H.E.Mr. Qin Jian , Chinese Ambassador in Somalia interviewed by SONNA.
1, First of all I would like to ask you about the bilateral relations between Somalia and China, is there any progress on diplomatic ties?
Qin Jian: China and Somalia enjoy a long friendship. More then 600 years ago, Mogadishu developed into the metropolis with business and merchants gathered.
When China opened the ancient Maritime Silk Road, the famous navigator Zheng He's voyage led a fleet of much more 170 ships, crossed the Indian Ocean，reached as far as the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa, arrived the twice commercial developed Mogadishu, Chinese businessmen brought tea and daily necessities. This is the earliest exchanges in the culture and trad between China and Somalia along the ancient Maritime Silk Road. Indeed, Chinese and Somali people are linked together by the ancient Maritime Silk Road, today's Maritime Silk Road is a new chapter in the friendship between the two peoples.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1960, our bilateral relations have withstood the test of the ever-changing international situation, achieved the fruitful results in politics, economy, culture, education, sports, technology, healthcare and other fields. From 1960 to 1991, the Chinese Government built 89 projects in Somalia, so far the National Stadium, the Banadir Hospital and the National Theater are still witness the friendship between China and Somalia. The Chinese government sent the 13 batches of medical teams with the total of 400 members and cured the diseases for thousands of people in Somalia. Since the star of civil war in Somalia in 1991, the Chinese side has always been positively supporting the process of peace and reconstruction and providing a great deal of assistance to Somalia, sincerely wishes Somalia lasting peace and stability.
China highly values its relationship with Somalia, our two countries development has the great potential, and our two countries cooperation and friendship have broad vistas. China has the advantage of production capacity, technology and equipment, especially the reform and opening up over 4 decades and accumulating the development experience. Somalia is a country with its history, culture, language, and people of hard work and wisdom, the great potential for development, unique geographical location, important regional advantages, rich in natural resources, as well as the Africa's longest and the world's most beautiful coastline, before exported high quality bananas, mango and fishery products to the outside world. We are willing to work with Somalia to make unremitting efforts for the friendly cooperation between the two countries in various fields.
Last September, Somali President Mohammed led a large delegation to China to attend the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. This is the first time for Somali President to visit China, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with President Mohammed. The two heads of state reached important consensus on the development of bilateral relations. China and Somalia signed documents on cooperation of the Belt and Road Initiative, etc.. China actively supports peace and development in Somalia and respects Somalia's national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. Somalia firmly adheres to one-China principle. In recent years, Somali government officials, women representatives, business people, young scholars and media delegation have visited to China, participating in meeting, training and exchanging in China, which has promoted the development of bilateral relations. At present, bilateral relations have maintained a sound momentum of development.
2, China has an important role supporting Somalia, so may you give us further details about the developmental projects that you are carrying out across the country?
Qin Jian: Yes, China firmly supports peace and development in Somalia. China has supported the restoration of peace and reconstruction in Somalia bilaterally and multilaterally. We have actively provided humanitarian assistance to Somalia, such as food, nutrition, tents, mosquito nets and emergency relief cash assistance. Among them, we provided 72 containers of material assistance last year, including 500 water tank, 10，000 mosquito nets and 30，000 tents. We have provided USD20 million worth of food aid to women, children, IDPs and returning refugees in Somalia. We have helped Somalia develop its human resources and actively provided Chinese government scholarships to Somalia. I arrived in Somalia in 2017 to perform my duties, China has provided its government scholarships to Somalia for more then three years, recruiting students from various federal states in Somalia. As we all know, the development of a country depends on valuable talents, and the cultivation of talents depends on education. China provides first-class universities in China to young Somali students to train talents for Somali national development. At present, Somali students are studying in more than 30 universities in China’s cities. They feel the deep feelings of the Chinese people towards Somalia, meanwhile, they bring Somali culture, and they have become envoys of civil friendship to spread.
