Firm friends, good partners
[LI XIN/FOR CHINA DAILY]
As an ancient poem goes, distance cannot divide true friends who feel close even if they are thousands of miles apart. China and Uganda, though thousands of miles apart, are good and like-minded comrades, good brothers helping each other, good friends with mutually beneficial cooperation and good partners overcoming challenges.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, the two countries have stood together and helped each other fight against the pandemic, writing a new chapter for the unity. When China was facing its crisis and strove to curb the virus, from early 2020, Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni sent a letter to President Xi Jinping to express his solidarity and support. He also took a photo with a caption saying "Wuhan jiayou (Stay strong, Wuhan)." Makerere University, known to be the best university in Uganda, donated anti-pandemic materials such as masks to China.
When the virus hit Uganda, President Xi sent a letter of solidarity and support to President Museveni. China took the lead in helping Uganda by providing anti-pandemic materials and skills and sharing its experience, which helped Uganda in preventing and controlling the pandemic. China donated vaccines to countries including Uganda in a timely manner, fulfilling President Xi's promise of making Chinese-made vaccines a global public good. So far, Uganda has received two batches of Chinese-made vaccines, totally 1 million doses, and a third batch is being implemented. The two countries have also jointly opposed stigmatization and discrimination and promoted scientific research on virus origin-tracing and vaccine production cooperation.
The showcasing of unity in the battle against COVID-19 embodies the Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership between China and Uganda. Since diplomatic relations were established in 1962, the two countries have worked together to deepen solidarity with the goal of ensuring mutual trust and benefits. In 2019, President Xi and President Museveni agreed to lift bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership, which has weathered the challenges in the global arena, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with the deepening political trust, the two countries have enhanced coordination in international and regional affairs. At the same time, practical cooperation in various fields has yielded fruitful results. That has brought much tangible benefits to people in the two countries. China-Uganda relations are at their best in history.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. President Museveni sent a letter of congratulations to President Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. The two heads of state also exchanged messages on anti-pandemic cooperation, jointly responding to natural disasters, extending warm congratulations on significant and happy events of each country, exchanging views on major issues in bilateral relations, which have provided strategic guidance and injected impetus into the ties.
Last October, China's top legislator Li Zhanshu held talks with Ugandan Parliament Speaker Jacob Oulanyah via video link, calling for closer ties between the two countries. Last February, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, paid an official visit to Uganda soon after the 2021 general elections of Uganda.
Amid the pandemic, the cooperation between the two countries has been continuously strengthened. From January to August 2021, the bilateral trade volume increased by 26.2 percent year-on-year. China, as Uganda's largest investment source country, has helped the latter overcome the economic challenges posed by COVID-19 and achieve recovery and growth. Projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, including the Isimba Hydropower Plant, Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, China-aided Industrial Skills Training and Production Center and Luban Workshop have been put into use. Chinese-invested industrial parks in Uganda have accelerated the resumption of work and production amid the pandemic. Infrastructure projects under construction, such as the Karuma Hydropower Plant and the upgrading of Entebbe International Airport, have seen steady progress. The two countries' growing cooperation to develop the digital economy is helping Uganda accelerate its economic and social transformation.
People-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Uganda have broken the barrier created by the COVID-19. In 2021, China continues to provide scholarships and online training courses to Ugandan students and professionals in flexible ways. About 100 Ugandan teachers have been trained to teach Chinese language in middle schools across the country, sowing more seeds of friendship.
Last October, in the 20th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, Grace Kaziro Mukisa, a Ugandan contestant, won the first prize and the Best Online Popularity Award for his performance, and was awarded the honorary title of "Chinese Language Ambassador", making a historical breakthrough for Ugandan contestants. Recently, the Confucius Institute at Makerere University held the first Chinese Song Competition "Voice into My Heart", showcasing the friendly ties between young people of Generation Z in both countries.
The Ugandan government is striving to realize the Uganda Vision 2040, which aims to transform Uganda from a predominantly subsistence low-income country to a competitive middle-income country by then.
The Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in Dakar, Senegal soon. The year 2022 will mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Uganda. The bilateral relations are standing at a new historical starting point.
China is ready to take this opportunity, following the direction set by President Xi and President Museveni, and implement the series of important consensuses reached by the leaders of the two countries and the outcomes of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC. Led by the Global Development Initiative, the two countries will continue to jointly promote the high-quality Belt and Road Initiative to enhance strategic trust, deepen interest integration, promote the traditional friendship and work together to overcome the pandemic. The China-Uganda Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership will be elevated to a new height, by continuously building a community with a shared future for China and Uganda, further delivering benefits to the two countries and two peoples.
The author is the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.
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