Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Wang Shiting (courtesy)
July 5 marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Ghana. During this period, there has been a steady growth in the bilateral relations, with cooperative achievements in various fields, especially under the framework of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
ChinAfrica sat down with Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Wang Shiting, to discuss the development of the bilateral ties. Below are edited excerpts of the interview:
ChinAfrica: What do you think have been the highlights of the China-Ghana relationship? What is your perspective on the future development of the bilateral relationship?
Wang Shiting: In the past 60 years, China and Ghana, sharing weal and woe, have forged deep friendship with many highlights. In my view, there are three main highlights.
First, we are brothers in politics. Sixty years ago, on July 5, 1960, leaders of our two countries, Chairman Mao Zedong and Kwami Nkrumah, made the historic decision to establish diplomatic relations. Then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited Ghana in 1964, which was the first stop of his trip to Sub-Saharan Africa. Then Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who had also served as deputy foreign minister, voted to support the restoration of China’s legitimate seat at the United Nations. In 2018, Ghanaian President Nana Akuffo-Addo paid a state visit to China and held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The China-Ghana relations are now at a historical high point.
Second, China is now the biggest trading partner and investor to Ghana. The bilateral trade volume has surged from less than $100 million in 2000 to more than $7.4 billion in 2019. The Chinese side has financed and executed key infrastructure projects like the National Theater, Atuabo Gas Processing Factory, Bui Dam, Kpong Water Supply Expansion Project, Cape Coast Stadium and National Communication Network. The Chinese-invested Sunon Asogli Power Plant, Africa World Airline and other companies in the fields of iron and steel, agricultural materials, pharmacy and paper-making are making great contributions to the economic growth and improvement of Ghanaian people’s well-being.
Third, China is also the biggest provider of human resources training to Ghana. China began to provide scholarships to Ghana in the 1960s. Since then, Ghana has always been a strategic partner in terms of people-to-people exchanges. There are tens of thousands of people travelling between our two countries each year. The wood sculpture, music and dance, among other Ghanaian arts, enjoy high popularity among the Chinese tourists. The classic symbols of Chinese culture such as Chinese language, kungfu, Chinese medicine and Chinese food are widely known in Ghana. The number of Ghanaian students in China is now around 6,500, ranking the second in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Ghana. Though facing the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Ghana are standing at a new historic starting point and marching toward the common goal of development. The Chinese people are eliminating absolute poverty and completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The people of Ghana are working hard to achieve a Ghana Beyond Aid through industrialization and modernization of agriculture. Our relations have a brighter future.
How do you see Ghana-China mutual support during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The anti-pandemic cooperation should be another highlight in China-Ghana relations.
In the first phase of our anti-pandemic cooperation, when China was in a critical period of the fight against the virus, Ghana supported China at the very beginning. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo wrote to President Xi to show solidarity. Ghanaian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia initiated the signing for support activity by holding a sign board reading “Zhongguo Jiayou, Wuhan Jiayou.” Facing rumors and baseless accusations, Ghana has been standing with China and attaching great importance to China’s measures on epidemic control. With the joint efforts of China and Ghana, the Ghanaian nationals, especially the students in Hubei Province in central China, are all safe and sound with no infections. This is a hard-won achievement.
In the second phase, after the epidemic hit Ghana, China returned the favor. China is the first country to send medical supplies by chartered flight to Ghana. China’s local authorities, companies and charities are also providing assistance to Africa in various ways. For example, the Jack Ma Foundation has donated three batches of medical supplies to Ghana. Chinese medical experts have had video conferences with Ghanaian doctors to share treatment experiences. The Chinese communities and Chinese enterprises in Ghana, such as Senon Asogli, Africa World Airline and Huawei, have also taken actions and made donations to Ghana. The Chinese Embassy in Ghana has donated food and medical supplies to the most vulnerable people such as the orphanages and rural communities. We also donated medical supplies to the local hospitals, enhancing their capacity to respond to the outbreak. More supplies from China are on the way to further support Ghana in the fight against the epidemic.
In the face of the pandemic, the China-Ghana relationship will become even stronger. With the joint efforts of Chinese people and Ghanaian people, we will overcome the pandemic as soon as possible.
China's medical materials land in Ghana to help 18 African countries in April (courtesy)
Ghana and China have close economic cooperation. How can China and Ghana strengthen cooperation to mitigate the impact of the pandemic?
The pandemic is a great challenge to both China and Ghana. Just as President Nana Akufo-Addo said, saving lives and economy are both key to the country. China and Ghana are fellow travelers on the path of common development. Even during the pandemic, I firmly believe that the two peoples have the resolve and wisdom to find a way.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in his government work report pointed out that the Chinese Government will firmly support the recovery of the real economy and promote the development of the digital economy with greater efforts in the next period. And now, Ghana is promoting major development policies such as One District, One Factory and Planting for Food and Job, pushing forward its industrialization, manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure and the digital economy. Our aspirations have a lot in common.
There is a Chinese saying: “When brothers are of the same mind, they have the power to cut through metal.” In the face of the pandemic, as long as China and Ghana continue to maintain and inherit the traditional friendship between the two countries, firmly grasp the general direction of the development of bilateral relations, and strengthen pragmatic cooperation, we will surely overcome the difficulties and obstacles on the way ahead and realize the common development aspirations of the two peoples.
How to further enhance people-to-people exchanges between China and Ghana?
Only the friendship among our two peoples can ensure the consistent and sustainable development of our cooperation.
We should let people become the mainstay of cultural exchanges and improve the communication, making the friendship more deeply rooted in our hearts. We should mobilize more resources for Ghana’s education sector and youth development, and work together to enhance human resources development in Ghana. We should attract more excellent Ghanaian students to study in China, and expand the participation of people from the two countries by holding cultural activities like football games and art exhibitions together.
Cultural exchanges must work both ways. We should promote Ghanaian tourism and culture and attract more Chinese citizens to Ghana for tourism and business, encourage more local governments to forge sister-city or sister-region relationships, and encourage our higher institutions to carry out exchange programs and joint scientific research.
Ghanian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia signs a solidarity board in support of the Chinese Government's fight against COVID-19 (courtesy)
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the FOCAC. How can China-Africa relations be further consolidated under the framework?
The FOCAC has become an important platform for collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa over the past 20 years. In the future, China and African counties should work for an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future through the FOCAC.
We should build the Belt and Road through the platform of the FOCAC together. The Belt and Road Initiative has opened up new paths for solving global development problems and creating new opportunities for the development to Africa. China will always adhere to mutual consultation, joint construction and sharing, pursue openness, transparency and inclusiveness, advocate green and environmental protection, and continue to strengthen strategic integration in the Belt and Road construction with African countries under the framework of the FOCAC.
We should strengthen strategic communication and collaboration to solve challenges together under the FOCAC. We are witnessing major changes unfolding in our world, something unseen in a century. This is a world of both opportunities and challenges for us emerging markets and developing countries. China and African countries should pursue FOCAC cooperation in the historical course of promoting common development.
We should build an even closer community with a shared future for China and Africa under the mechanism of the FOCAC. China is the biggest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the greatest concentration of developing countries. The FOCAC makes China and Africa a community with a shared future more than ever. It is necessary and feasible for us to speed up the building of an even closer community with a shared future and join hands to cope with all kinds of attempts to deter our development process according to the goals clarified at the FOCAC Beijing Summit.