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Memories and Blessings of China-Botswana Relations
-------A review on the 35 years diplomatic relations between China and Botswana
 
By H.E. Mr. Liu Huanxing,Chinese Ambassador to Botswana

6 January 2010 is the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Botswana. Over the past 35 years, bilateral ties have witnessed sustained, rapid and sound development thanks to the joint efforts of both sides. Based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit, respect and trust, especially under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which known as FOCAC, China and Botswana have fruitful cooperation on economy, trade, human resource development, cultural exchanges and coordination in international arena. I wish to take this opportunity to look back this great relationship, and I believe with this information I present, both of our two peoples will be more confident on the future of our bilateral relationship.

Exchanges on the political level lay a solid foundation for relationship progresses between China and Botswana. Leaders of both countries attach great importance to the exchanges of development experience and views on international affairs. Since 1975 the diplomatic relations was established, the two countries have exchanged high-level delegations to visit each other. Chinese Vice Premier Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, Huang Ju and other senior officials from China visited Botswana successively. The three leaders of Botswana, President Seretse Khama, President Ketumile Masire and President Festus G. Mogae all paid visits to China respectively.

China and Botswana support each other's just cause to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity. China gave selfless assistance to Botswana when Batswana people fought against harassment from neighboring racist regimes. We appreciate Botswana government for her One-China policy. We will never forget that when the devastating earthquake hit China in May 2008, Botswana government immediately donated 1 million Pula to help the reconstruction of the affected area. Chinese people have an old saying that a friend in-need is a friend indeed. True friends always share weal and woe together.

Trade and technical cooperation serve as driving force in boosting the bilateral relations between China and Botswana. Mutual beneficial cooperation is more important and helpful than unilateral assistance. Trade between our two countries started in early 1980s with the trade volume merely standing at no more than half a million US dollars at the first few years. In 1986, the two countries signed Trade Agreement to facilitate bilateral trade operations. From then on, trade volume has been growing smoothly and rapidly. In 2008, the value of total trade for imports and exports reached 360 million US dollars and Botswana enjoyed a trade surplus with China. Although both countries are affected by the international financial crisis, the bilateral trade volume still goes to 193 million US dollars from January to October of 2009. We are quite confident that, with the international economy gradually coming out of the shadow of the crisis, the two countries will overcome the current difficulties and maintain a steady progress in bilateral trade.

In recent years, Chinese companies have been actively involving in the economic and social development of Botswana. Chinese companies have won reputations for their efficiency, high quality and strict contract execution in local market, and created more than 20,000 job opportunities to local people.

Chinese government has been providing economic assistance to Botswana including grants, interest-free loans and low-interest loans, with which 28 projects have been completed up to now. Projects like renovation of Botswana railway and roads, health facilities and low-cost housing construction help to improve the country's infrastructure and the living conditions of the people. At present Gaborone Multi-Purpose Youth Centre which is funded by China is under construction. Apart from the above-mentioned economic assistance, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, together with Standard Bank, provided 825m US dollars of credits to the Morupule power station expansion project.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to technical exchange and transfer with Botswana. Especially in the agriculture field, China helped training a group of Botswana agriculture technical personnel from 1970s to 1980s, and sent experts to Botswana to conduct local land survey and planning projects. Three Chinese senior agricultural experts are now helping Botswana in agricultural policy making and improving farming technology. In the health and medical area, China has sent medical teams to Botswana since 1980. The 12th team, comprising 40 medical staff and 6 support staff, is now providing medical services in hospitals of Gaborone and Francistown.

Promotion of Human resources development is an important component of our bilateral relations. From 1999 to 2009, almost 300 Botswana officials and technicians attended seminars, workshops and short-term training programs in China, which cover areas of administrative management, commerce, information, media and sports, among others. 12 youth volunteers from China are now working for the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture of Botswana. Communication and exchanges among young people put a solid basis for the future of our bilateral relations.

Cooperation in education between the two countries has gained much strength under the FOCAC mechanism, especially after the Beijing Summit in 2006. China provides Government Scholarship to Botswana students for them to pursue Bachelor, Master and Doctor Degrees in China. During the period of 1984 to 2005, China provided 5 Scholarships per year to Botswana students. The number got further increased to 12 in 2006, 21 in 2007, 22 in 2008 and 27 in 2009. In the academic year of 2010/2011, 22 more opportunities will be open to Botswana students.

In addition, the Chinese Government helped Botswana improve her educational infrastructure. As one of the Follow-Up Actions of Beijing Summit of FOCAC, the Chinese Government donated two rural primary schools to Botswana, one in Serowe and another in Maun. Each school comprises classroom blocks, library, kitchen, staff offices, and outdoor sport facilities.

Furthermore, the Confucius Institute in the University of Botswana was officially launched in September 2009. The Institute will be a helpful platform for Chinese language, history and culture learning and public events related to China in the local society. To date more than 230 Batswana students have received Chinese language teaching in the Institute.

Cultural exchanges are of great importance to enrich the bilateral relations. China and Botswana signed the Agreement on Cultural Cooperation in 1991. Since then, cultural delegations, performing art troupes and exhibition groups have visited each other and gave splendid performances. The two countries also have exchanges in sports.

With social development and improved living standards, people-to-people exchanges between the two countries get further boosted in recent years. Botswana for the first time took part in the China International Travel Mart in 2007. In 2005, only 400 Botswana visitors went to China, while the number increased to 1400 in 2008. Botswana has already been one of the tourism destinations for Chinese tourists. More and more Chinese visitors come to Botswana to enjoy the marvelous sceneries and richness of wildlife in Chobe, Okavango and Kgalagadi. The Chinese Embassy in Botswana would always like to introduce the tourist attractions of Botswana to Chinese nationals.

China praises Botswana for her exploration of a development path in line with national conditions and wishes Batswana obtain greater success in economic and social development. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the traditional friendship with Botswana and is willing to further enhance the bilateral cooperation in all fields. The Fourth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC which was successfully held in November 2009, opens up a new phase of cooperation in multiple fields between China and African countries, including Botswana.

Let us work together and commit ourselves to the enrichment of our all-round friendly and cooperative partnership, to the broad development stage and profound growth level of our bilateral relations and to the stable and prosperous of our two countries.

(6 January 2010, Mmegi)



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