MONROVIA – Never one day to shy away from any opportunity availed to discuss the good tidings of the win-win bilateral and friendly relations that subsist between his country and Africa, most especially Liberia where he currently serves as the most illustrious chief emissary of the People’s Republic of China, Ambassador Ren Yisheng again rose to the occasion to discuss the topic: “Strengthened Development Cooperation for Sustainable Result”; by briefly elaborating on development and its importance to peace and stability; China’s development experience, and exchanging views on how to strengthen development cooperation for sustainable result in Liberia.
Deliberating on development and its importance to peace and stability, during the December 15, 2022 first event of the Dialogue Events to Consolidate Peace, Stability and Development in Liberia, Ambassador Yisheng noted that economic development usually includes three aspects concerning the enhancement of economic prosperity, improvement of people’s livelihood and the strengthening of national overall strength.
“Inclusive social development covers a series of extensive issues, including but not limited to: eliminate poverty, reduce inequality, create employment opportunities, promote the establishment of cooperatives, roles of civil society, and the elderly and aging, family, youth, disabled and indigenous people related issues,” Yisheng stated, noting that for millions of men, women and children living in the least developed countries, development is one of the most urgent human rights tasks. Development is the human rights of all individuals and all people. To treat development as a kind of right, it cannot only be the same as economic growth, he said.
With regards to the relations between development and peace and stability, the Chinese envoy said peace is the prerequisite for all the better future and the foundation of the common security of all countries. A tree cannot grow tall or bear fruit in a barren land torn apart by the flames of war.
“On the other hand, development is the guarantee of peace. Many problems in the world today are caused by inadequate development. Whether it is poverty, refugee crisis, war, conflict, terrorism, etc., we can find the root cause from the backwardness of development, and also need to seek a fundamental solution through development. Therefore, peace and development are indispensable to each other and should be promoted in parallel,” he stated.
In order to actualize development, Yisheng said it is important to adopt a people-centered development philosophy. “The people have the right to participate in decision-making and development process and benefit from development outcomes. Special attention should be paid to the development of youth and the vulnerable groups, such as women, the elderly and aging, and persons with disability.
“Human resource development is an important way to guarantee high-quality labor force. Education and vocational training is an investment in human intelligence and the most important way to improve the quality of human resources. For developing countries, ‘three types of relations” should be handled well,” the Chinese diplomat noted.
He said every country must first properly handle the relationship between development and stability in order to succeed, noting that the most important thing is to proceed from the actual situation of the country, pay attention to the combination and balance of development and stability from a macro perspective, and formulate scientific, timely, feasible and effective policies.
“Second, properly handle the relationship between development and independence. For the majority of developing countries, it’s important to choose their own development path and to maintain the independence of policies.
“Third, properly handle the relationship between “invisible hand” and “visible hand”. Countries should not only abandon the myth of “market omnipotence”, but also break the myth of “omnipotent government” and straighten out the relationship between the “invisible hand” and the “visible hand” in practice, and promote the organic unity of the two,” Ambassador Yisheng said.
He furthered that during the process of development, infrastructure construction is a key factor, while industrialization is an important basis for human society to move towards civilization.
“Agricultural development is a crucial matter. Green development should be emphasized in order to ensure sustainable development. When it comes to development path, all countries should start from their own national conditions. China’s success in realizing modernization proves that there is neither a single model of modernization nor a universal standard of modernization in the world. For African countries including Liberia, it’s neither about “looking West, nor looking East”, rather about “looking developmental”.
“The international community should maintain world peace and stability, focus on the theme of development, and actively carry out friendly, pragmatic and win-win cooperation in the areas of economy, trade, investment, energy, science and technology, etc., raise living standards, close the wealth gap and promote common prosperity, and make more development achievements better benefit the people of all countries,” he noted.
Explaining further on his own country’s development experience, Ambassador Yisheng said China started dirt poor, with the country’s infrastructure completely destroyed; but as things stand today, China is the largest developing country in the world.
“Development has always been the first priority of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in governing and rejuvenating the country, and it is the key to solving all problems in China.
