“Every time I went to Massawa I’d visit a pottery ware on which four explicit Chinese characters are written, our forefathers conducted civilization exchanges even in ancient times!” Ambassador Mr. Yang Zigang’s.
On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Ambassador to Eritrea Mr. Yang Zigang’s conducted an interview with local media outlets regarding the occasion, the country’s policies, his experience during his post to Eritrea and social values that according to the Ambassador are shared ethics of both the Eritrean and Chinese people. The ambassador has been in Eritrea for almost three years now making Eritrea, in his own words, his “second hometown”
- -Thank you for your time Mr. Ambassador. And greetings on the 70th anniversary of PRC.
Hello! October 1st of this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. During the past 70 years, the Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, with their diligence and wisdom, have worked hard with concerted efforts and been committed to national development. Within a short period of dozens of years, China accomplished the process of industrialization, which in fact took several hundred years for developed countries to achieve. This is a miracle attracting worldwide attention
China has achieved tremendous economic and social progress. China’s overall national strength and international influence have grown with monumental strides. A secluded and backward nation has gone through reforms and opened up to the world. An impoverished and weak country has gained prosperity and strength. Today’s China is closer to realizing the goal of national rejuvenation than ever before.
During the 70 years, China’s GDP increased by more than 174 times, from 67.91 billion RMB in 1952 to more than 90.03 trillion RMB (13.6 trillion USD)in 2018, China is now the world’s second largest economy, largest industrial country, largest trader in goods, biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves, and top producer of more than 200 products. From 1949 to 2018, China’s per capita gross national income increased by 135 times, from roughly $70 to $9,470.
During the 40 years of reform and opening-up since 1978, over 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty, contributing 70% to poverty alleviation efforts of the globe. With living standards continuously improving, Chinese people’s average life span has been significantly extended to around 77 years. By 2020, that is next year, we will build China into a moderately prosperous society and completely lift those in rural areas out of poverty. Currently in China, the coverage rate of the 9-year compulsory education reaches as high as 93.8%, while the basic endowment insurance benefits over 900 million people and the medical insurance covers over 1.3 billion.
While achieving economic and social progress for itself, China made tremendous contribution to mankind and world economic growth. During the past 70 years, China’s interactions with the international community have been constantly deepened, from integrating into the world to leading the constructive endeavors to build the world, and providing China’s solutions to major international issues as well as formulations of important rules. For many consecutive years, China has contributed over 30% of the overall world economic growth, acting as a main stabilizer and power house for the world economic growth.
- -Can you please say something about China’s diplomacy and your governments’ stand to that end?
China believes that people all over the world should work collaboratively to build a shared future for mankind, and achieve common development and prosperity for all. Holding high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, China will unswervingly develop friendly cooperation with all countries based on five principles of peaceful co-existence and remains committed to building a new type of international relations featuring on mutual respect, fairness and justice, cooperation and win-win solution. China will always be a builder of world peace, a contributor to the global development and a vindicator of the international order.
The Chinese culture takes “harmony” as the most precious thing. This point has been engraved into Chinese people’s blood and soul. We think people don’t necessarily agree with one another on everything, but they should all respect one another and peacefully co-exist. China’s development will not constitute a threat to any country. Whatever extent China develops to, it will never seek hegemony or aggression. China will always respect the right of different peoples to independently select their development path, always maintain international fairness and justice, respect the world’s cultural diversity, and advocate for cultural exchanges and mutual learning rather than frictions or confrontations.
China is opposed to imposing political wills on others, opposed to intervention in other countries’ internal affairs, and opposed to strong powers unilaterally bullying weak ones. China will never selfishly pursue its own development at the cost of other countries’ interests, while on the other hand, we will never give up our legitimate interests. Anyone should refrain from forcing China to sacrifice its core national interests.
Therefore, China will continue to promote reform and opening up, support multilateral trade regime, and push forward for building of an open world economy.
- -As It will be recalled, China launched the Belt and Road Initiative in 2002e. How has it been progressing so far?
The BRI adopts an approach of “FIVE CONNECTIVITIES”, promoting connectivity in national economic policies, infrastructure construction, trade and investment facilitation, financing and people-to-people relations, on principles of mutual consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and involving continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, America and Oceania, in order to build a new platform for the growth of international trade, investment and the world economy.
