The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the world’s most populous nation. As an emerging super power, the country’s influence and impact are undoubtedly being felt around the world, particularly in Africa.
This is as a result of China’s charismatic fortitude in socio-economic and political spheres.
Despite being a nation with the highest population in the world with about 1.38 billion people as of 2016 population index, China is self-sufficient in food production and is probably the biggest exporter of the world’s exceedingly essential commodities, making her a reliable nation.
Besides, PRC has experienced unprecedented, magnanimous and dramatic reformation over the past three decades, transcending from somewhat underdeveloped and economically dependent country to a well-transformed, highly industrialized and skilled society with a rigor to extend hands of friendship to other nations in a philanthropic bid to initiate and foster societal transformation across the globe.
Having become an epitome for economic growth and sustainable development as the world’s second biggest economy with a nominal GDP of US$9.2 trillion, it is prudent to embark on the journey to teach peoples and nations to fish for themselves, especially the ones that are lagging behind in a much desired and anticipated socio-economic development to ease human sufferings and enhance longevity.
Predicated upon the aforementioned fact, on the 19th of August 2005 the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives jointly passed Resolution No. 001 of the 52nd Legislature, which ‘confirms and reaffirms [its] total unwavering commitment to the - one China policy’, a resolution which made the new policy irreversible.
Many political pundits believe that this move to re-tie the bilateral relations between Liberia and China was a colossal step on the right trajectory to fostering peace and post-war recovery in war-ravaged Liberia.
The decision of the 52nd National Legislature, affirmed by the then Head of State to seal this deal, once and for all, was scrupulous and thinkable as there have been countless number of impressive dividends accrued thus far as a consequence of Monrovia and Beijing partnerships in little over a decade since the resumption of the much deserved ties.
The essence of this article is to pause for a moment to ruminate and highlight the numerous contributions of the Chinese Government through its Embassy accredited near Monrovia and extrapolate how these laudable goodwill gestures of the Chinese people are impacting Liberia’s post-war recovery process.
It is also intended to support the saying ‘give man his flowers why he is alive, or I would proffer — ‘give a true diplomatic partner and friend the flowers why the partnership is still flourishing’.
It is quite expedient to appreciate as this also provides the platform for growth and enhancement when it comes to better service delivery, which is vital in moving Liberia forward.
Additionally, this article offers some suggestions on the forward match of Liberia-China relations.
Therefore, I solicit your indulgence to crisply pinpoint and drill you through some of China’s benevolent undertakings in Africa’s oldest independent state since the partnership was restored in 2005.
To begin with, the generous contributions of the People’s Republic of China to Liberia are being done holistically. They cut across different spectrums ranging from participation in initiatives that promote peace and stability to what Beijing terms as development aid.
For instance, China’s participation in UNMIL as well as its active involvement in the Government of Liberia’s peace and security, economic revitalization, and infrastructure and basic services agenda as part of Liberia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2008-2011) to reduce poverty was a clear indication of China’s ceaseless preparedness to extend helping hand to Liberia.
The only component that was not directly supported was the governance and rule of law pillar due to PRC’s zero tolerance on non-interference in this regard. Former Chinese Ambassador to Liberia Zhou Yuxiao disclosed that 88.4 million dollars was pumped into the PRS by the Chinese Government.
For the purpose of this article, education, health, agriculture, security sector, and general contributions are at the core of this beholden discourse. Indisputably, the contributions of China are visible across the country in these sectors, assisting in Liberia’s recovery drives aimed at ensuring that the country regains her rightful place among the comity of nations.
Considering the bitter historical past of the country, experiencing 14 years of civil unrest which devastated every fabric of the Liberian society, a strong relationship with the powerful like China is absolutely praiseworthy.
China: Helping Liberia through the Education sector
One of the prominent Chinese proverbs says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Without delving into the nitty-gritties of this proverb, the best way to teach a nation to fish for itself is to develop the minds of its human resources because education is the foremost essential sector of any nation when it comes to propelling positive change and ensuring a holistic sustainable economic growth and development. It is considered as a fulcrum or catalyst on which the wheels of every sector of the society rolls on to function properly.
As such any development ventures must first commence with the development of human minds; this would empower the population to not only become developers, but individuals safeguarding the maintenance of any development undertaken.
Predicated upon the aforesaid, China has been one of the most important contributors to the education sector of Liberia as the country is directly involved in the transformation of the minds of young and deserving Liberians to adequately prepare them for the challenging tasks of nation building.
As an illustration, China has been and remains the biggest provider of bilateral scholarships for young Liberians to live and study in the Asian nation, which is currently considered as one of the best routes for international students to study abroad.
As of 2015, 72 Liberians are reported to be studying on Liberian-Chinese governments’ bilateral scholarships at various institutions of higher learning in China, mostly at postgraduate level.
This number is likely to dramatically increase this year as Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a meeting with President Sirleaf in November 2015, pledged to double the number of Liberian Chinese scholarship beneficiaries, making it 40 students annually.
Obviously, this is a welcome development for many young Liberians who continue to thirst for quality tertiary education in a more advanced and very competitive learning environment as Chinese universities are on par with their counterparts across the globe.
Already, hundreds of other Liberians have benefited from this scholastic gesture from the Chinese Government; they have successfully completed their studies, returned home and are now placed at various entities in both the private and public sectors in Liberia.
As of 2013, an estimated 500 Liberian students either had received or were receiving formal education in China, and close to 2,000 civil servants and journalists have reportedly had some form of training there. Understandably, the number has increased tremendously as China continues to flex its muscles of support to Liberia.
Notably, the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia was a milestone undertaken, which was built exclusively by the Chinese at a cost of $23 million (beyond an original budget of $USD 21.5 million).
Since the nation’s highest institution of learning was handed over in July 2010, this modern campus has served as a source of inspiration and attraction for youthful Liberian learners in particular and the public in general.
In addition, the PRC has contributed in other meaningful ways to youth development and skills training initiatives in Liberia.
For instance, few months ago the Chinese Government through its Embassy near Monrovia again turned over to the Liberian Government another gigantic modern facility, the newly dedicated state-of-the-art Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC). This plus many more initiatives in the education sector exemplify China’s unrelenting commitment to ensuring Liberia moves forward in its development drives.
China: Promoting a healthy people for a healthy Liberia
Liberia has one of the least life expectancies in the world. This is exacerbated by numerous health complications in an unarguably weak health system, which oftentimes is unable to handle seemingly notable chronic diseases encountered by the citizenry.
As a consequence, people experiencing such cases are compelled to seek medication abroad or if not in the position to do so as it is the case with many ordinary Liberians, they will have to live at the mercy of the Almighty God. Cognizant of this, China is leaving no stone unturned in giving its support to the health sector. The country is strongly involved in the revitalization of the sector, evidenced by the indelible marks China has made thus far.
Hundreds of kilometers from the capital, Monrovia is the strategically situated Jackson F. Doe Memorial Regional Referral Hospital in Tappita. Opened in 2011 at a cost of $10 million and equipped with 25 Liberian medical personnel trained in China for the effective use and maintenance of its modern equipment, the Chinese built hospital is a beacon of hope for thousands of Liberians in Nimba and other counties across Liberia.
With such modern facility, it has eased some pressure on the stockpiling of cases at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, which is already overwhelmed by its patients’ intake.
Additionally, China has some of its specialists at some hospitals in the country including the JFK Medical Center, who have been handling various cases, saving the lives of thousands of Liberians, and stopping them from going prematurely to their graves.
Furthermore, China has constructed an anti-malaria center in Monrovia and refurbished Liberia’s Ministry of Health headquarters building for $4.7 million. Considering the infrastructural challenge the country faces, the Chinese revamped Health Ministry Complex has given a serious boost to the sector, radiantly signalling that better health-care service delivery is a matter of must.
Before journey to the next sector, it would be a total disservice and injustice without briefly mentioning the glorious alarm Beijing raised when the sovereignty of Liberia was been threatened by an invisible and mysterious enemy, ‘Ebola’.
In continuation of its friendly partnership with Liberia when the devastating deadly unfamiliar disease, Ebola terribly hit the country in 2014 bringing all activities to an immediate halt and dragging the country’s growth to little more than one percent, the ever-responsive People’s Republic of China quickly replied to Liberia’s tragedy, giving the first substantive global response.
This, beyond all odds, helped to sound the loudest alarm internationally by sending flights loaded with medical supplies and equipment worth over 1.7 million US dollars as well as posted a contingent of the People’s Liberation Army with some civilians to build and operate a “state of the art” 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) that was officially turned over to the Government of Liberia.
This pace-setting venture by the Chinese Government did not only rekindle the resiliencies of Liberians, but signalled to the world that the time to sit on the fence and watch Liberia crumbles was over.
The Chinese like many other local and international partners stood tall by Liberia and its people until the unmerciful enemy, Ebola was finally crushed out. This, by all means, is another exemplar of a true partnership. Our hats-off to you, China for playing a leading role!
China: Contributing towards a stable and peaceful Liberia
Much of Liberia’s current underdevelopment is attributed to absurd instability caused by years of civil unrests. In the absence of peace and tranquillity, absolutely no progress can be made anywhere. Therefore, it is a glaring fact that if Liberia must continue on its veracious path of developing the nation, the security of the state is very paramount, especially as UNMIL calls it a day in their peace keeping operations in Liberia.
