Two years ago, several agricultural experts from the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) travelled to China and selected seven types of water-saving and drought-resistant (WDR) rice seeds from the gene centres in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui and other places to bring back to Botswana.
After more than two years of unremitting comparison and cultivation by the agricultural experts from China and Botswana, the trial planting has finally been successful. The rice seeds from China have produced golden grains on the land of Botswana.
At the 1st WDR Rice Harvest Ceremony in Botswana held on June 27, Honourable Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and I walked into the experimental field to harvest the rice and share the joy.
Vice President Tsogwane said that the success of the trial planting is of great importance in helping Botswana to improve food production, reduce reliance on imports and ensure food security.
On social media, many local people clicked “like” below the post of the successful trial of China’s WDR rice in Botswana. They thanked the researchers for their hard work, and said that they expect the Chinese rice to be cultivated in more places in Botswana soon. Botswana and some other African media have widely reported the good news. The phrase “Chinese rice” was trending in Botswana that day.
The successful trial of Chinese rice is a gratifying result of the friendly cooperation between China and Botswana. In a broader sense, it is also the epitome of China-Africa friendship.
China and Africa are close friends, reliable partners and good brothers who stand together through thick and thin and never hesitate to help each other.
The two sides have supported each other on issues of each other's core interests and major concerns, safeguarded the international system with the United Nations at its core, and promoted the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and other basic norms governing international relations. Such collaboration has effectively upheld the shared interests of developing countries as well as the overall interests of the whole international community.
In developing its relationship with Africa, China has always followed the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests and the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith. Under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) framework, China-Africa relations has seen a leap from "a new type of partnership" to "a new type of strategic partnership" and to "a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership". Together, the two sides drafted and implemented 10 cooperation plans and eight major initiatives.
China-Africa Belt and Road cooperation is progressing with a strong momentum.
The fruitful results of China-Africa cooperation can be seen across the continent. China has contributed more than 20% to Africa's growth for a number of years, making positive contributions to improving the well-being of African people.
At the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a four-point proposal on promoting China-Africa relations and nine programmes on enhancing China-Africa practical cooperation, opening up new prospects for upgraded and high-quality development of China-Africa cooperation.
As the world faces the profound changes and the pandemic both unseen in a century, the friendly and brotherly bond between China and Africa is even more precious, which squarely reflects the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation proposed by President Xi in the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference, featuring sincere friendship and equality, win-win for mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice, and progress with the times and openness and inclusiveness. It truly captures the relations of China and Africa working together in good and hard times over the past decades, and provides a source of strength for the continuous growth of China-Africa friendly relations.
Botswana, an important country in Africa, has always been a true friend and good brother of China. Chinese people have always been cherishing the most valuable support from Botswana at the 26th session of UN General Assembly in 1971 for restoring the lawful seat of the People's Republic of China in the United Nations despite the fact that China and Botswana had yet to establish diplomatic relations. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China and Botswana have always respected, trusted and supported each other, with bilateral relations maintaining steady and healthy development.
In particular, Botswana President Masisi paid a successful visit to China in September 2018 and attended the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. President Xi Jinping and President Masisi held fruitful talks and reached broad consensus, elevating bilateral relations to a new level. In January 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Botswana and signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative with Botswana Foreign Minister Lemogang Kwape, which provided new opportunities, expanded new fields and opened up new prospects for the two countries to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation.
Over the last two years, confronted by drastic changes in the international situation and the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Botswana have stood side by side to tackle the challenges head on. We have stuck together to battle coronavirus, advance economic recovery, explore new growth drivers and expand cooperation in human resources, etc. Our fruitful cooperation best illustrates that China and Botswana are indeed good brothers sharing weal and woe and supporting each other.
In the face of the raging of the COVID-19 pandemic, China stays committed to lending a helping hand. Championing the vision of building a global community of health for all, China has provided various forms of support and assistance to Botswana to the best of our capacity since the outbreak, such as donating multiple batches of Covid vaccines and anti-epidemic materials, and promptly sharing experience in prevention and control.
Last April, at the height of the battle against Covid in Botswana, China was the first to rush in with its vaccines, providing a strong support for Botswana to fight against the pandemic. The Chinese medical team to Botswana is one of the longest-running and most effective health cooperation projects between the two countries. Over the past four decades, a total of 16 batches of more than 500 Chinese medical members have come to Botswana, making all-out efforts to deliver quality medical services and help strengthen local medical specialties.
They have performed more than 130,000 surgeries and treated more than 2.8 million patients since 1980s. They have won high praise from the government and people of Botswana for forming the spirit of Chinese medical team featuring no fear of hardships, willingness to dedicate, saving lives and great love with practical actions. In particular, the 16th Chinese medical team has risen to the risk and headed for the frontline against the virus together with their Botswana counterparts, writing a new chapter of the touching story of China-Botswana friendship with wisdom, courage, love and unremitting efforts.
In the face of difficulties holding back development, China stays committed to promoting cooperation. Both the fluid international situation and repeated resurgence of the pandemic make the path to global economic recovery more difficult, and no country can stand on their own including Botswana. In order to help Botswana accelerate the development and transformation of agriculture, safeguard food security, and improve international competitiveness of livestock products, China, guided by the consensus of the two heads of state, has organised its agricultural experts to help tailor the National Agricultural Development Plan for Botswana based on local resource endowment.
China has also made new progress in preparing to import Botswana beef, one of the country’s main exports. It is believed that, in the near future, China will become an important market for Botswana beef, and the Chinese people can enjoy high-quality Botswana beef without going abroad. Last month, a delegation of two large Chinese enterprises came to Botswana for business inspection and negotiation, aiming at conducting practical cooperation in related fields. I believe the economic and trade cooperation will help Botswana cultivate new areas of growth, update industrial chains and create favourable conditions for economic diversification and transformation.
In the face of the shortage of human resources, China stays committed to “teaching people how to fish”. It comes from an old Chinese proverb—“Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime”, which coincides with the concept of attaching importance to education in Botswana culture. For a long time, China has been deepening human resources cooperation with Botswana, including technical training for Botswana officials and technicians under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and the Chinese Government Scholarship Programme for Botswana students to study in China. We also keep in mind local youth education and empowerment, and try our best to make contributions to the development of basic education in Botswana.
We have built primary schools in Serowe, Maun, Mmopane and Kazungula to facilitate a good studying environment for kids. We have set up “Chinese Ambassador Scholarship” to support the students who achieve top academic performance. Aiming at encouraging young people to develop their interest in space exploration, the Embassy has recently extended an invitation to young Botswana friends to attend the “Tiangong Dialogue” event, a chance to directly interact with the Chinese Taikonauts in China’s Tiangong space station.
China is the largest developing country in the world. Building up solidarity and cooperation with Africa and other developing countries in the world has been the tradition and cornerstone of China’s foreign policy, as well as the distinctive character of China’s diplomacy in the new era. As the world’s second largest economy, largest trader in goods, second largest consumer of commodities, China’s development remains an opportunity for African countries.
At present, China is grounding the efforts in the new development stage, following the new development philosophy, fostering a new development paradigm and striving to achieve high-quality development. Later this year, the Communist Party of China will convene its 20th National Congress, which will chart the course for the next phase of China’s development. China welcomes Botswana and other African countries aboard the express train of China’s development, so as to share and explore more opportunities for common development.
Just like the rice seeds that sailed across the sea from China and have yielded a good harvest in Botswana, the seeds of China-Botswana friendship are bound to reap a golden harvest with the concerted efforts of our two sides in creating a brighter future for us all.
* Wang Xuefeng is Chinese Ambassador to Botswana