China, Sierra Leone deepen ties, advance cooperation

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio, who is on a state visit to China, in Beijing on Wednesday. The two leaders hailed the traditional friendship, signed various bilateral cooperation agreements under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and announced the deepening of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

President Bio started his five-day state visit to China on Tuesday. Before meeting with President Xi, President Bio laid a wreath at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tian’anmen Square in Beijing on Wednesday.

Noting that China and Sierra Leone enjoy a time-honored friendship, Xi said the two sides have supported each other on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns, carried out efficient cooperation in the fields of economic and social development, coordinated closely on issues such as world peace and development, and worked together to fight against Ebola and the COVID-19 pandemic.

China-Sierra Leone relations are a good example of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation, Xi said, adding that China is willing to work with Sierra Leone to consolidate high-level political mutual trust, advance pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation, and strengthen coordination on international and regional affairs to push bilateral relations to a new level.

China is also willing to provide assistance and support to the best of its ability for Sierra Leone’s development in agriculture, infrastructure construction and human resources, and encourage Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in Sierra Leone, Xi said.

Bio said Sierra Leone abides by the one-China principle, supports China in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and supports China in safeguarding its core interests.

He said Sierra Leone is willing to learn from China’s experience, strengthen cooperation with China on the BRI, and tap the potential for cooperation on infrastructure, trade, education and public services.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang also met with visiting President Bio in Beijing on Wednesday, calling for enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

President Bio is the first African head of state President Xi received this year, which shows China attaches great importance to its ties with Sierra Leone, Zhan Shiming, an associate research fellow with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Sierra Leone, as an important supporter of China’s major global initiatives, has been supporting China in international affairs, while China is also an active supporter of Sierra Leone’s development and stability, having provided a large amount of financial and technical support for its development, as well as providing assistance in the field of public healthcare to the best of its ability, said Song Wei, a professor from the School of International Relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

After the talks, the two heads of state witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation documents in the fields of the Belt and Road Initiative, agriculture, economic development, and the implementation of the Global Development Initiative.

Both sides issued a joint statement on deepening their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

According to Zhan, deepening the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries is conducive to further promoting poverty reduction and economic and social development in Sierra Leone, promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides as well as the construction of a China-Africa community with a shared future.

The two sides will focus on agriculture, education, infrastructure construction, investment, exchanges of governance experience, and international coordination, said Zhan, noting that there is still great potential for further cooperation between the two sides.

“In recent years, a number of military coups have occurred in West African countries, which has had a very negative impact on regional development and stability. Sierra Leone also hopes to deepen its strategic partnership with China to inject peace and stability into the region,” Song said.

Given that US and Western countries are further strengthening their strategic competition with China and Russia in Africa, deepening the relationship with Sierra Leone is also of strategic importance for China, Song added.

With the ninth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) scheduled to be held in the second half of 2024 in Beijing, analysts also view the year as an opportunity to boost ties between China and Africa.

In his meeting with President Bio, President Xi stressed that China has always taken developing solidarity and cooperation with African countries as an important cornerstone of its foreign policy. He added that China will strengthen mutual support and upgrade the quality of friendly cooperation with African countries.

China-Sierra Leone relations are not only a paragon for the development of China-Africa relations, but also exemplify South-South relations, Zhan said.

“China and Africa will further strengthen cooperation around FOCAC… At the same time, under the global governance issues concerning the fundamental interests of the Global South, we should coordinate positions, build consensus, and actively respond to the development demands of the Global South,” Song said.

China and Africa are expected to reach a series of new consensus and introduce a series of new measures that will bring China-Africa relations to a new level and usher in new prospects, Zhan said.

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