By Lawal Sale Maida
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s top legislative and political advisory body held its annual sessions between 21 and 27 May 2020.
It was a key annual event where representatives of the 1.4 billion Chinese people gathered and charted the course towards building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, achieving national development goals and warding off COVID-19.
The Lianghui (Two Sessions) of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) were to be held two months ago.
But due to the ravaging COVID-19, the event was postponed.
Expectedly, public health, especially COVID-19 was the hot topic that was deliberated upon by the deputies at the week-long sessions.
Other key topics discussed were economic growth, poverty alleviation, job creation and the Chinese civil code.
In his speech at a joint session attended by national political advisors from the economic sector, President Xi Jinping who is also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, stressed the need for analysing China’s economic situation from a comprehensive dialectical and long-term perspective, urging efforts to foster new opportunities amid challenges and make new advances amid changes.
President Xi further emphasised that efforts should be made to leverage China’s potential and role as the world’s largest market, clarify the strategic direction of supply-side structural reform, and consolidate the basic trend of steady growth with sound momentum in the long run.
China has the largest industrial system in the world with most complete
categories, strong production capabilities complete supporting sectors as well as over 100 million market entities and a talent pool of 170 million people, President Xi said.
Also, in his opening speech to the deputies, Premier Li Keqiang stressed the importance of continuing to allocate resources and energies in the global scene so that China can reinvigorate the Belt and Road initiative through beneficial cooperation with partner countries.
Xi Jinping in a speech earlier at the opening of the 73rd World health Assembly virtual meeting on May 18, 2020 announced that China will provide the sum of $2 billion in the next few years to help with COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries.
He said China will establish a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals and accelerate the building of the Africa CDC headquarters to help the continent ramp up its disease preparedness and control capacity.
The People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949 under the Communist Party has taken the development of friendly Sino-African relations as very strategic and an important part of its diplomatic duties. China and Africa first established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1956.
Currently, China maintains diplomatic ties with more than 51 African nations.
Sino-Africa relations became invigorated in late 60s as African national independence movements advocated political independence for African countries. China at that time staunchly supported the struggles of the African countries and people for national independence and sovereignty.
Undoubtedly, China and Africa cooperation have moved from the pre-independence political cooperation of the 1950’s to to post millennium economic cooperation of the 21st century. China and Africa have always been on the basis of win-win cooperation for common development.
At the just concluded “Two Sessions”, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed the press on the sidelines of the third session of the congress where he elaborated on China-Africa relations and specifically maintained that China and Africa are good brothers who have shared weal and woe together.
Wang said the Chinese and African people are partners for common development.
He concurred with a statement credited to the AU Commission Chairperson to the effect that “Africa and China and more importantly, comrades-in-arms. Nothing can change or damage the relationship.”
Minister Wang said China and Africa stood by each other as over 50 African leaders expressed solidarity and support for China at the outbreak of COVID-19, in phone calls or public statements.
China in return sent teams of medical experts to Africa’s five sub-regions.
Wang reiterated that in the heat of COVD-19, China looked after the African community living in China just like its own family.
All of the over 3,000 African students in Hubei and Wuhan were safe and sound except for one person who got infected but was soon cured, Minister Wang further said.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
Minister Wang maintained that China’s relations with Africa have stood the test of time and continued to flourish.
He said China will continue to stand by Africa as it fights COVID-19 pandemic, adding that China will deliver on the health initiative announced at the FOCAC Beijing Summit.
Minister Wang Yi capped his remarks with a Chinese saying: “When brothers are of the same mind, they have the power to cut through metal”.
In the meantime, as China’s economy picks up and as the world inches towards a post-COVID era, a lot of goodwill is expected to be demonstrated by China towards its Africn partners.
This is expected to come in the ares of debt relief, support for healthcare systems, transfer of technology and manufacturing expertise to help African countries recover from the impact of COVID 19.
*Lawal Sale Maida is Abuja based Global Affairs Analyst* ([email protected])