Dr ZHAO YANBO
Chinese Ambassador to Botswana
The year 2018 is a big year for China-Africa relations. The Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) scheduled on 1-4 September under the theme “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation” aims at further promoting China-Africa solidarity and cooperation, and lifting China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership to a new level.
By the same token 2018 is also a big year for China-Botswana relations. At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi will attend the FOCAC Beijing Summit and pay a state visit to China. This will be the first visit to China by President Masisi since his assumption of presidency and also be the first visit to China by the President of Botswana in the recent 12 years. The visit will be a historic milestone in the development of China-Botswana relations.
China and Botswana have a time honored friendship since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1975. Over the years, China and Botswana have always been like brothers who share weal and woe together and support each other. One could not forget that Botswana voted firmly to support China to resume its legitimate seat in the United Nations in 1971. China supported Botswana’s fight for its national sovereignty and security in the early days of its independence. Botswana consistently adheres to the one-China policy and supports China in international affairs.
China and Botswana have always been partners for mutually beneficial and win-win economic cooperation since 1975. China has funded over 40 Botswana projects ranging from refurbishing railways, constructing houses to building primary schools. On 10th this month, the construction of the China Aid Mmopane primary school was successfully kicked off. And on 24th this month, I signed the Exchange of Letters on the construction of the Kazungula primary school with Honorable Minister of Finance and Economic Development, which will be the fourth school constructed by the Chinese government since 2009. Chinese medical teams have helped and cured more than 2 million people in Botswana since 1981.
China and Botswana are highly complementary in economy and have great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation. China is the second largest consumer of Botswana’s diamonds. China is also one of Botswana’s largest project contractors and major trading partners. According to statistics, Chinese companies have created more than 2,000 jobs in the local communities. In people-to-people exchanges, China provides government scholarship to Botswana students and becomes one of the most favorite destinations for Botswana students to study abroad. Growing number of Chinese tourists have come to Botswana for sightseeing.
Currently, both China and Botswana have entered the new era in terms of national development. China under the leadership of President Xi Jinping has outlined its development strategy since the 19th National Congress of the CPC last October. President Masisi has been committed to developing Botswana economy to improve the livelihood of Batswana since his assumption of presidency this April. On the road of common development, China and Botswana need each other and also complement each other. We should seize the opportunities in the development of bilateral relations under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and FOCAC to bring more tangible benefits to our two peoples.
First, we shall further increase high level exchanges between China and Botswana. High level exchanges and visits play the decisive and steering roles in the development of bilateral relations. In July, Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Unity Dow paid a fruitful visit to China. Almost at the same time, Vice Minister Xu Lyuping of the International Department of Central Committee of the CPC had a successful visit to Botswana. During President Masisi’s state visit to China, the two heads of state will hold bilateral talks and witness the signing of some important cooperation agreements. This will no doubt lift the bilateral relations to a new level. China looks forward to jointly maintaining the current good momentum of high level exchanges with Botswana to provide political guidance for the development of bilateral relations.
Second, we shall further strengthen practical cooperation between China and Botswana. China is willing to further align its national development strategy with that of Botswana. Botswana is rich in mineral and tourism resources and has strong diamond and livestock industries. China has advantages in industrial equipment, technology, capital and market. China welcomes Botswana to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and hopes Botswana to seize the opportunity to publicize herself extensively in the upcoming Beijing Summit of FOCAA as well as China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November this year. China will explore the feasibility of expanding import of diamonds, beef and other products from Botswana, and will continue to provide various types of assistance to Botswana.
Third, we shall further promote cultural exchanges between China and Botswana. The development of our relations should be more people-oriented. We should continue to increase visits by art groups and hold cultural exchanges events. China will continue to provide Botswana students with government scholarships for studying in China. China will cooperate with the Botswana side to promote exchanges between universities, media and think tanks to strengthen China-Botswana friendship.
Fourth, we shall further enhance cooperation on regional and international issues of mutual concern. As developing countries, we should maintain coordination and collaboration in multilateral organizations. Together, we can make the international order more just and equitable, and uphold the common interests of our two countries and the developing world.
With President Masisi’s historic state visit to China and attendance of FOCAC, China-Botswana relations are standing at a new starting point with significant development opportunities. I look forward to working hand-in-hand with Botswana friends from all walks of life to enhance mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation, and lift China-Botswana relations to a new level.