China/Namibia relationship strong despite negative media

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China and Namibia are trustworthy friends, brothers and partners. As a Chinese adage says, long-distance separates no bosom friends.

The great empathy and mutual understanding between our two peoples run through generations despite the geographic distance and the differences in culture between our people. Our friendship is deep-rooted in our political, social and economic ties.

The China-Namibia friendship was forged as early as 1960s, when China firmly stood with Namibian people in their fight for Namibia’s independence.

Founding President of Namibia Dr Sam Nujoma’s close bonds during the years of struggle with the then Chinese leaders like Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai laid a solid foundation for the exiting all-weather friendship that has stood the test of time.

The establishment of our diplomatic ties on the 2nd day of Namibia’s Independence, 22 March 1990, ushered in a new era for our bilateral relations.

In the past 27 years, China and Namibia have engaged in frequent high-level exchanges, deepening political mutual trust, as well as strengthening close communication and cooperation in international affairs.

Namibia has received and hosted Chinese presidents and numerous party, political and army leaders and likewise senior Namibian political and business leaders have visited China regularly, while hundreds of Namibian students have/or are attending university in China.

Thanks to the joint efforts of our political leaders, we are blessed with friendly beneficial relations premised on the basis of mutual respect, trust and support. Nowadays we are opening a new chapter in our relations under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and his Namibian counterpart President Hage Geingob.

China takes a strategic and long-term perspective with regard to China-Namibia relations. The two Governments are now working together to implement the ten major China-Africa cooperation plans as an outcome of the Johannesburg Summit of FOCAC, for the benefits of our peoples and common development of our two countries.

Our cooperation could be quite complementary and has great potential, considering Namibia’s abundant mineral resources, its livestock sector, mining, marine resources, the Chinese in Namibia and the vast market in China that could be tapped by Namibia.

Over the past 27 years, China-Namibia economic and trade cooperation has grown soundly and rapidly. Dozens of Chinese companies run businesses in Namibia, covering various fields including infrastructure construction, mining, telecommunication, etc.
Besides complying with the local laws and regulations, they have done much as far as creating thousands of jobs, paying taxes, transferring technology and training of Namibians in various fields.

In 2012, the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) and China-Africa Development Fund acquired Husab Uranium Mine and set up Swakop Uranium with Epangelo Mining, which is responsible for the mine’s construction and operation.

The mine has created thousands of job opportunities for locals. As China’s biggest entity investment in Africa, it has become a model for the win-win cooperation between China and Africa, and will have a big impact on our bilateral economic cooperation.

The expansion project of Walvis Bay port contracted and carried out by China Harbour will greatly improve the port’s capacity, boost logistics development and bring considerable economic and social benefits.

We have also witnessed highlights of our people-to-people exchanges in these past 27 years.

China has sent 11 medical teams, altogether around 44 doctors and nurses to Namibia and donated medical equipment and materials since 1996. China seconded 20 teachers to Namibia, and offered training opportunities and Chinese government scholarships for nearly 1000 Namibian officials, technicians and students.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Namibia (Unam) set up in 2013, brings Chinese culture and language closer to Namibians and the China-Africa Youth Leaders Forum co-founded by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the SWAPO Party has become an important platform for China-Africa youth exchanges.

We also have seen 12 twinning agreements involving Namibian and Chinese cities, provinces or regions, which play a positive role in our cooperation.

All the above have firmly demonstrated how deep and how strong our bilateral relations are. And we are happy to see this.

However, as our all-around cooperation is becoming deeper and stronger, this relationship is not free of challenges and “growing pains.”

In recent months, we have seen overwhelming negative news coverage on China in the local media.

It has mainly focused on a few Chinese individuals who have been involved with illegal activities such as poaching, wildlife product trafficking, smuggling, or even economic misconduct.

Almost everyday, I can find some negative reports on Chinese nationals in Namibia. Some reports use very sensational and emotional words to tag Chinese in Namibia so on and so forth.

It gives me the impression that some people seem to be trying to give the whole local Chinese community a bad name and paint all the Chinese black with one brush.
This makes me very upset. I cannot help thinking: Is this the true attitude of the Namibian people toward the Chinese and China? If not, why is this happening?

There is no denying the fact there are some Chinese individuals who do not behave themselves, and some have even violated local laws and even committed crimes of one sort or another.

This is a normal yet unacceptable social phenomenon, as each country has both good guys and bad guys.

To the Namibian government and the general public, I would like to reconfirm that, the Chinese government’s position is strong and clear: the Chinese Government and people uphold Zero Tolerance to those criminals and law-breakers, whether they are Chinese or other nationals, whether they are related to wildlife misconduct and other violations.
China will never give unprincipled protection to Chinese national suspects if they are treated according to the law. Namibia is a country based on the rule of law.

