By Zhou Pingjian
The COVID-19 pandemic is a major challenge to humankind, and is the most serious global public health emergency since the end of World War II.
“In the face of COVID-19, China and Africa have withstood the test of a severe challenge.” said President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech, Defeating COVID-19 with Solidarity and Cooperation, at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 on June 17, “The Chinese people have put up a fierce fight and made enormous sacrifice to bring the situation in China under control. Still, we remain mindful of the risk of a resurgence. In the same spirit, governments and peoples in Africa have put up a united front and, under the effective coordination by the African Union, have taken strong measures to effectively slow the spread of the virus. These are indeed hard-won results.”
The Extraordinary Summit via video link is a special gathering of Chinese and African leaders as the two sides are uniting efforts against the pandemic. It is a joint initiative between China, South Africa in its capacity as the Chair of the African Union (AU), and Senegal in its capacity as the Co-Chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, along with Presidents of Egypt, DR Congo, Algeria, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, attended the Summit. The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) were invited as special guests to the Summit.
After cordial and in-depth discussions, leaders attending the Summit reached extensive consensus on supporting Africa’s COVID-19 response and strengthening China-Africa and international cooperation against the virus. The Summit issued a joint statement which reflects the common position of China and Africa on a series of major issues.
In the joint statement, African countries commend China’s major strategic gains in COVID-19 response and express high appreciation for its substantial assistance for Africa’s fight against the disease. China commends the solidarity and support extended by African countries, the AU and other regional organizations for China’s COVID-19 response and appreciates the establishment of the AU COVID-19 Strategy and the appointment of Special Envoys to mobilize international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic challenges faced as a consequence of the pandemic, and further commends the resilience African countries have demonstrated and the positive results thus achieved in curbing the spread of the virus by adopting preventive measures.
China and Africa have always been a community with a shared future. We are good brothers who have shared weal and woe. Our peoples, having fought shoulder-to-shoulder for national liberation, are partners for common development. A few years back, we were together fighting Ebola. In the face of COVID-19, China and Africa have offered mutual support, fought shoulder to shoulder with each other, and enhanced solidarity and strengthened friendship and mutual trust.
China shall always remember the invaluable support Africa gave us at the height of our battle with the coronavirus. Over 50 African leaders have expressed solidarity and support in phone calls, letters or public statements. By sending heartwarming sympathies and good wishes, the government and good people of Nigeria have firmly stood by us ever since the outbreak. As President Buhari noted in his statement of solidarity as early as February 2, “China’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus have been exemplary, as well as the country’s collaboration with international agencies and other countries on the matter”, “With all the efforts being put in, we know that it is only a matter of time before this nightmare passes.” Many African countries offered us funds or in-kind assistance despite their own limited resources. Moreover, at the most demanding stage of its outbreak response in China, many African brothers and sisters chose to stay put in Wuhan or other parts of China and did a good part in the battle against the outbreak with great understanding, solidarity and cooperation.
In return, when Africa was struck by the virus, China was the first to rush in with assistance and has since stood firm with the African people. China has a long tradition of offering medical assistance to Africa. It sent its first medical team to Africa in 1963. Since then 243,000 Chinese doctors and nurses have been sent to assist African countries and over 220 million African patients have been treated. After the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Chinese government sent medical teams of over 1,000 military and civilian doctors to areas stricken most severely by the epidemic. In the battle against COVID-19, a total of 148 Chinese medical workers have been sent to 11 African countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Algeria, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe. Comrades-in-arms indeed, China and Africa.
The COVID-19 is still affecting many parts of the world. Both China and Africa face the formidable task of combating the virus while stabilizing the economy and protecting people’s livelihoods. As President Xi stressed at the Summit, we must always put our people and their lives front and center. We must mobilize necessary resources, stick together in collaboration, and do whatever it takes to protect people’s lives and health and minimize the fallout of COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is a clear wake-up call for multilateralism,” said President Buhari in his speech delivered at the Extraordinary Summit. “We must stay committed to upholding multilateralism,” President Xi also pointed out. On June 18, President Xi further stressed multilateralism in his message to the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation, “All nations have their destinies closely connected and humanity is in fact a community with a shared future. Be it in taming the virus or in achieving economic recovery, humanity cannot succeed without solidarity, cooperation and multilateralism.”
The friendship and brotherhood between China and Africa is rock-solid and unbreakable. No matter how the international landscape may evolve, China shall never waver in its determination to pursue greater solidarity and cooperation with Africa.
China fully supports African countries’ efforts against COVID-19, and pledges to continue assisting Africa with supplies and medical experts and accelerate the construction of African CDC. China promises that once the COVID-19 vaccine is completed and put into use, African countries will be the first in line to benefit from it. China is willing to work together with the international community to step up support for African countries, particularly those that are hardest hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress, by such means as further extending the period of debt suspension, to help them tide over the current difficulty.
As comprehensive strategic and cooperative partners, China and Africa have offered mutual support and fought shoulder to shoulder in the face of COVID-19, setting a fine example for international cooperation against the virus and elevating China-Africa ties to a new height. The strength of China-Africa solidarity in defeating COVID-19 will unleash strong, positive energy for the international community to secure an early victory against COVID-19 through solidarity and cooperation. We are convinced that emerging from the test of COVID-19, the bond between China and Africa will only become stronger and China-Africa friendship will strike deeper roots.
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)