The year 2020 witnessed the whole world undergoing COVID-19 onslaught and profound global changes. In an increasingly fluid and changing world, anachronistic practices of unilateralism and protectionism were on the rise, driven by resurgent power politics and Cold War mentality. At the same time, humankind gained a more profound appreciation of the need for embracing a shared future. As H.E. President Xi Jinping recently pointed out in his special address at the Davos Economic Forum Virtual Event, the vast majority of the international community is calling for solidarity over division, openness over isolation, consultation over conflict, and cooperation over confrontation.
While the year of 2020 featured many watershed moments, this year 2021 will be another year of historic significance for China and Sierra Leone as well as China-Africa relation. The theme of today’s symposium is “Sierra Leone-China Friendship: Past, Present and Future”. Taking this opportunity, I’d like to share with you stories or facts of the Communist Party of China, China-Sierra Leone relationship and China-Africa cooperation. I hope this will help you better understand the relevant issues. Let me use some numbers to explain.
The first number is 100. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). 100 years ago in July, 1921, when the Chinese nation was in critically precarious condition, the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in a small house in Shanghai and soon after on a small boat in a lake in Zhejiang province in the eastern part of China, where the establishment of the Communist Party of China was solemnly declared.
100 years later, the CPC has grown from about 50 members at the start to the largest party now in the world with more than 90 million memberships. After going through a centenary journey full of sufferings and glories, the CPC today is leading the Chinese nation unwaveringly toward great rejuvenation. People may wonder: what has encouraged and revitalized the CPC for the past 100 years? The answer lies in the original aspiration and the mission of the CPC: to seek happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.
In the early days, the CPC members were mainly intellectuals and workers who aspired to find a way to defeat imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism so as to save the Chinese nation and people from exploitation, oppression and foreign aggression. The then reactionary ruling forces were bent on eradicating the new born CPC. All the CPC members risked their lives in joining the Party and countless of them sacrificed their lives later on.
For instance, from 1934 to 1936, in order to preempt the encirclement by the Kuomintang reactionary forces, the CPC and the Red Army embarked an unprecedented Long March which covered 12,500 kilometers of land across more than 10 provinces with even bare feet. The Red Army repelled more than 1 million enemy troops, conquered snow-capped mountain ranges and crossed desolate marshlands and grasslands. For every 300 meters traversed by the First Front Red Army on the Long March, an average of one soldier laid down his or her life. Among the Long March Red Army commanders were household names like Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, and Comrade Deng Xiaoping.
And from 1931 to 1945 the CPC led the Chinese people to bravely fight against Japanese Aggression, finally drove out the Japanese Militarism aggressors and contributed immensely to the victory of the World anti-Fascist War.
Through 28 years of hard struggle and perseverance like this, the CPC and the Chinese people finally established a new China in 1949 named the People’s Republic of China, by virtue of which the people became masters of the country. Comrade Mao Zedong proclaimed to the world that the Chinese nation had stood up.
Another 29 years later, in 1978, Comrade Deng Xiaoping launched the great cause of reform and opening up, which enabled China’s economy to take off. For 40 years, China’s GDP had been growing at an average annual rate of about 9.5 per cent, which can be translated into 33.5 times of increase from 1949. Chinese People’s disposable income had increased by 22.8 times during the same period.
Then, another 34 years later, in 2012, Comrade Xi Jinping was elected General Secretary of the CPC at the Party’s 18th National Congress. In 2013, General Secretary Xi was elected President of China. With deep love for the people, broad global horizon and selfless sense of responsibility, Comrade Xi Jinping led the great cause of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics into a new era.
Under the staunch leadership of Comrade Xi Jinping, China has been implementing in an earnest way the five-sphere integrated plan and the four-pronged comprehensive strategy for modernization, remained committed to the new development philosophy, successfully surmounted all the challenges and difficulties, and achieved unforeseen progress toward the great national rejuvenation. China is also now heading the process of building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
In the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 made a sudden strike on China. On January 25, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which is usually China’s biggest festival, General Secretary Xi Jinping could not take a minute off. Instead of enjoying the festival, he presided over a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on epidemic prevention and control, which was unprecedented. At the meeting, he emphasized that “saving lives is of paramount importance.”
The central leadership of CPC has made it clear that people’s safety and health should be the first concern of each and every party member as well as the government official. The frontline CPC members followed the instruction with concrete actions. Among them were Mr. Zhong Nanshan and Mr. Zhang Dingyu.
Mr. Zhong Nanshan is China’s renowned respiratory disease expert. In January 2020, he called on the public to avoid traveling to Wuhan unless absolutely necessary. The 84-year-old doctor himself, however, went directly to Wuhan regardless of great risks. After field visits and investigations, he declared that there was “human-to-human transmission,” a judgment critical at the time of confusion and helping set the right course of China’s fight against COVID-19.
Mr Zhang Dingyu is Head of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, one of the major battlefields amid the epidemic. The 56-year-old doctor is a patient himself with an incurable disease ALS that will progressively make him lose muscle strength, eventually become paralyzed and unable to speak, move, swallow, or even breathe. But the ALS sufferer didn’t care about his own health. He joined his colleagues in treating and saving more than 2,800 COVID-19 patients, many of whom were critically ill. He said: ”For me, ALS is like a sword hanging in the air. I want to make a contribution with the limited time I have been left. I try to outrun death, save time, and save more patients”.
