FEATURE

China’s Increased Foreign Engagement; A Brighter Future for China-Liberia Relations in Poverty Reduction

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye, China-Africa Press Center (CAPC) Fellow 2016

 

In recent years, China has increased its friendship with other developing countries, with most of them in Africa. China’s cooperation with Africa focuses on reducing poverty through economic growth and development, to ensure peace and security on the continent.

As a result, the country has created and introduced various platforms in fostering this cooperation on a win-win situation.

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is an ambitious platform between the two sides to promote and improve economic growth and development through mutual understanding and benefits.

Under this platform, President Xi Jinping announced 60 billion United States dollars to support 10 plans in Africa. Several countries in Africa have seized the concepts and are working with the plans, according to the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit Followup meeting held in China in 2016.

The Belt and Road Initiative is another platform which has become the most popular public goods and the platform for international cooperation with the brightest prospects in the world, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Wang disclosed plans for more than 20 heads of state and government, over 50 leaders of international organizations, over 100 ministerial-level officials, as well as over 1,200 delegates from various countries and regions to participate in the Belt and Road forum for international cooperation in May in Beijing. This is a demonstration of China’s aim to keep all developing countries on par with development.

“The idea of the Belt and Road Initiative came from China but it belongs to the world with its benefits flowing to all countries,” Wang said.

While the trends of protectionism and unilateralism are rising, the Belt and Road Initiative has become the common cause of the world which will help re-balance the economic globalization by making it more universally-beneficial and inclusive, he said.

The forum in May will build consensus and connect development strategies of various countries. It will also examine cooperation in key areas and finalize major projects in infrastructure connectivity, trade and investment, financial support and people-to-people exchanges, he said. Under the people-to-people exchanges, journalists and other professionals have been going for exchange visits to China. China has increased scholarships to Liberia. Ambassador’s and enterprise scholarships programs are also benefiting many Liberians.

Medium and long term cooperation initiatives will be announced and long-term cooperation mechanisms explored to build a closer and more result-oriented network of partnerships, he said.

 

Future of China-Liberia Relations in Poverty Reduction

 

Before the resumption of diplomatic ties, China and Liberia had made significant progress in investment cooperation and China contributed tremendously in investments and aid to Liberia’s recovery programs. China-Liberia relations has been growing since the resumption of bilateral ties between the two sides, coupled with the signing of the One-China Policy by Liberia.

China has increased its investments in Liberia, witnessing several projects, major among which are the construction of the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Nimba County, northeastern Liberia; construction of the Fendell University of Liberia new building outside Monrovia; renovation of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Stadium on the outskirt of Monrovia; a modern annex of the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC); ongoing construction of the Ministerial Complex in Monrovia; expansion of the Capitol Building; construction of a terminal at the Roberts International Airport (RIA); the rehabilitation and construction of roads.

It is more interesting that China promises to continue, even increase its support to Africa, and Liberia being a part, stands to benefit in lifting its citizens out of poverty. China’s diplomatic relations with other countries are mutually beneficial to both sides and so it stresses people-centered investments. Liberia is endowed with many natural resources and they can become blessing to the nation if they are properly managed in improving the citizens.

Furthermore, the Chinese Embassy in Monrovia has been increasing its partnership with the Liberian media in recent years. The partnership intended for Liberian journalists to know about China and educate their fellow citizens on China-Liberia relations and its benefits to their country.

China not to weaken support for Africa: FM

Speaking recently on the sidelines of China’s annual two sessions in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there will be no weakening in China’s support for Africa no matter how the international situation or world economy may evolve. “China and Africa have a shared future and their cooperation is like mutual help between brothers,” Wang told a press conference.

According China had announced 60 billion U.S. dollars funding support for Africa at the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in December 2015 held in South Africa’s Johannesburg, adding that China also rolled out 10 major plans to boost cooperation with Africa at the summit. The plans cover the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

Wang said the outcomes of the Johannesburg summit are being implemented in a swift and all-round way, including railway projects in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, as well as a special economic zone in the Republic of Congo, an integrated port development project in Tanzania and a number of industrial parks across Africa.

