COVID-19: Chinese Sessions and Impacts on Africa

By Lawal Sale Maida

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has watched as China’s top legislative and political advisory body held its annual sessions between May 21 and 27, 2020.

It was a key annual event where representatives of the 1.4 billion Chinese people gathered and chartered the course towards building a moderately prosperous society in all respects,  achieving national development goals and warding off of 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 to a later date.

Expectedly, public health including COVID-19  were among the hot topics 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 analyzing 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 emphasized 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.

To corroborate  the remarks by President Xi and Premier Li on China’s role on the global stage and in particular the developing countries, and especially in African nations, President 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.

President Xi further highlighted that 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 indepencence 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.

Minister Wang said our people, having fought shoulder-to-shoulder for national liberation, are partners for common development. He said he concurred with a statement credited to the AU Commission Chairperson to the effect that  “Africa and China are more importantly, comrades-in-arms. Nothing can change or damage the relationship.”

Minister Wang continued by saying that China and Africa stood by each other as over 50 African leaders had expressed solidarity and support for China  in phone calls or public statements during the heat of COVID-19.

He added that subsequently, China sent teams of medical experts to Africa’s five sub-regions to assist in containing COVID-19. He 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 have been safe and sound except for just one 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 African partners. This is expected to come in the areas 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])

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