These are just a very few of the countless touching stories of CPC members combating COVID-19. Another area worth mentioning is China’s poverty alleviation. General Secretary Xi Jinping has made poverty alleviation one of the top priorities of China’s governance. Millions of CPC members were selected to serve as village-stationed providers of support.
In 2020, all rural residents living under the current poverty line and all designated counties succeeded in shedding off poverty. This means extreme poverty was eliminated for the first time in China’s history of several thousand years. Altogether, 800 million people were alleviated of poverty in China over the past 4 decades. China has been able to assure the rural poor population of the basic provision of food and clothing as well as access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing (referred to as the “two assurances and three guarantees”). Paved roads, tap water, electricity, internet and modernized water closets are now common in most of the villages in China.
From the above-mentioned, it is easy to draw the conclusion that CPC enjoys wide popularity in China and wholehearted support from the Chinese people because it is people-centered and serves the people wholeheartedly. Some anti-China forces spare no efforts in attempting to contain China’s development by demonizing CPC, attacking CPC and driving a wedge between the Chinese people and the CPC. But sorry, their efforts availed to nothing in the past, and they will never succeed in the future!
This year also marks the 60th Anniversary of Sierra Leone’s Independence. Over the past 60 years, Sierra Leone has gone a long way in securing national independence and sovereignty. Today, Sierra Leone boasts peace, stability and big potential for development.
On the basis of previous achievements and under the robust leadership of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio, the Sierra Leonean government and people are now forging ahead toward a better life, proactively combating COVID-19, and pushing for social economic transformation. I believe that with concerted efforts of the whole nation, Sierra Leone will be able to reach the goals set by itself.
The Second number I want to mention is 50. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sierra Leone. Over the past 50 years, China and Sierra Leone have been close friends, reliable partners and good brothers who share weal and woe through thick and thin. The following key words can be used to describe China-Sierra Leone relationship: mutual respect, equal footing, mutual trust, mutual support, and win-win cooperation. China always upholds that all countries, regardless of their size, wealth and strength, are all equal members of the international community. On this very basis China develops her relationship with other countries including Sierra Leone.
By respecting each other and treating each other as equals, China and Sierra Leone have been continuously deepening their friendship. Our two countries have effectively promoted our mutual interests, jointly upheld international justice and worked together in building an even closer community of shared future between China and Africa. What is highly commendable is that Sierra Leone has always been firm in upholding the One-China Principle, which is the political foundation of China’s foreign relations. Sierra Leone was one of the countries that supported restoration of legitimate seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations in 1971.
Over the past 50 years, practical cooperation between China and Sierra Leone has yielded fruitful results. As early as in 1973, China started sending medical and health experts to Sierra Leone. Up to now, a total number of more than 500 Chinese medical experts have been sent to work in Sierra Leone at the expenses of the Chinese government. Over the decades, the Chinese medical expert teams have helped diagnose and treat over 800 thousand patients, conducted more than 200 thousand cases of operations and trained over 6,000 local medical staff.
In late 1970s and 1980s, even when herself was not economically well-off, China helped Sierra Leone built many land-mark projects including the National Stadium, the Youyi Building, the RSLAF Headquarter Complex and the Mange Bridge etc..
In recent years, we’ve seen China-Sierra Leone cooperation further expanded and deepened in areas like agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, human resource development and others both at the bilateral level and under the framework of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
The tangible outcomes include but are not limited to the Office Building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital (Jui), National Fiber Optical Transmission Backbone Project PhaseⅠ, two primary schools in Masingbi and Makeni Communities, Lumley Market Second Juba Bridge, 30 Garbage Dump Trucks, the VVIP motorcade convoy, hundreds of Chinese government scholarships, thousands of personnel trainings, thousands tons of rice aid, large quantity of medical assistance and continued agricultural technical cooperation etc..
Such cooperation has always been aimed at improving the wellbeing of our two peoples. Our solidarity and friendship was further enhanced especially by our cooperation in hard times like the Ebola epidemic in 2014-2015, the mudslide disaster in 2017 and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year in February when China was in its hardest time of fighting COVID-19, I received three pieces of delicate pottery from the trainees of the Training Course on Pottery Production Techniques, which was a skill training program funded by the Chinese government. I was so touched because they crafted the gifts to express their support and solidarity with the Chinese people. And I was also happy for them to have mastered a skill which may help them make a better life.
I also heard about a young Sierra Leonean learning traditional Chinese medical science in Jui Hospital. His name is Aziz and he was learning from Dr. Xie, a member of the 19th Chinese Medical Team. Aziz dreamed to be the first Chinese medicine doctor in Sierra Leone. In order to help Aziz realize his dream, Dr. Xie not only taught him patiently, but also acted as a “little mouse” for Aziz to practice acupuncture. Last year, Aziz was capable of performing cupping and some other therapies independently.
China-Sierra Leone friendship is an invaluable asset for our two countries and two peoples. This friendship can only sustain and grow if our two sides are committed to fostering and cultivating it. I’m sure all of us today attending this symposium will spare no efforts in contributing to the development of China-Sierra Leone friendship.
Coutesy of Symposium on China-Sierra Leone Friendship co-hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone China Foundation.
To be continued…