Somalia is a country with great potential, and cooperation between China and Somalia has bright prospects. The Chinese side encourages Chinese enterprises to invest in Somalia. With more and more development of the peace in Somalia, more and more Chinese enterprises will invest in Somalia. Now Chinese enterprises in Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti hope to cooperate with Somali enterprises to achieve mutual benefit and common development. Somali SMEs are strong, and Somali people has the talent to do business. I hope that Somalia can create a better business environment for Chinese enterprises to invest in Somalia, and that Somali people from all walks of life should protect the safety of Chinese investors. Only by peace and developing the economy can people live happily. As you know, China companies has been exploring markets in Somalia. They have completed the Bosasso Airport runway project in 2016. At present, they are working with Puntland on new cooperation projects such as urban water supply, education, health and other livelihood projects.
3, Ok, we want to know more about the the FOCAC program, and the main aim behind it?
Qin Jian: During the 2018 Beijing Summit of FOCAC, President Xi Jinping announced eight major initiatives in close collaboration with African countries in the next three years and beyond for industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trad facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security, delineating the blueprint for China-Africa relations in the new era and opening an ambitious chapter in China-Africa cooperation for the new era. The eight major initiatives, guided by Xi Jingping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and centering around building a new type of international relations and a community of shared future for mankind, China will continue to follow the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and of pursuing the greater good and shared interests in Africa. China stands for enhancing international cooperation including the Belt and Road Initiative and the AU Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development programs of African countries better complement each other.
We respect Africa, love Africa and support Africa. China is always Africa’s good friend, good partner and good brother. We follow a “five-no” approach in our relations with Africa: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa. China values sincerity, friendship and equality in pursuing cooperation. China pursues common interests and puts friendship first in pursuing cooperation. China takes a people-oriented approach in pursuing practical cooperation with efficiency. China takes an open and inclusive approach to cooperation. With top priority given to the interests of Chinese and African peoples, China advances its cooperation with Africa to improve the well-being of Chinese and African peoples and deliver more benefits to them. We will fully honor the promises we have made to our African brothers, it is for the peoples of China and Africa to judge the performance of China-Africa cooperation. No one could deny the remarkable achievements made in China-Africa cooperation, not with their assumption or imagination.
China stands ready to work with other international partners to support Africa in pursuing peace and development. China welcomes and supports all initiatives that meet Africa’s interests, and believes that it should be the same with the wider international community.
China is the world’s largest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. In 2018, China-Africa trade amounted to US$204 billion, China's investment stock in Africa has exceeded US$110 billion, China-Africa trade has increased by 20% , and Africa's exports to China have increased by 30%, China has become the fastest growing market for Africa's exports. Africa's debt issue is relics of a long history, it does not appear today, nor is it caused by China, for example, Somalia's debt issue. To solve Africa's debt issue, Africa should realize its economic independent development and sustainable development as soon as possible. "It's better to teach people fishing than to give them fishes". Africa's industrialization has entered the third decade, and the first two decades had not been completed successfully by some western countries. China is willing to strengthen cooperation with African countries and take the third decade to promote successful industrialization in Africa, and work with Africa to achieve our shared goal of building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
4, Since you took the office what achievements and challenges you have experienced so far?
Qin Jian: I have been in Somalia for more than two years. I feel the Somali people are very lovely, they love peace and hope for a better life, they work hard and hope for the development and prosperity of their country, it is same as Chinese people, China has always been a peace-loving country.
For me, I feel there are so many work to do. Over the past two years, China and Somalia have made great progress in exchanges and cooperation in political, economic, educational and cultural fields. Every year, a large number of Somalis visit China, participate in conferences, study and carry out economic and trade exchanges in China.
Friendship, which derives from close contacts between peoples, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. On the basis of my predecessor's work, I have mainly promoted the continuous development of the traditional friendship between our two countries, told good Chinese stories, conveyed the friendship between our two peoples, let Somali people understand the real China, know that Chinese people have not forgotten their brotherly Somalia.