“Since reform and opening-up began four decades ago, China’s economic aggregate has increased by 33.5 times with an average growth rate of 9.5%. China’s GDP has increased from around 364.5 billion yuan (US$120 billion) in 1978 to 114 trillion yuan (roughly US$17.7 trillion) in 2021. Today, China produces a quarter of the world’s food with less than 10% of the world’s arable land, and feeds one-fifth of the world’s population. The Chinese people’s living standard has been significantly improved. Our per capita GDP has grown from US $156 in 1978 to more than US $12,500 today. Over the past four decades, nearly 800 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
“As pointed out by CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping, who is also President of the People’s Republic of China in the report at the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the CPC that, entering the new era since the 18th Congress, China has further deepened our reform and opening up with many new achievements. Over the past 10 years, more than 2,000 reform programs have been rolled out. Nearly 100 million rural people have shaken off poverty. China’s infrastructure is greatly improved with an expressway mileage of about 170,000 kms and railway mileage of about 150,000 kms, more than 40,000 kms of which are high-speed railways with an average speed of 300-350kms per hour. Meanwhile, China has strengthened its ecological and environmental governance and conservation. China has joined the ranks of the world’s innovators with breakthroughs in some core technologies in key fields.
“On many occasions, I have been asked about the secret of China’s success in economic and social development and advancement. I attribute it mainly to these factors: the strong leadership of the CPC, taking a Chinese path to modernization, adhering to the people-centred development concept, and putting the realization of the people’s rights to subsistence and development in the first place, adhering to reform and opening up, choosing the correct order of reform in a step-by-step approach(from rural breakthrough to light industry, and then to various industries, and from coastal to central and then to the remote areas), giving priorities to development of infrastructure and agriculture, actively carrying out international cooperation, being down-to-earth, working hard and persevering, emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts.
Touching on China’s relations with many other African countries, Ambassador Yishen noted that Liberia, despite going through a devastating civil war, has made tremendous progress in terms of accelerating development, but more needs to be done to alleviate the people from poverty.
“Since the end of the civil conflict, much has been done and achieved in terms of recovery and reconstruction in Liberia. But more concerted efforts need to be made at domestic, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of SDG, AU Agenda 2063 and Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) as advocated by H.E. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia,” Yishen stated emphatically.
Food for thought
Ambassador Yisheng noted that for Liberia to progress, the government must prioritize development, including economic development and inclusive social development, in the preferred position of peace and stability; formulate long- and medium-term development strategy and policies with concrete and practical programs and plans aimed to effectively reduce and eradicate poverty and realize prosperity and development; and give emphasis to developing and improving infrastructure and connect all the 15 counties with land, rail, air or water transportation. Attach importance to power development by building more hydro-power plants, erecting sufficient power grid, making better use of green energy. Develop ICT and promote smart city, e-village, e-business, e-education and e-medicine, etc.
Yisheng also advised the government to vigorously develop agriculture (e.g. rice, corn, yam) by digging the potentials (large area of fertile and uncultivated arable land, sufficient rainfall, long hours of sunshine, abundant human resources); make more investment in agriculture (e.g. seeds, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, water irrigation system) and raise the incentive in agricultural production by providing subsidies and offering training. Develop more cash crops such as oily palm, coco, coffee, rubber, lemon, sisal, banana, peanuts, pepper, etc. Develop fisheries (e.g. offshore fishing, fish farm, and rice fish culture), poultry and animal husbandry (one House representative from the South East used to run an agricultural farm and could sell more than 10,000 pieces of eggs and a lot of pork meat every day to Monrovia before the conflict).
He also called for the promotion of the FTA and Industrial Park and for the government to push forward industrialization; encourage and support SMEs through micro loans; and better accelerate urbanization pace especially in remote counties.
“Better manage the utilization of natural resources (e.g. minerals and forestry) by enacting laws and regulations, and formulating policies so as to tackle climate change and ensure green and sustainable development. Develop clean energy and conserve the environment (e.g. solar power, hydro power, biogas, treating garbage to generate power, reducing white pollution).
“Further improve the market- and law-based business environment so as to attract more investment by improving policy transparency, harmonizing relevant law and regulations (e.g. on land use, mining and logging), and standardizing law-enforcement.
