‘China committed to Zim’s development’

Source: ‘China committed to Zim’s development’ –Newsday Zimbabwe

Minister Counsellor of the Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe, CHENG Yan

NEWSDAY correspondent Tendai Sauta recently had an interview with Minister Counsellor of the Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe over a wide range of issues premised on Zimbabwe’s Look East Policy.

Introduce yourself in the shortest way possible and kindly highlight to us the Look East policy in Zimbabwe.

Thank you for taking time to interview me. My name is CHENG Yan, Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe. It is not appropriate for a Chinese diplomat to comment on what policy Zimbabwe has adapted as China never interfere in other country’s internal affairs. Hereby, I want to emphasise that China-Zimbabwe friendship is a traditional one, which dates back to the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe and we have firmly stood with each other in weal and woe for so many decades. I am confident our traditional friendship and strategic partnership will forge ahead and never be weakened by any outside influence.

You assisted in the drilling of boreholes at Budiriro and Tafara primary schools in Harare, to what extent has this changed people’s lives?

Water is the source of life. As we all know, a lot of people living in the high-density areas do not have clean water supply.

The Chinese embassy mobilised funds from China and drilled boreholes for the two primary schools you mentioned. The China-Zimbabwe Exchange Centre implemented these projects.

I am very pleased to see students and teachers enjoying clean water now. And more than 2 000 local residents have benefited from the boreholes. They don’t have to walk long distances to fetch water everyday.

It’s not only having safe drinking water, they also can improve their farming projects through irrigation, thus impacting positively on their health and well-being.

Zimbabwe is faced with a severe drought. What could be the best way forward in alleviating the crisis?

We are following the drought closely and trying our best to support the Zimbabwean government and people to conquer this crisis. I want to share a few of the things we have done.

China last year donated and completed 1 000 boreholes nationwide in Zimbabwe and another China-Aid project to drill 300 boreholes is being prepared.

The sixth Chinese Senior Agricultural Expert Group is working in Zimbabwe and focuses on water supply and irrigation facilities in its agricultural demonstration villages.

China is also delivering 50 million RMB (RMB is the official currency of the People’s Republic of China, and means “people’s currency” in Mandarin) Emergency Food Assistance to Zimbabwe and will continue doing it this year, with more bilateral discussions taking place.

We can say China’s food assistance is on the way. I believe the success of fighting the drought crisis will belong to the Zimbabwean people with your diligence and resilience.

What social and economic-related activities have you lined up that cement the Sino-Zim relationship?

There are a lot. There are five “code” words I can use to highlight the activities and these are: Pearl, Hub, Generator, Engines and Angels.

Let’s start from the Pearl. It’s the New Parliament Building, which has become a shining pearl in the outskirt of Harare.

It provides state-of-the-art facilities to improve democracy and good governance and increases Zimbabwe’s capability to host international conferences including upcoming Sadc summit in August.

It definitely brings more positive impacts on business and commercial vitality in the Mt Hampden area.

The Hub goes to the upgraded Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. No doubt it is going to be an important aviation hub in southern Africa with an annual capacity to handle about six million passengers and we can see now more and more international airlines coming to Harare.

Hopefully, it will bring a US$5 billion tourism economy for Zimbabwe by 2025.

The Generator is the project of Hwange Power Station Expansion. It brings 600 megawatts of power to the national grid and plays a vital role in addressing the country’s power shortages.

Besides, this project benefits more than 50 000 people and entities through employment and provision of various supplies.

The Engine is Chinese investment for economy growth. We have several big Chinese investments in mining, agriculture, logistics, transportation and manufacturing, among others.

They contribute a big portion in the growth of Zimbabwe’s economy and, of course, they support Zimbabwe to counter Western-imposed illegal sanctions.

Chinese investors are ready to work with Zimbabwean brothers and sisters to realise the National Development Strategy 1 and your great Vision 2030. And the Chinese investors are looking forward to a better investment environment here.

Lastly, the Angels are China’s medical teams. China has sent 21 batches of medical teams since 1985. The 21st medical team now is performing very well.

They work hard with the Zimbabwean doctors and nurses at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare and travel to other provinces to deliver free medical service during weekends.

The Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Centre run by the team is a pop star now in Harare. The appointments for acupuncture treatment have been pencilled for November.

They are just several examples. We can talk more on our practical co-operation the whole day.

What are your comments on the Chinese Friendly Scholarships to Zimbabwe?

Every year, we provide tens of opportunities in governmental scholarships to Zimbabwean students.

A lot of Chinese universities welcome Zimbabwean students and various majors can be selected for undergraduates and higher degrees.

The embassy also supports local students to continue their studies at home.

Last year, Ambassador Zhou Ding inaugurated China-Zimbabwe friendship scholarships and 60 local students from primary schools to colleges were awarded.

And the embassy is calling on Chinese enterprises in Zimbabwe to support local students by providing scholarships.

We sincerely hope with these various opportunities, young generations can realise their dreams and Zimbabwe will get more high-quality intellectual resources.

In addition to this, China has trained over 6 000 Zimbabweans in the past 20 years through human resources development co-operation, which has imparted vital capacity and skills on locals.

What is your assessment of arts and culture as a tool to bind Sino-Zim relations?

Arts and culture are powerful bridges to connect peoples and foster friendships.

They serve as symbols of goodwill and promote people-to-people connectivity and mutual learning among civilisations.

People may speak different languages, have different political visions and historical backgrounds, but they can admire and enjoy other countries’ music and sculpture, they may like different styles of dances across the world.

Do you agree with my point? And very importantly, culture and art can also generate economy. That is why both China and Zimbabwe value arts and cultural exchanges and we are promoting the exchanges and co-operation.

What would you describe as your achievements so far?

We have had a lot of exchanges in arts and culture in the past decades. After the COVID-19 pandemic, our two sides are trying to revive these.

The embassy invited art groups from China with magnificent Chinese operas, dances, instruments playing and Chinese Kung Fu performances to celebrate the Chinese National Day and Spring Festival with our local friends.

Recently on the Day of the African Child, several talented Zimbabwean young artists exhibited their paintings in Shanghai for cultural exchanges and raising funds for the welfare of children.

China and Zimbabwe have signed a cultural agreement and now we are working with the Zimbabwean government to renew the executive programme for the agreement.

As the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation  will be held this year, we look forward to more cultural and art exchanges between China and African countries including Zimbabwe.

What are your recommendations on the political, social and economic situation in Zimbabwe?

China supports Zimbabwe’s development within its capacity and fully respects Zimbabwe’s needs in our co-operation.

China never interferes in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs or point fingers at Zimbabwe.

We believe that the Zimbabwean people have enough wisdom and capability to blaze a development path that suits their national conditions.

However, the biggest obstacle on the path to Zimbabwe’s great vision are the illegal sanctions which have been in place for over two decades.

China opposes all illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe and will take concrete steps to help the country’s development and ensure its people’s well-being.