8 January 2018

Liberia: Chinese Developments a Memoir of Ambassador Zhang's Time in Liberia

He is to depart Liberia very soon, perhaps at the end of the month, after the inauguration of President-elect George Weah. Ambassador Zhang Yue on January 6 announced his departure from Liberia at the occasion that marked the dedication of the Liberia-China Wushu School & Gymnasium near the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex.

Ambassador Zhang took over as Chinese Ambassador to Liberia on February 2, 2014, upon presenting his letters of credence to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

China and Liberia restored diplomatic relations following Liberia's civil war and embarked on economic and social improvements that brought about the implementation of major projects in post-conflict Liberia, while the door was also opened for the Chinese to come to Liberia for business and other activities of interest.

The China-Liberia bilateral relation, like the China-Africa relation, focuses on mutual economic and social benefits, and for this relation to hold, Liberia especially has to abide by the One-China Policy that sees Taiwan as an integral part of China.

Arriving in Liberia with the intent to implement some projects in line with Liberia's needs, Ambassador Zhang was like all of us caught unawares in 2014 when the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) struck the country along with Guinea and Sierra Leone.

It was in this predicament that China became the first to provide US$1 million for Liberia to start fighting the disease. China under the ambassadorial stewardship of Zhang Yue sent one of its largest cargo planes filled with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), other medical equipment and materials for building treatment units. China also sent doctors and medical brigades from the Chinese People's Liberation Army to fight the disease.

Following Ebola, China and Liberia signed multiple bilateral agreements among which China decided to build a ministerial complex that will host about nine ministries, annexes of the Capitol Building, renovate the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex and construct the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Terminal and renovate the runway.

The ministerial complex and annexes of the Capitol, according to Ambassador Zhang are expected to be dedicated by the end of 2018.

Observing the complex, one can deduce that the front view on Tubman Boulevard has reached its termination height. Work is seriously ongoing at the rear where another cluster of buildings is being constructed in addition to the ones at the front.

When completed, the ministerial complex will relieve the Liberian Government of being a tenant in its own country by renting private buildings for ministries and agencies which has, over the years become more of a rule than an exception.

The annexes of the Capitol Building, on the other hand, will create more office spaces for Legislators and other Capitol Building workers who have been clustered together in congested offices.

Ambassador Zhang's tour of duty in Liberia also witnessed the teaching of the Chinese language in the country resulting in many Liberians now being able to speak and write Madarin. Some officers of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) and the Liberia National Police have also been taught the Chinese language to help them interact with Chinese nationals visiting and working in Liberia.

Many Liberian students have traveled to China on scholarships to earn graduate degrees in various disciplines. When the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was scaling down its troops in 2016, China turned over hundreds of vehicles, medical equipment, and other military supplies to the Liberia National Police, the Armed Forces of Liberia, Liberia Immigration Service, and the Liberia Fire Service.

Ambassador Zhang has spent four years in Liberia and is to shortly depart for his country to perhaps take on another ambassadorial job elsewhere.

His time here has seen the China-Liberia bilateral relationship grow from strength to strength.

'Xièxie,' (謝謝) Ambassador Zhang!

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