“Give special attention to the development issue of youth as they are the future and hope of the nation. Provide more education, vocational training and job opportunities to the youth. Attach importance to the development of vulnerable groups (women, the elderly and aging, and persons with disabilities).
“Actively develop tourism (advantages: beautiful landscape, unique culture, long beaches, good climate. In this regard, an identical country is Thailand. Before COVID-19, Thailand welcomed 30 million foreign tourists each year. Aside from Thailand’s attractive landscape, food, and arts, Thai-featured tourism products such as Thai silk, Latex pillow and mattress, snacks such as dried Euphoria Longan and dried mango, and such souvenirs as woodcarving are also popular).
“Consider developing the Airfield area. We already have the Invincible Sports Park, and will have the Monrovia Mall for which Vice President Howard-Taylor broke the ground not long ago and planned the Somalia-Sinkor Road and Bridge project near that area in the future. If the Airfield airport can be relocated to the other side of the Mesurado River which should be easily accessible when the Road and Bridge project is completed, then the Airfield area can be turned into a central business district (CBD) and a new traffic road can be opened in parallel with the Tubman Boulevard along the River and this will significantly ease traffic congestion of the Capital area.
“International aid and cooperation are indispensable for the development of Liberia. The international community should further dock the SDG with AU Agenda 2063 and PAPD, strengthen international and regional cooperation, and help Liberia develop the steady and sustainable economic development especially in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, industrialization, public health, poverty reduction, capacity-building, etc. We may consider promoting the ideas of pan-West Africa highway and railway,” Ambassador Yisheng stated, noting that the diplomatic and consular corps, UN agencies and international organizations can have more consultations and carry out specific development-related projects, and that more tri-partite cooperation could be encouraged in Liberia in this regard.
China-Liberia complementary relations
The top Chinese envoy said China and Liberia, as friends and brothers, have mutual complementary advantages in terms of industrialization, infrastructure, agricultural modernization, green development and other areas.
“There are 19 state-owned Chinese enterprises investing and operating in Liberia. They are mainly engaged in mining development, project contracting, road and bridge construction, forestry development and other commercial activities. There are about 50 private and individual investment enterprises, mainly engaged in wholesale of general merchandise, groceries, clothing, shoes and hats, hardware, machinery and building materials. China has an investment stock of around US$181 million.
“The two China-aid agricultural projects in Liberia, the Agriculture Technology Demonstration Center and Bamboo and Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Planting Technology Project have graduated 2,500 and 900 trainees respectively so far. Liberian farmers may consider developing Juncao (Fungus grass or magic grass) technology, which has been promoted in more than 100 developing countries and regions, to grow mushrooms or to use them as animal feed, fertilizers or even firewood.
“People-to-people exchanges are active. China provides about 50 full government scholarships to Liberia and about 150 short- and long-term training opportunities which also include some masters and doctorate degree scholarships. By 2021, the China-aided human resources training program has provided Liberia with about 570 Chinese government scholarships, about 1,000 training opportunities in China, and sent experts to implement police force and vocational and technical training courses in Liberia.
“This year in May, our embassy, in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) of Liberia, co-hosted the first Liberia National Conference on the Right to Development. Around 100 representatives from the government of Liberia, diplomatic corps, county development superintendents, civil society organizations and media representatives attended the successful event.
“Entering the new era, we will continue to uphold the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and the principles of pursuing the greater good and shared interests, dock the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), the Global Development Initiative (GSI) and the Global Security Initiative (GDI) closely with the AU Agenda 2063, PAPD and other African development strategies, work closely with Africa and Liberia to actively implement the “Nine Programs” of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and actively promote the development of China-Africa and China-Liberia friendly, pragmatic and win-win cooperation,” Ambassador Yisheng enthused.
The program was graced by the presence of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Senate Co-chairman on Foreign Affairs, Conmany B. Wesseh, Internal Affairs Minister Varney A. Sirleaf, Education Minister Professor Dr. Ansu Soni, Public Works Minister Ruth Coker Collins, Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister for Afro-Asian, Naomi Gray; other distinguished lawmakers of the Legislature, and deputy and assistant ministers of the Government. Representatives of political parties, representatives of traditional and religious leaders, as well as representatives from the diplomatic and consular corps, UN agencies and international organizations were also fully in attendance.