutual trust between China and Zimbabwe will always serve the development interests of both countries.
Thirdly, we jointly pursue inclusive development. On the basis of mutual benefit and win-win results, China and Zimbabwe should draw on our respective strengths to achieve common development.
As China develops itself, it will continue to do what it can to support and assist its Zimbabwean brothers and sisters in terms of financing, technology transfer, human resource development, poverty reduction, humanitarian aid, etc.
We will constantly seek and expand the areas of converging interests, so as to bring tangible results of our co-operation.
Fourthly, we continue to strengthen cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The foundation and lifeline of China-Zimbabwe relations lie in the hearts of the two peoples. Thus, in-depth dialogue and concrete action are essential for our relations to be more people-oriented as they further deepen.
Looking ahead, we will attach greater importance to our people-to-people and cultural exchanges so as to improve mutual understanding and expand public support for our friendship. We will especially promote youth exchanges so that our friendship will be carried forward and remain full of vigour and vitality.
Faced with the challenges of a changing world, it is essential for us to recognise that we can achieve more successes and win more battles with our hands held together.
China is confident that the upcoming State visit of President Mugabe to China will strengthen mutual trust between the two sides, enhance pragmatic co-operation in many fields, and inject new impetus into the further development of our bilateral relations.
His Excellency Lin Lin is Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe