Media Dialogue on China’s Development and China-Sierra Leone Friendship

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Chinese Ambassador H.E. Hu Zhangliang

AYV CEO Anthony Navo Jr

FM 98.1 Station Manager Asmaa James

Time: 10 am, March 30th, 2021

Mr. Navo: Good morning Your Excellency Ambassador. Today, Myself Ambassador Anthony Navo Junior, CEO of the AYV Media Empire, together with Madam Asmaa James, who is also the Station Manager FM 98.1. We are jointly conducting a dialogue on China’s development and China-Sierra Leone Friendship. Myself and Madame Asmaa James will be asking a few questions for you. I hope you don’t mind. Thank you for joining us Ambassador.

Ambassador Hu: Good morning Anthony and Asmaa. It’s my pleasure to join this dialogue. I wish this dialogue will help our Sierra Leonean friends better know the facts of China’s development and China-Sierra Leone friendship.

Mr. Navo: Thank you Ambassador. We know that recently, China’s “Two Sessions”(the Fourth Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Fourth Session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)) concluded successfully. Could you take us through on the “Two Sessions”?

Ambassador Hu: Yes, you are right. The “Two Sessions” you mentioned are major events in China’s political life. Every year, the “Two Sessions” will review and adopt important policy decisions on the political, economic, social and cultural development of China. This year, the “Two Sessions” were held earlier this month.

Mr. Navo: Ok, thank you. What are the important outcomes of this year’s “Two Sessions”, Ambassador?

Ambassador Hu: You know that this year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), so it’s a year of great significance. It is also the first year for China to implement the building of a modern socialist country in all respects.

This year’s “Two Sessions” fully recognized the historic achievements made by the Chinese government and people under the staunch leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core.

Mr. Navo: Thank you, Ambassador. Did the “Two Sessions” set out any development plan for the year of 2021?

Ambassador Hu: The “Two Sessions” this year reviewed and adopted the Report on the Work of the Government made by H.E. Premier Li Keqiang, adopted the Report on the Work of the Standing Committee of NPC, the Report on the Work of the Standing Committee of Committee of CPPCC. It also adopted the Outline for the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. Also, the “Two Sessions” approved the NPC’s Decision on Improving the Electoral System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

It also reviewed and adopted the National Budgetary Report as well as other issues. All items on the agenda of the “Two Sessions” were completed successfully, laying a solid foundation for China’s development in the new era.

You mentioned what are the targets for China’s development in 2021. Here I can give you some highlights. Our target is that in 2021, the GDP will grow above 6 percent. We are going to create over 11 million new urban jobs. We will control the surveyed urban unemployment rate at around 5.5 percent. We are going to ensure that the grain output will stand at 650 million tones. And we will keep the CPI increase at around 3 percent. We’re also going to improve China’s foreign trade, balance of payments, personal income, environment protection, scientific and technological R&D and food security.

Those are the major targets. We foresee another year of rapid progress for China although not without challenges.

Recently, a report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) projected that China’s economic growth in 2021 will be at about 8.1%, above what we set for the development goal in our government report. It reflects the international community’s confidence in China’s economic development.

Mr. Navo: Thank you very much, Ambassador.

Ms. James: Thank you Mr. Navo. Ambassador, I’ve been listening to you, you mentioned that the “Two Sessions adopted “the Outline for the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. And we all know that China did exceptionally well in terms of development. Could you please tell us what kind of development achievements China has made in the period of the “13th Five-Year Plan”?

Ambassador Hu: Since 1953, China has been formulating and implementing five year development plans. It is one of the important measures to achieve desired, fast and sustained national development.

During the “13th Five-Year” plan period from 2016 to 2020, China made great achievements in socioeconomic development. The GDP reached 101trillion RMB, which is over 15 trillion U.S. dollars. Now China’s GDP accounts for 17% of the world’s total. China succeeded, during the “13th Five-Year” period, in eradicating abject poverty, achieving the UN SDG on poverty reduction 10 years ahead of schedule. China’s annual grain output remained above 650 million tonnes for five consecutive years, which ensured China’s food security and self-sufficiency. China succeeded in building the largest social security network in the world. The basic medical insurance covered 1.3 billion people and the basic old-age insurance covered nearly 1 billion people. The development or advancement in science and technology also achieved great breakthroughs. Those are the major achievements during the “13th Five-Year” plan period.

