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Well on the way


China and Madagascar are working together to widen the road of mutually beneficial cooperation

In September, the renovation of 5A national road, which connects the two major vanilla-producing regions of Diana and Sava in northern Madagascar, was successfully completed. The restoration project was financed by a preferential loan granted by the Export-Import Bank of China and built by a Chinese enterprise. I was honored to witness the opening ceremony together with Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina. That day, the celebration activities lasted from morning to late at night, stretching from the start of the road in the city of Ambilobe to the terminus in the city of Vohemar. People flocked to the ceremony in large numbers, dancing and singing with big, happy smiles. Despite the language barrier, I was deeply touched by the joy they displayed from the bottom of their hearts. Prior to the restoration project carried by the Chinese company, it used to take local people three days to travel the approximately 151-kilometer road, which was often full of bumps and hollows and very muddy. Upon completion of the project, the travel time is slashed to two hours, bringing great convenience to the local people and the transportation of goods such as vanilla. It goes without saying that it will significantly boost local economic growth.

This is just a vivid epitome of how China and Madagascar have gone hand in hand in the pursuit of common growth in the past half a century. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, China and Madagascar have always enjoyed sincere friendship, treated each other as equals, and maintained mutually beneficial cooperation. The past 50 years have witnessed the solid progress of China-Madagascar relations, which are full of vigor and producing many fruitful outcomes.

China-Madagascar relations have stood the test of the ever-changing international situation and maintained sound and steady development. Both countries firmly support multilateralism, advocate abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter when handling international relations, maintain close coordination and cooperation in international affairs, and firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns. China and Madagascar upgraded their relations to a comprehensive partnership in 2017. On the heels of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders of both countries sent each other letters of condolence, expressing their firm stance that the two countries would support each other, strengthen cooperation and jointly address the challenges. The two countries' legislative institutions, parties and government departments have maintained close exchanges and communication through various channels, constantly enhancing political mutual trust.

China-Madagascar cooperation has been leading China-Africa cooperation in a number of fields. In May 1999, the then foreign minister of Madagascar Lila Ratsifandrihamanana suggested setting up a forum between China and Africa when paying a visit to China, which led to the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the most important cooperation platform for China and African countries nowadays. In 2017, Madagascar became one of the first African countries to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on jointly advancing the Belt and Road Initiative with China, becoming an important gateway for the Belt and Road routes to connect with the African continent. The two countries also have a long history of hybrid rice cooperation. Madagascar today has Africa's largest area of hybrid rice cultivation with the highest yield. It is also the first African country that has set up a full industrial chain of hybrid rice production that includes hybrid rice breeding, seed production, plantation, processing and sales. Established in Madagascar in 2019, the African sub-center is the only overseas sub-center of China's national hybrid rice engineering technology research center.

Bilateral cooperation covers a wide range of areas and is mutually beneficial. Starting from 2015, China has been Madagascar's largest trading partner and largest source of imports for seven consecutive years. China became Madagascar's third-largest export destination in 2021, with lots of mineral products and farm produce from Madagascar entering the Chinese market and Malagasy products including vanilla, lobster and sea crab increasingly appreciated by Chinese consumers. Besides, China's investment in Madagascar has been increasing, and the localization rate of Chinese-funded enterprises is more than 90 percent, creating many employment opportunities for local people. Cultural and people-to-people exchanges have always been robust. A Luban Workshop has been launched in Madagascar and the Malagasy language has become an undergraduate major in some Chinese universities.

Looking forward, China-Madagascar relations have rosy prospects with broad space and huge potential for further development. For China, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China came at a critical moment when China is embarking on the new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects and advancing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation adhering to a Chinese path to modernization. China will continue to unswervingly bolster its reform and opening-up, and its development will create more opportunities for other countries, including Madagascar. For Madagascar, the country has abundant natural resources, a young population, broad space for further development, and a number of industries with strong competitiveness, such as premium mineral resources and distinctive agricultural products. Bilateral cooperation can draw on each other's strengths and the cooperation potential in many fields is bound to be tapped in the coming years. As the Chinese ambassador to Madagascar, I will, taking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties as a new starting point, work together with all Malagasy friends to deliver a brighter future for bilateral relations, and to make the road of mutually beneficial cooperation and common development even wider.

The author is the Chinese ambassador to Madagascar. 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.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn.