The Belt and Road Initiative designed by Chinese Government seeks to promote connectivity of international policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people among others. It is an extension of The Silk Road which helped China grow economically as it conducted trade across Asia, Europe and Africa about 2000 years ago. On May 15, a meeting started in China which saw over 100 Heads of State and government from across the world meeting over the Belt and Road Initiative. But why has the initiative drawn so much global attention? Our reporter JACOB NANKHONYA caught up with Chinese Ambassador to Malawi, SHI-TING WANG to find out more. Excerpts:
Why is the initiative important and what role can Africa play?
The key essence of the Belt and Road Initiative includes cooperation, common development, mutual benefit, openness and sharing. In history, Africa is an important component of the ancient Silk Road. Today, it is still an indispensable part. Africa is the poorest continent in the world, which is in desperate need of development. Of course, the development of Africa cannot be realised without the help of the international community. The core of the Belt and Road Initiative is focusing on common development.
What are the benefits for Africa in general?
We hope that African countries can get investment, trade, infrastructure and industrialisation, which are key to their development through their active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. I am convinced that Africa will also benefit a lot in the field of poverty-reduction, development, as well as the regional integration during the process. On the other hand, the active participation of Africa in the Belt and Road Initiative will also strengthen its connection with the international community, especially its connectivity with the Asian and European countries.
China is investing huge sums of money in Africa. Why is China interested to invest in poor nations such as Malawi?
For a long time, China has firmly followed the principle that all the countries, no matter big or small, rich or poor, are equal. Of course, Malawi is a small country, but we could not ignore it just because of its small size. Indeed, Malawi is poor and many Malawian people are lack of food, but that is just the reason why we should try our best to help them develop their countries faster and better, and assist more and more Malawian people to get rid of poverty.
Indeed, in recent years, Chinese investment in Africa has increased dramatically and already it has become the largest contributor of foreign direct investment [FDI] and job creation on the continent. Somebody said ‘the aim of China’s assistance to Africa is to grab its resources.’ It is totally baseless. Malawi does not have much mineral resources, but the Chinese investors still came. Why? On one hand, Chinese companies do make profit through investment. But more importantly, we want to help Malawi achieve faster development. We never refuse to help a country just because it lacks of natural resources.
China knows that there is no so-called “isolated prosperity”. The world can become a better place only through common development. And China is willing to make its due contribution to build a beautiful world with common prosperity.
How can both China and Malawi be winners in this partnership?
As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “Enjoying happiness alone is not as happy as sharing it.” China and Malawi are both developing countries. Over the past decades, China made world-shaking achievements, and makes tremendous progress in economic growth, social progress, urbanisation development and so on. Now Malawian people are striving to develop their country and improve their livelihood, among which China has rich and successful experience. China and Malawi are ideal cooperative partners and highly complementary to each other.
To ensure our cooperation benefit our two countries and peoples, we should first promote our interaction, deepen our understanding and consolidate our friendship. Second, we should strengthen our economic and trade cooperation, so as to realise the economic complementarities. Third, we should promote the technology exchange and transfer. We are willing to give a hand to Malawi in agricultural development and industrialisation. Fourth, we should strengthen the human resources training. “If one apple is given to two men, one can only get half. If one idea is shared with two men, it will become two ideas”. Human resource is the key to development. China has now become the biggest provider of scholarships and training opportunities to Malawi. This will go a long way towards achieving Malawi’s national development.
What challenges do you face when working in Malawi?
Of course, there are indeed some challenges we have to face when living in Malawi. The first one is cultural shock. China and Malawi are two totally different countries, with different history, different development stage, and different thinking pattern. Besides, Malawi is also a least-developed country. As a result, the material supply is inadequate and we have to bear with relatively poor living conditions.
However, Malawi is one of the countries with the best climate in Africa. The sky is always blue, the water is always clean. What’s more, Malawi is a peace-loving country with friendly people. Sometimes when I am walking on the street, Malawians will greet me in Chinese, which makes Malawi a homelike place for me.