Ms. James: How about the development achievements for the year of 2020? Can you give us more details?

Ambassador Hu: In the year of 2020, the whole world was severely taken by the COVID-19 pandemic. China is the same. And we are also facing a deep global economic recession. The Chinese people, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with H.E. General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, reacted with firm resolve and profound tenacity. China achieved major strategic success in containing COVID-19 and China was the world’s only major economy which achieved positive GDP growth (2.3 percent). The registered urban unemployment rate dropped to 5.2%. China attained a complete victory in the fight against poverty. New strides were made in China’s opening up to the outside world, for instance, the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement. This agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world, in which China played an important role. In 2020, a stream of scientific and technological breakthroughs were also made, for instance, the explorations of the Mars, of the moon and of the deep-sea etc..

H.E. President Xi Jinping and other state leaders hosted or attended several major diplomatic events, including the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19. China has been very firm in upholding the UN centered international system, safeguarding multilateralism, and promoting international anti-COVID-19 pandemic cooperation. China was actively promoting and advocating for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind and a community of health for all.

Ms. James: Wow, that’s impressive. Ambassador, China’s contribution to world peace and development are obvious. And China’s foreign policy meets the expectations of the world especially of the developing countries. What is China’s target for the “14th Five-Year (2021-2025)” period?

Ambassador Hu: During the 14th Five-Year Plan period from 2021-2025, China will follow the new development philosophy and formulate a new development paradigm to firmly advance high-quality development. In the 14th Five-Year Plan period, our target is to achieve high-quality development. The major targets will be the following: new strides in economic development, new steps in reform and opening up, new enhancement in social etiquette and civility, new progress in building an ecological civilization, new level in the well-being of the people and new advancement in governance capacity. In short, we are going to achieve a development that is more innovative, more coordinated, more open, greener and more inclusive. This will lay a solid foundation for China to basically achieve socialist modernization by the year 2035.

China will create more cooperation opportunities for countries around the world. As you know, now every year, China imports about 2 trillion USD of goods and services, which means in the next five years, China will import more than 10 trillion USD of goods and services, which is a huge opportunity for all over the world.

Ms. James: Thank you very much, Ambassador.

Mr. Navo: Ambassador, let me draw you a little bit with the issue of Hong Kong. You know, as a CEO of a media company and also an international business person, I visited Hong Kong many times as well as China. Ambassador, I want to draw your attention. We have been noticing that some western media like BBC etc. have been focusing on the Hong Kong related issues for a while. And you also mentioned just now that the National People’s Congress of China deliberated and passed the decision on improving the electoral system of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. What is the background for China to do this? What is the significance of improving the electoral system of Hong Kong? Could you please take us to on that as well?

Ambassador Hu: Thank you Anthony. You know Hong Kong is China’s territory. China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. However, since 2019, anti-China rioters in Hong Kong, supported by external anti-China forces, created big chaos and mayhem in Hong Kong, which seriously threatened national interests and Hong Kong SAR’s social stability. Those destabilizing forces used the electoral platforms of the Hong Kong SAR or their positions as public servants to blatantly carry out anti-China and destructive activities.

Combined with the impact of COVID-19, it’s imperative to take effective measures to forestall sabotaging activities and safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term stability and prosperity. The NPC’s decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR is meant to plug up the loopholes in the system, uphold the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” and ensure the steady implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to governance is in the interests of all, including the Hong Kong residents and foreign investors. It falls under China’s sovereignty and is fully in line with China’s Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to improve the electoral system of Hong Kong.

China refuses to accept the irresponsible remarks and vicious attacks by certain Western countries with regard to this issue.

Mr. Navo: Thank you very much, Ambassador. That is clear. Ambassador, I am also very interested in China’s experience of poverty alleviation, especially as an African. We know that several decades ago, China was one of the underdeveloped countries. While today, China has grown into the 2nd largest economy in the world. Just now you mentioned China’s overall victory in the fight against poverty. What are the specific progress and achievements? That’s the one, and secondly, will China continue to carry out poverty alleviation work in the future?

Ambassador Hu: Yes, you’re right that a few decades ago, China was very much underdeveloped, maybe not even comparable to some of African countries at that stage. But now, through the hard work of the Chinese people, we have reached another stage of development.

