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Congo tour boosts trade, education ties

By Pan Zhongming in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-17 07:35

Congo tour boosts trade, education ties

Chinese dentist Zhang Qingbin examines a local resident at the sino-Congo Friendship Hospital in Brazzaville. [Photo by Wang Zhao/Xinhua]

President Xi Jinping's maiden foreign trip to Africa assured people that China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and cherish its traditional friendship with the continent, analysts said.

Xi visited the Republic of Congo on March 30, 2013, and sent a clear message to the international community that China and Africa are a "community of shared destiny" and will forever be reliable friends.

During his visit, Xi said China will train various personnel for African nations, enhance technological transfers, share more experiences, and attach more importance to Sino-African cultural exchanges.

The trip helped enhance friendships with emerging African countries and signaled that Sino-African cooperation was becoming more comprehensive, analysts said.

"Sino-African relations have become more practical, boosted by the visit," Dong Manyuan, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, said at the time. "More aid projects in Africa backed by China are about improving livelihoods."

Dong added that the country is seeking to help Africa create sustainability by boosting employment and increasing incomes.

"Sino-African cooperation is distinct from the aid provided by some Western nations," Xi said in 2013. "China respects the development paths and political systems that are suitable and chosen by African countries, whereas the aid offered by the West often comes with political conditions."

Xi's visit to Brazzaville - the first by a Chinese head of state since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1964 - injected new impetus into bilateral trade, which was worth $5.87 billion in 2013 compared with $290 million in 2002. China is now the nation's No 1 trading partner.

The two sides also signed 11 cooperation agreements on preferential loans, interest-free loans and non-reimbursable assistance, providing financing for projects in the Republic of Congo.

Chinese companies operating in the African country also won contracts to build a hydropower station, power transmission and transformation facilities, roads, ports, homes, hospitals, schools, public buildings and a stadium.

Cutting ribbons

Xi also joined Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Congolese president, in cutting the ribbon to open the Sino-Congo Friendship Hospital.

"It was a historic moment," said Martine Beatrice Ponggui, the hospital's president. "It was a great privilege for us that the two presidents came to our hospital. The scene will stay long in the memory."

She said the Congolese people have every reason to believe that through cooperation with China they will gain access to better medical services.

Zhou Enyin, who was technology director for China State Construction Engineering Corp at the time, was also at the ceremony. "It was my first time to experience such a grand occasion," he said. "Everyone was excited."

After leaving the hospital, Xi visited Ngouabi University and attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its grand library, which was funded and constructed by China.

Ngouabi University is the only public university in the Republic of Congo. The library has more than 10,000 books and CDs about China, allowing locals to learn more about Chinese culture.

"Xi's presence at the ceremony indicates that education is a key issue for developing countries and that China wants to support education in our country," said Bruno Itoua, minister of higher education.



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