If someone has done something wrong, let the judge in the court do his part, to bring the wrongdoers to justice. China firmly supports the Namibian government in its efforts to enforce the rule of law, and we fully support the Namibian Government’s decision to amend the Wildlife Protection Law to apply harsh punishments to the poachers and smugglers of wildlife products.

We hope this latest effort would help to deter those potential wrongdoers. All in all, China has no intention to interfere with Namibian judicial sovereignty. China has never done so, and China will never do so!

I would also like to speak to the Namibian Government and especially to the general public: those few Chinese “rotten” apples do not represent the local Chinese community, do not represent the Chinese Embassy, and certainly do not represent the Chinese people and government.

The great majority of the Chinese residents here in Namibia, same as the majority of Namibians, are honest and decent people, abiding by the law, creating jobs, paying taxes, and making voluntary contributions to the local community by way of granting donations to schools and charity organisations etc.

Please do not blame the good people for the few wrongdoers’ fault. Because the principle is very clear: you can blame the wrongdoer himself, but you should never blame his family members if they have never done anything wrong.

To deal with the situation, the best way is not to play the blaming game, but to find solutions and move forward.

The Chinese Embassy is ready to take whatever positive actions needed to address these new challenges, but we can only achieve success with the sincere cooperation and collaboration from various partners like the Namibian government, the public and people, the media and NGOs etc.

I would also like to speak to the media: supervision and whistleblowing is the legitimate obligation of the media as the fourth pillar in the civil society. However, be aware, objectivity, fairness and justness is also the source of vigour and authority of any serious media.

So to my media friends, it is my sincere request that, if you report about China, please cover the whole picture, and do not only focus on the black side, but also cover the white side.

In my opinion, that is the most important thing that the public, the people want to know: truth, holistic truth, nothing but the truth, not bias, not prejudice or selective coverage.

Tell the people the whole story, and let the people make their own judgment. Please do not make your own judgment for them, or even impose your judgment on them, because misguiding people is even more against the professional ethics of journalism and news reporting.

I would also like to speak to all the residents of the local Chinese community: you now work and live in a friendly nation, with friendly people. Please value this hospitable social environment, abide by the law, work and live in accordance with the law, because this is the best protection of your legitimate rights and interests.

Please befriend the local people, because they are our brothers and sisters. Please give them a helping hand when they are in need.

Refrain from those unwelcome and improper activities, and keep away from the illegal activities whether it is related to wildlife or economic misconduct, or any other wrongdoing.

All in all, my fellow countrymen and women, please do not abuse the goodwill and friendliness granted to you by the Namibian people, and do not take this friendship for granted, because respect and good feelings are always mutual, and not one-sided.

Under these circumstances, I am a bit worried about one thing. It seems that nowadays, with the local media full of negative news coverage on China and the Chinese, often with strong emotions and sometimes with exaggeration or bias, an anti-Chinese sentiment is simmering and unpleasant consequences are being felt.

Some Chinese residents have complained about unauthorised house searches without search warrants by local authorities, excessive security checks and scrutiny of Chinese travellers at roadblocks and airports, while some Chinese companies are complaining about increasing difficulties in applying and renewing visas and permits.

The long cordial friendly feeling towards the Chinese community is slipping away and there seems to be an invisible barrier of distrust and suspicion growing between the Chinese community and the Namibian society.

This is a very sad development and we should never allow these unhappy incidents to hamper our friendship, because this unhealthy tide of sentiments, if let rampant, would definitively endanger our valuable bilateral ties and distract cooperation.

I hope these are only isolated acts by some individuals and not the official government policy, and would not happen again.

The above-mentioned challenges are just a few examples of the “growing pains” as our cooperation becomes deeper and deeper. We may encounter similar cases like this in the future, but definitely, it should never represent the mainstream of our bilateral relationship, and should never hamper the future of our cordial friendship.

Because the China-Namibia friendship has withstood the test of time, we have gone through thick and thin, and it has become mature and strong enough to overcome headwinds.

No force should stop this grand trend of friendship and cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, Chinese people are right on the track to realise the Chinese Dream of national prosperity and rejuvenation, as well as the people’s happiness.

There is also a Namibian Dream represented by the guidelines of VISION 2030 and Harambee Prosperity Plan of realising stable economic growth and national industrialisation. The Chinese Dream and Namibian Dream, or our respective development strategies actually share the same core spirit and objectives, and thus present a great opportunity for our future cooperation.

China regards Namibia as one of the most reliable friends in Africa. Adhering to the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith, China is willing to further promote win-win cooperation with Namibia and take good care of each other’s core interests and development needs.

China is always ready to join Namibia in its work for social and economic development, and the outcome of the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit will be better implemented if we make full use of the advantages of our political mutual trust and economic complementarity.

Agriculture is one of the priority areas of our cooperation.  We strongly believe with our joint efforts from both sides, China-Namibia relationship will become more vigorous and promising in the coming years, just like the Welwitschia in the Namib Desert.

• Li Nan is the Charge d’affaires ad interim of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Windhoek

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