In February 2021, H.E. President Xi Jinping solemnly declared that China has won a complete success in eliminating poverty. Between 2012 and 2020, all the 98.99 million rural poor people under China’s current poverty line had been lifted out of poverty. Over the past 40 years, under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, China succeeded in lifting out of poverty 850 million. It is a great historic achievement because the Chinese nation had been plagued with poverty for thousands of years. It is also a miracle in the human history in poverty alleviation. The results are not easily won. They are the crystallization of the decades long assiduous work of the whole nation and the sound policies of the Party and Government.

Shaking off poverty is not the finishing line, but the starting point of a new stage. China will continue to solve the problem of unbalanced, inadequate and insufficient development, narrow the gap between urban and rural areas, and realize all-rounded human development and prosperity for everyone. We are moving forward courageously towards the realization of the second centenary goal, that is, by the middle of this century, China will develop into a strong, modern socialist country.

Mr. Navo: Thank you very much, Ambassador.

Ms. James: Thank you very much, interesting achievements and comments from the Ambassador there. Ambassador, Africa and China have been good friends and our two sides enjoy cordial relationship for a long time. During the “Two Sessions” this year, both Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met the press and answered their questions. What message do you think that they brought about China-Africa cooperation?

Ambassador Hu: During the “Two Sessions” this year, Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with journalists respectively via video link because of the COVID pandemic situation. H.E. Mr. Wang Yi answered questions on China-Africa cooperation. The messages are consistent.

China and Africa are perpetual good friends and good partners. Last year is the 20th anniversary of the founding of FOCAC (the Forum on China Africa Cooperation). Over the past 20 years, China-Africa trade has grown by 20 times. China’s foreign direct investment to Africa increased by 100 times. The sister cities between China and Africa now reached 150 pairs. China-Africa cooperation has become a model of South-South cooperation and a fine example of international cooperation with Africa.

Currently, it is a top priority for China-Africa cooperation to fight the pandemic and help Africa bring the economy back on track.

Last year, H.E. President Xi Jinping initiated and hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19, and announced a host of new support measures. China has been earnestly implementing the outcomes of that Extraordinary Summit. We have provided about 120 batches of emergency supplies to Africa including here in Sierra Leone, and sent medical expert teams to 15 African countries. China is now providing COVID-19 vaccines to 35 African countries, of which Sierra Leone is one of the first beneficiaries, as well as the African Union Commission. The construction of the Africa CDC Headquarters has started, and cooperation between 30 paired-up Chinese and African hospitals is well underway.

This year, the FOCAC meeting will be held in Senegal. It is another opportunity for advancing China-Africa cooperation. China will support Africa’s efforts to defeat the virus, strengthen public health governance and build up capacity for self-generated development. China will work with Africa to pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and build an even stronger community with a shared future.

Ms. James: Thank you Ambassador Hu. Now to Sierra Leone-China relationship. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sierra Leone. No doubt China’s help is everywhere as you can see. And the two sides, I believe, are planning for the celebrations. So what is the plan for the celebrations?

Ambassador Hu: You are right. Since the establishment of the diplomatic relations on July 29, 1971, China and Sierra Leone have treated each other as brothers and sisters.

Our two countries enjoy genuine friendship, mutual understanding, mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual support. Allow me to quote the words of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio. He said “China and Sierra Leone are reliable friends”. Reliable means whatever the situation is we are always together.

From Youyi Building to the National Stadium, from the Sierra Leone Foreign Service Academy under construction to the newly completed Freetown 3.2km Ring Road, numerous tangible projects have been witnesses to the ever-growing friendship between our two countries.

You may also recall that whenever there were severe challenges, for instance the outbreak of Ebola and the Mudslide Disaster, China came to Sierra Leone’s assistance swiftly. Now, China is actively helping Sierra Leone in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the years, the Chinese side has provided opportunities under the government scholarships programs for over 1000 Sierra Leone students to study in China. China has invited over 5000 Sierra Leoneans to go to China for short-term training courses and other exchanges. China has sent 21 medical groups, 13 agricultural technical assistance group, 4 military expert groups and several CDC expert groups to Sierra Leone. The bilateral trade and investment between our two countries have also expanded, which has helped promote our common development.

Also, the support is mutual. Sierra Leone has been firm in providing political and moral support to China on issues involving China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, dignity and security. We will never forget that Sierra Leone is one of the friendly countries that supported the restoration of the legitimate seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations.

