China is the largest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. China and Africa are not only natural partners for development but also brothers that share weal and woe. In recent years, emerging from the tests of Ebola and COVID-19, the bond between China and Africa has become ever stronger as evidenced by the profound China-Africa friendship in the hearts of the two peoples.
In 2014 when I was Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone, an outbreak of Ebola virus disease occurred in West Africa and posed a formidable challenge to local and global public health security. Confronted with the rising death toll in local communities and evacuation of diplomatic personnel of Western countries, China was the first to extend a helping hand to Sierra Leone with the urgent transportation of a mobile Biosafety Level-3 laboratory and seven batches of anti-epidemic materials by chartered airplanes to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Hundreds of Chinese public health experts and military medical personnel were also dispatched to the country and fought together with the people of Sierra Leone on the front line, which played a major role in the battle against Ebola.
When the epidemic was over in 2015, Ernest Koroma, the then President of Sierra Leone, awarded Chinese President Xi Jinping the highest medal of honor, the Order of Commander, to express his gratitude. President Koroma also said that he must say thank you to President Xi in person, which he did during a visit to China in 2016. The then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, along with all international media, praised China for providing great support to African countries and setting an example for the world. One day, members of a local women’s association voluntarily cleaned the road in front of the Embassy and its surrounding areas. “This is just to show our appreciation of China’s help,” they said to us. We were deeply moved with a belief that China-Africa brotherhood through thick and thin is as solid as a rock.
After three years in Sierra Leone, I was appointed Chinese ambassador to Botswana. At the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak hit China hard. As China was making all-out efforts to combat the coronavirus, Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana, wrote two letters to President Xi Jinping to express empathy and solidarity. Friends from all walks of life in Botswana also voiced support for China. As the pandemic was raging across the globe, China once again became the first country to provide assistance to Africa. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Botswana, the Chinese central and local governments as well as enterprises have provided seven batches of medical supplies in support of Botswana’s COVID-19 response to date. Chinese experts held a series of video conferences with their Botswana counterparts to share pandemic control experiences without any reservation. More importantly, at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19, President Xi put forth a series of commitments to helping African countries cushion the impact of the virus and restore economic and social development, a move injecting significant confidence and solidarity for China-Africa joint fight against the pandemic.
China’s sincere help has received heartfelt thanks from African brothers. In Botswana, everyone I’ve met with, including government officials, school teachers, scholars, journalists and students, thanks China for its assistance to Africa and speaks highly of China-Africa friendship. Not long ago, I went to the airport to receive the medical supplies donated by the Chinese government in support of Botswana’s fight against COVID-19. The airport staff told me that with huge quantities of supplies coming from China recently, they have to work overtime, however high-spirited. “Thank China for its selfless help to Botswana and Africa.” These words are simple yet meaningful. No matter how the international situation has changed, China and Africa always fight shoulder to shoulder with each other. The fraternity between China and Africa will only grow from strength to strength.
Pondering over the two pandemic-fighting experiences, I have a deep conviction that China-Africa friendship transcends time and mere interests, hence is invaluable. It is a historical imprint in the hearts of the two peoples tested by time. Two terms of ambassadorship in Africa have availed me the privilege of witnessing the firm determination of China and Africa to overcome difficulties with solidarity and cooperation, and experiencing the vivid practice of China-Africa community with a shared future. Faced with profound changes unseen in a century, mankind once again stands at the crossroads of history. Closer cooperation between China and Africa has never become so indispensable as it is today. With COVID-19 still rampant around the world, China will continue to stand firmly with Africa until we achieve the final victory.