H.E. MA Jianchun, Chinese Ambassador to The Gambia)
Happy new year! January is a season of hustle and bustle for the smiling coast of Africa. I am pleased to announce that H.E. WANG Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, will pay an official visit to the Republic of The Gambia on the 5th of January 2019. During his visit, Mr. WANG will hold a bilateral talk with his Gambian counterpart Hon. Mamadou Tangara, and meet with H.E. President Adama Barrow.
For over 20 years, the Foreign Minister of China has been visiting Africa as his first leg of overseas tours each year. State Councilor and Foreign Minister WANG Yi’s upcoming visit is a continuation of this good tradition. WANG’s visit to The Gambia demonstrates once again that China consistently attaches great importance to China-Gambia friendship.
China-Gambia friendship runs deep in history and tradition. From 1977 to 1995, China sent 15 medical teams (180 Chinese doctors in total) to The Gambia, and many Chinese agricultural experts also worked with Gambian farmers at paddy rice fields in CRR. Today, the doctors are still well remembered and praised by local Gambians, and there are fields still being called the Chinese rice fields. In the same period of time, China also aided The Gambia quite a few projects, such as health centers, government department buildings, and most prominently the Independence Stadium, which is still tall and solid, and plays a special role in the lives of many Gambians even today.
China-Gambia friendship nurtured in the past served well as a guidance for our way forward. Though like all relations, China-Gambia relations experienced hard time, the two countries eventually had the wisdom to resume diplomatic ties in 2016, which was for the fundamental and long-term interests of the two countries and peoples.
Today, in a new era, China-Gambia relations have entered a new stage of sound and strong development within the framework of China-Africa and South-South cooperation.
Since the resumption of diplomatic relations, bilateral exchanges have been booming. In February 2017, Chinese President H.E. Xi Jinping sent a Special Envoy to The Gambia on the occasion of the Presidential Inauguration and Independence Day Celebrations. A few months later, the then Gambian Foreign Minister Mr. Darboe and Speaker of the National Assembly Ms. Jack-Denton visited China respectively at the invitation of their Chinese counterparts. In December 2017, H.E. President Adama Barrow made a state visit to China and reached broad consensus on strengthening cooperation in a wide range of areas with President Xi Jinping. That visit was a culmination of the China-Gambia bilateral interaction, and it mapped out a new blueprint for deepening bilateral relations.
Another great event to be written into the history of the China-Gambia relations took place on September 2018, when the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was successfully held. H.E. President Adama Barrow and his high-level delegation were warmly welcomed for the first time at the FOCAC Beijing Summit. Gambia’s attendance was of great significance to China-Gambia relations, China-Africa relations, and the development of the FOCAC itself. President Xi Jinping once again held a bilateral meeting with President Barrow, in which he expressed support to the Gambian government’s efforts in building the “New Gambia”, and assured that China would enhance pragmatic cooperation and expand people-to-people exchanges with The Gambia, and support The Gambia’s efforts to enhance capacity building in wide areas, including peace and security.
The China-Gambia cooperation conforms well with the National Development Plan (NDP) of the Gambian government, and has yielded tremendous outcome in various fields over the two years. China offered duty-free treatment to 95% of the Gambian goods exported to China and extended debt cancellation, which were greatly helpful for the Gambian economy and were welcomed by not only the The Gambia but also international organizations such as the UN, World Bank and IMF. China is helping The Gambia build the International Conference Center (ICC), which will serve as a key factor in the success of the 2019 OIC summit to be held in The Gambia. Just a few weeks ago, the China-aid project of Road and Bridges Construction in URR was launched, which when completed will greatly contribute to the development of the region and the country as a whole and help improve the daily lives of the local people. To help alleviate food shortage and improve agricultural productivity in The Gambia, China offered emergent humanitarian assistance in 2017 and 2018, and will dispatch agricultural experts to CRR and provide labor saving agricultural machinery in 2019. Today, the Chinese medical team is once again serving the Gambian people and is popular among the local communities.
People-to-people exchanges between China and The Gambia in many areas such as education, media, culture, youth and women are also strong and active. Hundreds of Gambian people from all walks of life visited China through various short-term training or study programs in the past 3 years, and hundreds of Gambian students are studying at Chinese universities today. What’s more, the UTG has partnered with Guizhou University, a renowned Chinese university, and the Confucius Institute in UTG will be formally inaugurated shortly.
Today’s world is undergoing major changes unprecedented in a century, and the interests and destinies of all countries are even more closely linked and deeply intertwined, which has made collaboration the only viable way to effectively address global challenges. After 40 years of Reform and Opening-up, China has progressed its economy from “a pond” to “an ocean”, creating miracles of all-round development, bringing rich opportunities for all countries to seek mutually beneficial cooperation and common development with China. Meanwhile, China and African countries, including The Gambia, has determined to forge an even stronger community with a shared future through win-win cooperation during the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit. In that context, Mr. WANG Yi’s visit will further implement the consensus reached by H.E. Adama Barrow and H.E. Xi Jinping, and elevate the China-Gambia friendly cooperation to an even higher level.
At the very beginning of the year 2019, we are embarking on a new voyage of China-Gambia friendship. I firmly believe that China and The Gambia can and will develop an exemplary new state-to-state relationship featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation, and contribute to building a community of shared future for mankind. I am sure that the Chinese and Gambian people will benefit more from our cooperation, and our brotherly ties will go from strength to strength.