It has been over 6 years since its inception. The BRI has transformed from an initiative into reality, making new contribution to global economic governance and promotion of the well-being of peoples around the world. The BRI and its core principles of “mutual consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits” have been incorporated into outcome documents of important international organizations and mechanisms including UN, G20, APEC and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). By this year China has signed 195 BRI cooperation documents with 136 countries and 30 international organizations. With regards to trade cooperation, the total trade volume of goods between China and countries along the Belt and Road has surpassed 6 trillion US dollars. Having signed bilateral investment agreements with over 50 countries along the Belt and Road, China’s foreign direct investment has exceeded 90 billion US dollars, creating new sources of tax incomes and employment opportunities.
- -But what about critics who claim that China has been manipulating the BRI initiative to seek geopolitical and strategic interests as well as plunging countries in the debt trap?
These criticisms are totally groundless. Their intention is to confuse and deceive the public by politicizing debt problems. I’d like to highlight that BRI is an open and inclusive public goods that can be shared globally. In implementing BRI, China does not seek any exclusionary blocs or impose its own will on others. China has no geo-strategic calculations. The economic and trade operations under BRI are negotiated and conducted according to international norms and regulations, based on market-oriented operations with enterprises being the main actors, under the rules of market economy.
The reality is, the BRI construction has brought new opportunities and possibilities for all developing countries including Africa, to complement each other’s disadvantages, meet challenges, improve people’s livelihood, achieve economic growth, to reduce infrastructure shortages and promote sustainable development.
- -Speaking of Africa, last year in September China convened the Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), few words on its purposes and outcomes…
The FOCAC Summit is themed as building a closer shared future of common destiny between China and Africa, and outlined a new blueprint for China-Africa cooperation to achieve higher progress. President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony and proposed the EIGHT ACTIONS initiative for China-Africa all-sphere cooperation in the following 3 years. The initiative dovetails with respective development strategy of individual African countries and has been complemented well with great achievement being made.
In June this year, the Beijing Summit Outcome Implementation Coordinators’ Meeting was held in Beijing, H.E. Hagos Ghebrehiwet, Head of Economic Affairs of PFDJ joined the meeting together with high-level officials from 53 other African countries, and discussed how to serve the well-being of the Chinese and African people through effective implementation of the outcomes of the Beijing Summit.
- -This year also marks the 26th year of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Eritrea and China. What can you say about the current status of the relations between these two countries?
Our two countries and peoples have been good friends, good partners and good brothers in the past, and we will be the same in the future. During the past two years in Eritrea, I paid many visits to the Northern Red Sea Regional
Museum in Massawa, every time I went to see a pottery ware on which four explicit Chinese characters are written, those characters are “????”, proving that our fathers conducted civilization exchanges even in ancient times. Long before Eritrea achieved independence, both sides founded revolutionary friendship and comradeship. Although our peoples are far away from each other, our hearts are close and connected.
Over the past 26 years, the traditional friendship between our two brotherly countries has yielded new outcomes from time to time.
Mutual political trust has been cemented and both sides work closely in the international arena to maintain the common interests of developing countries. China has consistently supported Eritrea’s nation building endeavors by providing Eritrea with many kinds of assistance within China’s capacity. Bilateral pragmatic cooperation in various sectors has been constantly expanded, which has played a positive role in social and economic development of Eritrea.
People-to-people and cultural exchanges have turned closer day by day. Since last year, with joint efforts of both sides, a series of programs in cultural and sports exchanges, training and scholarship studies have been conducted effectively. These programs deepened mutual understanding and friendship of the people, and boosted our mutual learning and common development of the two great countries.
I am convinced that China’s further development will usher in more opportunities for China- Eritrea cooperation, and with joint efforts, our bilateral cooperation will yield more fruitful results, only to better serve the well-being of the two peoples.
- -Before we end the interview; you have been working in Eritrea for almost three years now. What are your impressions?
During the past nearly 3 years as the Chinese ambassador to Eritrea, I visited all the 6 regions of the country. The country and its people deeply impressed me. Just like the Chinese people, the Eritrean people are also peace-loving, united and ready to help. The 9 ethnic groups and different religions co-exist in harmony. At the same time, the Eritrean people maintain the spirit of resilience, which is fully embodied in Eritrea’s struggle for independence and national development. Faced with hardship and setbacks, Eritreans strive forward with self-reliance and never give up. These similar societal values that our two peoples enjoy drove away my sense of strangeness on the first day I arrived in Asmara. I have visited more than half of African countries. In comparison with other countries, I appreciate most the hospitality of the Eritrean people, the vitality of the youth, the tidiness of the streets, the cleanness of the sanitation, the freshness of air, the picturesque structures, the beautiful scenery, and so on. After several years of working and living here, now I can say that Eritrea has become my second hometown.
- -Thank you!