The 50 years of profound friendship and fruitful cooperation have been in the big interests of our two countries and two peoples. Our two sides are in close communication on organizing activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relationship. I wish that Sierra Leonean friends from all walks of life will actively join us in this celebration in different ways.

Ms. James: Share more with us, Ambassador, what is your vision for the China-Sierra Leone cooperation?

Ambassador Hu: China will continue to work with Sierra Leone for more fruitful cooperation in all fields.

At present, China and Sierra Leone are carrying out or in discussion of a series of cooperation projects in agriculture, fishery, health, telecommunication, human resources development, energy development and many other areas, which are of the Sierra Leonean government’s top concerns.

The Chinese side will continue to encourage competent and credible Chinese companies to invest in Sierra Leone.

I can tell that the Sierra Leonean government and people warmly welcome China-Sierra Leone cooperation. Also I believe that the Sierra Leonean side will continue to provide consistent policies and legal guarantees for this cooperation to reach a new high, and China will do the same.

Ms. James: Mr. Navo, do you have any comment?

Mr. Navo: I think we have heard a lot this morning about China-Africa cooperation. Ambassador Hu, you may be aware that in 2018 I was part of the Sierra Leone delegation in China during the China Africa Cooperation Forum Beijing Summit. There were a lot of joint partnership and bilateral commitments between the African heads of states and the Chinese government. In the last couple of years we’ve seen the fulfillment of these commitments. We do hope that China will increase its support to Africa especially Sierra Leone. As a media owner and businessman myself, I’ve been following China-Africa cooperation. As an African I am very proud to say that China over the years has been supporting a lot of countries in Africa including Sierra Leone. I just want to encourage you, Ambassador Hu and the Chinese government and people to continue on that path to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ms. James: I also hope you enjoy that relationship, Mr. Navo. From my side, we have surprisingly received the assistance from the Chinese Embassy which has helped Radio Democracy much. Back to you Ambassador.  

Ms. James: Recently, some western countries accused China of carrying out “genocide” in Xinjiang. We wish to know the truth. What is your comment?

Ambassador Hu: Ok, Asmaa. Before I answer this question, I’d also like to say a few words in response to Anthony’s kind comments. In 2018, China and Africa successfully held the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and great consensus were reached at that summit on furthering China-Africa cooperation. The Chinese side has been earnestly implementing the outcomes of the Beijing Summit. 87% of the pledges made by the Chinese side have been either implemented or in the implementation, which shows that China is always keeping her words. I’m glad that many of the measures concerning our cooperation with Sierra Leone are also in earnest implementation. I wish this will greatly promote the common development of our two sides, China and Africa, China and Sierra Leone.

Back to the question Asmaa asked. Yes recently, some western politicians have concocted the sensational lies of “genocide” in Xinjiang and the western media have been busy hyping this up. But no matter how many times they repeat, rumors remain rumors.

Xinjiang is a provincial level autonomous region in northwest China. I don’t know whether any of you have been there before or not. It is a beautiful place where several ethnic groups including the Han and Uygur nationalities live together in harmony and enjoy impressive social-economic development.

However, from the end of 1990s to 2016, Xinjiang suffered from over a thousand terrorists attacks. The safety and life of the local people were severely affected.

In order to contain the escalation of terrorism, Xinjiang local authorities set up the vocational education and training centers in accordance with law. These training centers offered the teachings of standard Chinese language, knowledge of laws and vocational skills for those influenced by terrorist and extremist thoughts and helped them adjust to normal life.

These centers are essentially no different from the “community corrections” of the U.S., the Desistance and Disengagement Programme of Britain, and “anti-extremism centers” in France. They are also fully consistent with the principles and spirit of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

But unfortunately, certain western media and politicians smear these training centers as “concentration camps”. And now some western politicians and media are spreading the rumor of so called “genocide” in Xinjiang. That’s both absurd and hypocritical. It’s typically double standard because they do the same thing.

In the past six decades, the average life expectancy in Xinjiang has grown from 30 to 72 years. The Uygur population in Xinjiang has grown from 5.55 million to over 12 million over the past four decades. Is there any “genocide” in the world that can lead to the doubling of the population?

If the western countries are really concerned about the rights of the Muslims as they claim, why did they launch so many wars in the Middle East and Northern Africa and cause the deep misery of many countries and the loss of so many innocent lives? Why should they discriminate against Muslim brothers and sisters in their own foreign and domestic policies? 