One of China’s latest monumental philanthropies to Liberia was to the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) with a donation of equipment valued at US$3 million. In the words of President Sirleaf, “this is a demonstration of true partnership; a partnership that comes to you at a time when you are really in need”.
The consignment of military equipment comprised of 20 heavy duty trucks, two graders, 10,000 sets of uniforms, and 40 military tents. Reminiscing on what his country is doing, Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Zhang Yue could not withhold his words but to frankly admit.
“We take Liberia’s priorities as our assistance priorities and aim at bringing tangible benefit to the Liberian people”.
This gesture to the GoL through the AFL is just one of the many contributions to the security sector as China has been a major player in the training of the new AFL, providing technical, logistical and other forms of support. Some of the trainings are still being conducted in China aimed at giving Liberia’s securities a world-class type of training.
China: Increasing Liberia’s chances to feed its population
Food insecurity is one of Liberia’s problems. Despite its miniscule population of 4 million, the nation is far from being self-sufficient in food production. China, ranked first in the world’s farm output is able to feed its 1.38 billion people and exports to other countries including Liberia.
Following the 2006 Forum on China–Africa Co-operation (Focac), China undertook the construction of a $6 million China Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center in Maryland County in one of the underserved regions, an initiative which was one of 10 such centers in Africa.
Besides, Beijing also provided $1 million in agricultural equipment and sent Chinese experts to the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Kakata to train Liberians in rice cultivation, part of the ripples to making Liberia capable of fishing for itself instead of always be fed.
China: A partner without borders in Liberia’s forward match
From all indications, China has never been restrictive in its quest to assist Liberia in its development drives. Across various spectrums, the country’s development footprints are detectible including other areas not mentioned above, encompassing transport evidenced by a fleet of buses and pick-ups flying with China Aid stickers; infrastructural developments: renovation of the $7.6 million Samuel Kanyon Doe multi-purpose sports stadium in Monrovia; the construction of Tubman cantonment, a military installation in Bong; and assisting in the establishment of countrywide network coverage for radio and television, principally for state Radio among others.
Further, China like others has cancelled $16 million in debt while granting annual aid of $20 million to Liberia. Other vital investments are also ongoing in the country with a proactive role of China as some of its biggest investors including China-Union Investment Liberia are assisting to create jobs and other opportunities for the country.
Liberia-China Relations: A win-win reality partnership worthy of eternity
At this point, one can vividly deduce that the bilateral relations subsisting between Liberia and China is on a very good footing. There are myriad number of reasons while staying in one China Policy is worthy of perpetuation. Just by being a partner with a country that has the world’s second largest economy and is a manufacturing hub resonates a lot. Moreover, China is not a selfish partner that holds back or sits and watches when there is a need to act.
As its name depicts in its official language, Chinese Mandarin, Zhongguo-meaning middle country--is living its true dogma of its meaning by playing a key middle role in Liberia, Africa and the rest of the globe, providing philanthropy and other interventions in fulfillment of its long time adage to teach people to fish for themselves instead of feeding them with fishes.
Predicated upon some major gains already made in Liberia in education, health, agriculture, security, among others as briefly articulated herein, there is a clear indication for Liberia-China relations to continue on unabated.
Looking forward, other projects including the construction of the ministerial complex and additional wings to the seat of the National Legislature, and renovation of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex are taking place or anticipated with Chinese funding.
Many other opportunities await Liberia as pledged by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a high level state visit to China by President Sirleaf in early November 2015, expressing the hope that both countries can see what he calls “early harvest” in meeting the commitments.
Therefore, it is extremely prudent and wise for this marriage between Liberia and China, which I would term a ‘win-win reality partnership’ to remain in full swing in this century and centuries to come.
In conclusion, let me hail the cordial and fruitful bilateral relations subsisting between Liberia and China. Beyond all reasonable doubts, the relationship is satisfying its credo of true meaning.
Kudos to past and current Chinese governments through their dynamic and industrious Ambassadors accredited near Monrovia including the present Ambassador, H.E. Zhang Yue for seeing Liberia’s priorities as their own. The people of Liberia are exceedingly grateful for your invaluable contributions aimed at fostering Liberia’s economic growth and sustainable development.
We appreciate the ‘guanshi’ (interpersonal relationship) you are continuously having with Liberia and we look forward for more. Nevertheless, reminiscing on what you have done so far, one can sagaciously say that China, you are indeed a true friend and partner in Liberia’s rebuilding efforts. Thank you! Long live the bilateral relations between Liberia and China, long live the two nations.
He also holds BA degree in Sociology from AME University and has several certificates to his credit. He has over eight years of work experience in several sectors including education.
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