Wednesday, June 24, 2020

China-Africa Friendship Solid
By GT Staff Reporters
Global Times
2020/6/18 1:13:40

Djiboutian Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed (5th L, back row) and other officials pose for a group photo with members of the Chinese medical team in Djibouti, capital of Djibouti, May 10, 2020. (Chinese Embassy in Djibouti/Handout via Xinhua)

China and African countries vowed to strengthen joint efforts in battling COVID-19 at a China-Africa summit on Wednesday, as the African continent faces increasing infections and China deals with a resurfacing of the epidemic, which indicate a protracted fight against the virus. Experts said that the summit demonstrates the unshakable China-African friendships despite previous bumps and some Western countries trying to sow dissent. China will always be the biggest supporter of African countries' development, especially during the post-pandemic era.

In a keynote speech delivered at the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on countries around the world, with the loss of several hundred thousand precious lives. He suggested to observe a moment of silence for those who have tragically passed away due to COVID-19 and express our condolences to their families.

He said that in the face of COVID-19, China and Africa have offered mutual support and fought shoulder to shoulder with each other. China shall always remember the invaluable support Africa gave us at the height of our battle with the coronavirus. In return, when Africa was struck by the virus, China was the first to rush in with assistance and has since stood firm with the African people.

"China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year. China will work with Africa to fully deliver the health care initiative adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals," Xi said.

"Together, we will build a China-Africa community of health for all. We pledge that once the development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit."

Experts said that China's promises and assistance to African countries are concrete and useful, which reflect China's sincerity and close China-Africa friendship.

The summit, held via video link, was jointly proposed by China, South Africa, the rotating chair of the African Union (AU), and Senegal, the co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Leaders of African countries, including members of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government and rotating chairs of major African sub-regional organizations, and the chairperson of the AU Commission, attended the summit. The secretary-general of the United Nations and the director-general of the World Health Organization also attended as special guests.

The summit fully shows that China and Africa have attached great importance to COVID-19 prevention work, and their resolve not to slack off in the fight. They also urged other countries to take a more responsible attitude in the global anti-virus battle, experts said.

Experts noted China and African countries, as well as the international community would benefit from the summit. Some experts and international organizations expressed concerns over Africa countries' capability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, and they said whether the world would win the battle against the virus depends on every country's efforts.

Li Hongfeng, the dean of the School of African Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the summit would help China and African countries share anti-virus experience and inspire more multilateral cooperation to work with and aid African countries. It will also facilitate coordination among African countries and resource sharing.

The epidemic in Africa is not as severe as previously thought, but recent data showed that it is still developing. All countries should stay alert, Li Hongfeng said.

Data from the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention under the African Union shows 252,544 infections have been reported as of press time on Wednesday. The southern African region has been hit hardest with 73,553 confirmed cases.

The infection numbers in the EU and the UK were 1,481,425 as of press time, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, while the US had 2,137,731 confirmed cases, Johns Hopkins University reported.

The "so far, so good" situation in the African continent can be traced to its previous experience in dealing with various epidemic diseases and the pre-warning systems and anti-virus network among African countries. Foreign aids, including those from China, also contributed to it, observers said.

Africa still faces several threats in dealing with the epidemic, including rising infections, especially in certain countries like South Africa, which may bring greater pressure to certain areas; incompetence in managing the pace of the spread; and contradictions between virus prevention and work resumption, Li Hongfeng said.

As Europe and the US remain trapped by the epidemic, the China-Africa summit will generate greater confidence in African countries to overcome the virus, she noted.

Kenya's Ambassador to China, Sarah Serem, told the Global Times that these five months of unprecedented ravaging of the world by the coronavirus pandemic has  showed China is a friend worth keeping.

Baba Ahmad Jidda, the Nigerian Ambassador to China, expressed his appreciation for Chinese support to Nigeria, specifically the Chinese medical team sent by the Chinese government and donations raised by Chinese transnational companies and civic institutions.

"China has already made significant progress in the clinical trials of potential COVID-19 vaccines, which would be of tremendous benefit not only to Chinese citizens but also to the global community," Jidda told the Global Times. He said he expected potential collaboration between China and Africa to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, as had been achieved in the Ebola vaccine research.

 China Central Television reported that China has so far donated medical supplies to more than 50 African countries and deployed 148 medical staff to 11 African countries. More than 40 Chinese medical teams aiding Africa have organized over 400 training sessions to local medical staff. 

The US announced in March an additional $274 million in foreign assistance for 64 at-risk countries, including many African countries, in the fight against the COVID-19 global pandemic.

However, the New York Times reported on June 7 that while the Trump administration has made big promises, it has provided only limited aid to the global virus response.

Li Xinfeng, the executive vice-president of the China-Africa Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday that China has been and will always be the biggest supporter of African development, aiding the continent in its fight against COVID-19 and restoring its economy in the post-pandemic era.

Africa is the main source of raw materials and the global lockdown would also hurt Africa's economy - declining demand for raw materials, fewer international flights, and suspending agricultural production, Li Xinfeng said.

An initial analysis from McKinsey & Company on April 1 on COVID-19's economic impact found that Africa's GDP growth in 2020 could be cut by 3 to 8 percentage points.

Work resumption and prevention from COVID-19 are both crucial for African countries to meet the requirements of people's livelihood, to avoid massive social disturbance, to develop the economy and to invest more in public health, Li said.

Unshakable friendship

The summit also shows that China-African friendship can endure the COVID-19, bumps during the epidemic, complicated international relations, and some Western countries' attempts to instigate dissent, experts said.

Mutual trust and respect have been the unshakable cornerstone for China-Africa friendship for many decades. This is why the two sides support each other's core interests, Li Xinfeng said.

China respects African countries, and they treat each other as true friends. However, some Western countries, especially the US, consider themselves superior to others, and always point fingers at African countries' domestic affairs, he said.

For example, Africans, including ambassadors, scholars and politicians, expressed support to China's adoption of the national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, calling the move necessary to safeguard China's sovereignty, and that no foreign forces have the right to interfere. 

In response to previous bumps in China-Africa ties caused by the alleged "discrimination" against Africans in South China's Guangdong Province, anti-China sentiment in some African countries as well as the murder of three Chinese nationals in Zambia, experts said that individual cases would not change the good ties.

Ill-intended media is waiting for a chance to "drive a wedge and spoil" China-Africa relations, but the China-Africa ties should not be swayed by unverified reports and exaggerations, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to China Martin Chedondo told the Global Times.

"Relations between China and Africa are strategic and mutual, have transcended generations and continue to deepen," he said. "It is of fundamental importance for Africa and China to guard their unity of purpose and strive at all times to openly communicate in a spirit of trust and sincerity."

Li Xinfeng said that the previous incidents between China and African countries has attracted wide attention, since the two sides have greater expectations from the bilateral ties, and some spats were exaggerated and hyped.

"The US has always tried to sow discord between China and African countries, especially as China-US ties are strained, and the US is losing its influence on the continent," Li Xinfeng said, "But making groundless remarks or smearing China would not help the situation."

Li Hongfeng said the previous twists and turns also remind the two sides to deepen understanding of each other's cultures, and increase people-to-people exchanges. 

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