The claim that there is “repression” and “forced labor” in Xinjiang is also a rumor used by western countries to smear China.

In fact, through effective efforts of counter-terrorism, there have been no violent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang for the past four years. People there now enjoy a high sense of safety and security. The living standards there have also been greatly enhanced.

In recent years, over 1,000 foreigners including journalists and diplomats of other countries in China have visited Xinjiang. What they have seen is totally different from what the western media and politicians say.

Ironically, most of those who are bent on accusing China on the so-called Xinjiang issue have never been to Xinjiang or China at all, they base their accusation on lies and fabricated stories.

The Chinese side firmly rejects those baseless and malicious attacks.

Ms. James: Many thanks, Ambassador, for that detailed explanation on the “genocide” issue.

Mr. Navo: A lot of people have the opinion that the Communist Party of China is one of the greatest parties in the world. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of CPC. The leadership of the CPC is the fundamental guarantee for the great success of all the undertakings in China. Can you introduce the main experience of the Communist Party of China over the past 100 years?

Ambassador Hu: Yes, Anthony you are right. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China. Over the past 100 years, CPC has led the Chinese people in going through countless hardships and exerting earth-shaking efforts to change China’s destiny fundamentally.

Because of the great achievements, CPC enjoys wholehearted support and sincere love by the Chinese people.

The secret of CPC’s great success cannot be explained in a few words. But let me try to highlight some major points.

No.1, CPC always remains true to her original aspiration and mission to seek happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation. Countless CPC members even sacrificed their lives for China’s revolution, construction, reform and development.

No.2, CPC always upholds the principle of serving the people wholeheartedly. CPC is from the people and it goes by the principle of development of the people, for the people and by the people. CPC does not seek any special interest for herself.

No.3, CPC keeps advancing with the times. CPC adapts its theories, guidelines, and policies to the calls of the times and the expectations of the people so as to fully unleash the productive force of the society. At present, China is fast moving forward under the scientific guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

No.4, CPC has always been strict with self-improvement. It continuously strengthens disciplines and rules within the party, improves its own governance capabilities, and resolutely fight against corruption and privileges. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, hundreds of ministerial level officials and army general-level officers have been severely punished for corruption, which has enhanced the party’s advanced nature and purity.

No.5, CPC cooperates with other Chinese political parties with sincerity and mutual oversight, sharing weal and woe. In formulating China’s major development policies or plans, CPC never skips consultation with other political parties and never excludes other parties’ participation.

No.6, CPC pays attention to the cultivation and observance of core socialist values. It constantly promotes prosperity, democracy, civility, and harmony, upholds freedom, equality, justice and the rule of law and advocates patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendship.

No.7, CPC always pursues peaceful development of China and seeks win-win cooperation with other parties and countries in the world. Under the leadership of CPC, China pursues a foreign policy of peace, strives to build a community of shared future for mankind, advocates for the building of an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.

In short, the success of CPC is not accidental. The sufferings and glories experienced by CPC render itself the strongest reason to be self-confident and self-reliant among the hundreds or even thousands of political parties in the world.

Mr. Navo: Thank you very much Ambassador. That has been a very great dialogue. And we earnestly look forward for more dialogues here in Sierra Leone and even in China. I’m sure myself and Madame James have come with a lot of questions. We need to have some answers to some of these questions. And we thank you, it is very important to have this dialogue. This is a dialogue between you and myself Anthony Navo Junior, the CEO of AVY and my colleague Mme. James who is station manager for 98.1. And we hope we will continue to have some dialogues in the future so that we can clearly understand the relationship between China and Sierra Leone. Not just China – Sierra Leone but China – Africa in general. Thank you very much Ambassador. Thank you for your time and thank everyone on this dialogue.

Ambassador Hu: Thank you Anthony. It’s also my wish to have more of this kind of dialogue in the future. Thank you for your support.

Mr. Navo: Thank you and goodbye.

Ms. James: Goodbye everyone. Thank you for the opportunity. As always, I’m here if you need any support from my side. Thank you Ambassador.

Ambassador Hu: Thank you Asmaa. Look forward to cooperate with your good organization more closely and frequently. And thank you all the friends listening and viewing this program.

 (End of dialogue)