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An opportunity to seize


Zambia has witnessed rapid socioeconomic development in the first two decades of the 21st century, during which its GDP increased sixfold, joining the ranks of lower-middle income countries. But the novel coronavirus outbreak has hit Zambia's economy badly. It is encountering sluggish external demand and insufficient growth momentum, even as it strives to revive its economy.

The traditional friendship between China and Zambia was forged by the countries' founding fathers, Chairman Mao Zedong and President Kenneth Kaunda. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 57 years ago, China and Zambia have treated each other sincerely and on an equal footing, and cooperated in a mutually beneficial way. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the two countries helped each other to overcome hardships, demonstrating the essence of being all-weather partners.

The two countries have maintained close high-level communication, including their leaders talking over the phone in July 2020. In February, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi paid a visit to Zambia, during which the two sides reached a consensus on fighting the pandemic together and seeking common development. China also announced its debt relief and development aid program for Zambia. After Zambia's new president Hakainde Hichilema took office in August, President Xi Jinping sent him a congratulatory message.

In the early days of the pandemic, Zambia extended a helping hand to China. Then when the virus spread to the African country, China sent 100,000 doses of vaccines, ventilators and face masks to help Zambia's fight against the pandemic. Chinese health experts also shared their anti-pandemic experience with their Zambian counterparts.

Chinese nationals and enterprises in Zambia donated a total of 30 million kwacha ($1.8 million) in cash and materials to Zambia. Chinese producers of oxygen and medical alcohol worked around the clock to ensure sufficient supply of much-needed pandemic control materials in Zambia. During the outbreak, Chinese companies in Zambia stood by the local people, guaranteeing the safety of their employees' health and jobs. By making joint efforts against the pandemic, the two countries have set an example in fighting the virus with solidarity.

Trade and economic cooperation between the two countries are prospering. So far, Zambia is home to more than 600 Chinese enterprises who have made a total investment of $3.8 billion in fields such as manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and construction, creating more than 50,000 jobs for locals.

Last year, despite the black swan of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zambia received about $500 million of direct investment from China, the most among African countries. The two countries surmounted negative impacts of the pandemic to realize a trade volume of $4 billion, buttressing each other's resumption of production and economic recovery. In November, blueberries from Zambia entered the Chinese market, making it another made-in-Zambia agricultural product exported to China after honey. Economic and trade cooperation has become a ballast and booster for bilateral ties.

The year 2021 is significant for both China and Zambia. As the Communist Party of China celebrates its centenary, China embarks on a new journey to build a modern socialist society in all respects, and to accelerate the establishment of a new development paradigm, which will create bigger opportunities for African countries. Under its new president, Zambia is expected to share the opportunities brought by China's high-quality, rapid development and translate its rich natural resources into economic benefits to improve its people's livelihoods.

China will work along with the new government of Zambia and its people to further develop bilateral ties, and realize mutually beneficial cooperation to bring tangible benefits to the two peoples while pushing for the building of an even stronger China-Zambia community with a shared future.

China will maintain close exchanges with the new Zambian government, consolidate and develop the traditional friendship, and work to build a new type of international relationship featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation. China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests, and defend global justice and fairness and the common interests of developing countries.

China will continue to cooperate with Zambia in fighting against the pandemic by adhering to the spirit of openness, transparency, science and collaboration. The two sides should work together to resist the politicizing of COVID-19's origins tracing and stigmatization to create a sound environment for global cooperation in combating the pandemic and tracing the origins of the virus. China is willing to continue its support for bolstering Zambia's capacity in pandemic control and medical treatment under the framework of the China-Africa Public Health Cooperation Plan.

China will keep pushing for higher quality and more efficient trade and economic ties with Zambia by innovating methods of collaboration, and deepening the partnership in areas such as mining and infrastructure construction. It will encourage more Chinese enterprises to expand their investment in Zambia, and participate in the process of the country's agricultural modernization and industrialization. It will help Zambia to ameliorate its business and public opinion environment to facilitate the two countries' cooperation.

China is willing to work closely with Zambia to increase exchanges between the two peoples, and Zambia is expected to unveil favorable visa policies for the Chinese people. China will promote Chinese language teaching in Zambia and encourage Zambian students to study and receive training in China to boost mutual understanding.

Currently, the world is encountering various risks and challenges, as the global economy struggles to get back on its feet while the pandemic is still raging across the world. African countries, too, face the dual tests of pandemic containment and economic development. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which is scheduled to be held later this year, is expected to map out the development path for the Sino-African relationship in the coming years, and inject new impetus into their joint anti-pandemic effort and common development.

China and Zambia will seize this opportunity to bring bilateral cooperation up to a higher level, and bring more benefits to the two peoples.

The author is the Chinese ambassador to Zambia. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.