I sincerely appreciate Somalia's friendship towards China. I have made so many friends in Somalia. They all praise the highway, national stadium, national theatre and hospital that China helped Somalia build. Many of them speak Chinese very well and sing Chinese songs very well. This shows that the friendship between China and Somalia is deeply rooted. My mission is to make the friendship between China and Somalia flourish like a giant tree.
Now many Chinese enterprises are interested in investing in Somalia, such as building cement factories, processing factories and industrial parks. Now China has built more than 20 industrial parks in Africa. Somalia has its unique geographical location, developing export processing industry, young working population, diaspora and other advantages.
It is hoped that Somalia's investment environment will become better and better, and peace and stability will be thoroughly realized soon.
5, Somalia is a country experienced civil war about three decades but recovering, so what is the role of contributing the reconstruction plan of Somalia infrastructure as China?
Qin Jian: The peace and reconstruction process in Somalia has made positive progress, which is evident in history, at present, it is in a critical period of peaceful reconstruction. China respects the sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity of Somalia. China promotes the international community's active efforts to solve the Somali issue in the United Nations, strengthens the cooperation with Somalia, stands up for Somalia and safeguards the national interests of Somalia.
In order to support the Somali peaceful reconstruction, the Chinese government reopened its embassy in 2014. In 2015, a attack hit the hotel housing the Chinese embassy, causing casualties to the embassy staff. Embassy still staying in Somalia demonstrates our brotherhood at a trying moment.
China has never forgotten the Somali people. China suffered from civil war, poverty and backwardness in history. Today, we have developed into the second largest economy in the world. We with Somalia are inseparable with each other, China and Somalia cooperation has broad vistas. I believe Somalia will be better tomorrow!
Although infrastructure construction is important, the most important is to strengthen the independent development. Building one building or one bridge can not change a country. The key is to give fully play to their development advantages and thoroughly solve challenges of national sustainable development.
6, In term of politics is there any role China plays such reconciliation and building governmental systems whether it is federal or state level?
Qin Jian: Somalia is a sovereign country with population of more than 13 million and vast land of more than 600,000 square kilometers. Every Country should respect the sovereignty and independence of Somalia, the most important is to respect Somalia's pursuit of development path that fits its national conditions.
Under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and under the guidance of Xi Jinping's Thought on Socialist with Chinese characteristics for a new era, the Chinese people are on a socialist path with Chinese characteristics, which is chosen according to China's national conditions and is the choice of the people. After more then one hundred of years of hard struggle and great sacrifices, the Chinese people have found the right path. We have established the socialist system and formed the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics.We highlight the importance of fostering stronger confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Guided by Xi Jinping's Diplomatic Thought, we do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, nor impose our own development path and ideology on others. We are willing to share our experience and ideas of governance and development with Somalia. Today I brought "XI JINPING: THE GOVERNANCE OF CHINA”, after you read it, you will know about China. Now many countries in the world are studying China's political system and path, they are researching the experience of the ruling leadership of the CPC. Yes, under the strong leadership of the CPC, we have build a poor China into the second largest economy in the world. Did you know that when China implemented the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, its per capita income was just over USD500, and today's per capita income is USD10000! It is a miracle in the history of world development that a large country with a population of 1.3 billion has made great strides that have truly impressed the world under the strong leadership of the CPC.
Somalia is a country with a glorious history with its culture, language and development, vast territory and rich resources. Recently, the Somali Ministerial Council adopted on the Strategy and National Reconciliation Plan that determined by the inclusive politics road-map of the federal government to achieve peace and development. We support the national reconciliation of Somalia, and believe that under the leadership of the Somali government, the people of Somalia will work together to build their country into a beautiful and prosperous.
China and Somalia have developed friendly relations under the three frameworks, namely, FOCAC, China-Arab Cooperation Forum and the Belt and Rroad. The two countries have three pillars of friendly relations, namely, the government to the government, provinces to states, people to people.
7, What about trade corporation between the two countries? Could you please share with us if there is any research made by either both countries or private companies about rapidly growth of trade activities?