Just as China was Africa’s most sincere friend in its quest for national independence and liberation, so China will be Africa’s most reliable partner in speeding up industrialization and agricultural modernization, and boosting its capacity for home-grown development, Wang added.

The latest promise reinvigorates China-Liberia friendship to foster sustainable development on a win-win situation. This will also attract more private Chinese investors to Liberia, in additional to the already growing bilateral projects.

Learning from China to Achieve Poverty Reduction in Liberia

There is a saying that, “You should know about the person that you are friendly with.” This goes to say that, while China-Liberia relations is gaining momentum like with other developing countries, it is important to always learn from China’s successes. What China has achieve in 30 years is something to serve as a lesson to any developing countries.  The World Bank and China had launched a knowledge hub to spread knowledge of China’s successes in reducing poverty both at home and in other countries.

By 2016, China had lifted more than 800 million of its citizens out of poverty following the economic reforms in 1978. The nation is aiming to eliminate poverty by by 2020, according to China’s five-year plan, which targets about 70 million remaining poor.

China is working hard to achieve this goal. President Xi Jinping had set specific goals to reach the target: lifting 10 million people out of poverty per year between 2016 and 2020 and providing a social safety net for the 20 million poor who are unable work. In order to accomplish this, China has taken up the challenge by attacking poverty on several fronts: by promoting tourism in poor but scenic areas, by helping poor households gain access to micro-credit loans, and by pairing work units and other institutions with poor villages to assist residents. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, a non-profit organization, has and continues to play a critical role in these areas and the Agricultural Development Bank of China (ADBC) is lending three trillion RMB (Renminbi) up to 2020 to develop rural areas, funding education, infrastructure and crop production.

China’s success with its home-grown methods of reducing poverty and increasing food production can help other developing countries including Liberia. Liberia relies heavily on agricultural products.

During my 10-month media fellowship in the People’s Republic of China in 2016, we (African journalists) visit Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in central China on June 12-14, 2016. It was observed that the Chinese Government is fighting poverty where poverty is, under its national plan. With the backing of the central government, regional officials are working tirelessly to raise thousands of citizens out of poverty. Inter-county ecological migration is the principal mode of settlement in the “12th Five-year Plan” period. The stability and sustained development of inter-county migration zones hold the key to success or failure of the overall migration project. As the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Yinchuan is an important settlement under that plan. Three districts of Yinchuan-Xingqing District, Jinfeng District, and Xixia District alone settle 5444 households of migrants with a population of 22,800. Among them, there are 1387 households of ecological migrants consisting of a population of 5800, which makes up 15.4 % of the total migrants. There are 4057 households of labor migrants consisting of a total population of 17,000 which makes up 74.6 % of the total migrants. All of the migrants to these three districts come from Pengyang County in the mountainous region in the south of Ningxia. Families affected by poor-living land features including deserts and mountains are being relocated and provided modern housing units. One of the relocation sites visited is the Heshun New Village, in Liangtian Town, Jinfeng District. Located in the southern suburb of Yinchuan City, Ningxia Region, the village is one of the relocation sites listed in the 12th five-year plan of the region. Regional officials said, under the 12th five-year plan, more than 750 households or 3,000 villagers from Pengyang County are expected to be relocated to the village. According to them, from October 2011 to November 2013, 718 households or 3,086 villagers were relocated in Jinfeng District. Each household is provided a modern house of 54 square meter, a green house of mainly tomatoes and Chinese cucumbers, skills training and job opportunities. Beneficiaries are being trained in mechanized farming and other skills, thus replacing the traditional methods.

However, achieving such a goal depends on the key players and other stakeholders. President Xi Jinping continues to stress this important part of project implementation.

In his book: “UP AND OUT OF POVERTY,” President Xi says recognizing talent and using that talent wisely is a challenge that all leaders face. Under the topic” “The Importance of Selecting the Right People,” the Chinese leader narrated that, while working in Zhengding County in Hubei Province, the county CPC party committee suggested a strategy for the county; just as Fujian Province takes advantage of its “mountains and seas,” and Qinghai develops its “grasslands and forests,” Zhengding County should focus on “talent”.

Therefore, Liberian authorities should learn from this experience as President Xi’s emphasis is on capable people instead of selecting based on favoritism, if they must achieve the China’s dream.