Qin Jian: China and Somalia are real partners on trade and business. In recent years, trade between our two countries has developed rapidly. Somali businessmen are very active, they have many businesses in neighbouring and Middle East countries and other places. Many Somali businessmen go to China's Yiwu commodity wholesale market to purchase goods and visit to China. Chinese Embassy in Somalia has made great efforts to provide convenience for them. At present, the annual trade volume between the two countries is estimated at US$100 million. We will strive to expand trade between the two countries.
Wherever there are business opportunities, they will attract business investment and business activities. I think with the peaceful and development of Somalia, there will be more and more business activities between the two countries. Chinese goods are suitable for the needs of the Somali people, and Somalia will improve its ability to develop independently through commercial activities with China. In Ethiopia, Kenya and other African countries, through cooperation with Chinese companies, local people have now set up their own independent companies and started to operate and develop independently.
In addition, Somalia has a long coastline of more than 3,300 kilometers, abundant tourism resources, abundant sunbathing, and huge potential of development for solar and wind energy. Somalia can be a tourist destination for Chinese people. I know that people in many countries like to walk on the beautiful Somali beaches, Somalia will build many seaside resorts in future. China and Somalia have great potential for cooperation and development in the field of tourism.
8, Your Excellency, since you have enough experienced about Africa as a whole and particularly in Somalia how both countries can strengthen deeply their relations?
Qin Jian: I worked in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Nigeria, from West Africa to East Africa, for more than 12 years. Africa is my second hometown, but I am still a learner, my deepest feeling is that the African people have deep friendship with China. China has helped Africa build a large number of infrastructure and promote local economic and social development, which has been warmly welcomed by the local people. I have been to Sierra Leone National Stadium, Nigeria Airport Terminal, Ethiopian Solar Power town, Addis-Djiboutji railway and Somali Benadir Hospital, which are supported by China. There are too many friendship stories there, and they are very touching. Just as the Chinese ever helped build 89 projects in Somalia, there are friendly stories behind each project. Being a Chinese, I am very happy and proud to do something for our African friends.
President Xi Jinping said that Africa is a continent that beautiful and richly endowed, that is full of dynamism in development, that Africa’s development has great potential, that this great continent is full of hope, that China-Africa friendship and cooperation have broad vistas, and that China and Africa can forge an even stronger comprehensive strategic and cooperation partnership! .
China and Africa should always hold a spirit of partnership, adhere to multilateralism and safeguard the free trade system. President Xi Jinping put forward that we should build a China-Africa community with a shared future to assume our joint responsibility, with a shared future that pursues win-win cooperation, with a shared future that delivers happiness for all of us, with a shared future that enjoys cultural prosperity, with a shared future that enjoys common security, and with a shared future that promotes harmony between man and nature.
China will work with Africa to achieve our shared goal of building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future and turn it into a pacesetter for building such a community for mankind.
The important point of Xi Jinping's Diplomatic Thought is that major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics aims to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a share future for mankind. The path, the theory, the system, and the culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics have kept developing, blazing a new trail for other developing countries to achieve modernization. It offer a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence, and it offer Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the challenges facing mankind. Under these principles, we will continue to firmly support peace and development in Somalia.
Our world is full of both hope and challenges, we call on the people of all countries to work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind, to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
How both countries can strengthen deeply their relations in future? last year, the president of Somalia went to China attending the Beijing Summit of FOCAC. The two countries signed a cooperation document on the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), opening up a new approaches for the development of bilateral relations. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) will be held in Beijing in April 2019. Two Somali ministers will lead a delegation to China to attend the meeting.The Belt and Road is an important initiative for international cooperation proposed by President Xi Jinping to enhance both China's development and its cooperation with global partners. The BRI represents a major breakthrough in both theory and practice, and it carries far-reaching significance.
Since its inception, the BRI has received strong endorsement and warm support of the international community. So far, a total of 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China, including Somalia. The BRI has opened a new area for international cooperation and boosted confidence in it.
The BRI has created new impetus and opportunities for global growth. The BRI provides a new platform and new opportunities for fostering closer ties between countries, including Somalia. I believe there will be more and more opportunities for cooperation between our two countries.