The Impact of China-Liberia Relations and Cooperation: What Are the Economic Benefits?

By: Josephus Moses Gray |  Assistant Professor of International Relations | University Of Liberia |

Author: J. Moses Gray

In the contemporary global arena, China is rapidly increasing its presence in  Africa, particularly the five regions of the continent, while Beijing’s  increasing economic presence based on foreign aid, investments, trade, and cooperation has resulted in its surpassing of other great economic powers including America, Germany, Japan, India and France, as Africa’s largest trading partner.  Sino-African relations have since taken a more economic turn and win-win cooperation.  Besides economic advancement, China’s rise in technological capability is taking a path that is drastically different not only from the newly industrialized economies of Europe and Asia. It is driven by a mix of the strong will of the state, which supplies policies, resources, and economic forces. An Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Liberia Graduate School, Josephus Moses Gray offers insight into China successful economic power, technological capability and foreign aid assistance towards Liberia’s development.

This article-based on qualitative analysis is aimed to discuss the Chinese successful trajectory, great economic power, technological capability, commoditized high-tech and foreign aid towards Africa’s poorest nations including Liberia. Applying a theoretical lens that examined the major points, this article also focused on Beijing practical presence in Africa and its impact on African governments, states and people. It’s further discusses how the Chinese investment in Africa overtaking the Russian Federation, European Union, Arab League and just stood only behind that of the United States of America.

As a result, China’s technological capabilities and economic forces have been given incredible momentum. The Chinese incredible impetus is reshaping the international economic structure from at least two aspects. The two aspects, among others, are mature capabilities in medium-level technology, modern electronics, renewable energy equipment, machinery, infrastructure development and modern logistics. These technologies which the developing world needs to quickly improve economic and social wellbeing are precisely the driving forces behind Beijing’s incredible momentum.  While on the other hand, China has advanced from the era of medium technological capability to a global high-tech capability. In the past few years, the world has witnessed how China commoditized high-tech including computers, smartphones, modern metro subways, and high-speed rail; yet the global power still classed China as a developing country.

But with the swift rise of the overall strength of developing countries and the increase of South-South cooperation, the ties between China-Africa has remarkably advanced into a new platform for China and African countries to strengthen multilateral discussions for win-win cooperation. The spectacle of China in the contemporary global arena has been given incredible momentum and it presents opportunities for third world countries to critically follow the Chinese trajectory and development model.

But what are the Chinese government unique ties with African states, governments and people especially post-war Liberia? However, one might want to know the impact of the Chinese economic forces, technological capability, commoditized high-tech and foreign aid assistance towards Africa’s poorest nations including Liberia?  In a contemporary era, China maintains a diplomatic relationship with 54 of the 55 African states, while China maintains offices of the commercial counselor in 40 of these countries across five regions on the continent.

       China and Africa have since then become all-weather friends that understand, support and help each other. China has a major diplomatic presence in Africa. Even though it’s still arguably, In fact, according to research, Beijing is more widely represented in Africa with missions on the ground that in the United States. Beijing, which has diplomatic relations with Fifty-four of the continent’s fifty-five countries, maintains embassies and diplomatic missions in 48 of African states.

The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, in his recent book title: The Governance of China, II, page 598 paragraph two disclosed that from 1950 to 2016, China provided foreign countries with over RMB400 billion in aid, and will continue to increase assistance. According to him, China has contributed on average over 30 percent of global growth each year and revealed that in the coming years, China is expected to importUS$8 trillion worth of goods, attract US$600 billion in foreign investment, and made US$750 billion in outbound investment.

The President of China, Xi Jinping stressed in his address to the 2018 FOCAC that China and Africa have always been a community of common destiny sharing weal and woe, and a community of shared interests featuring win-win cooperation. The Chinese leader reiterated that traditional friendship between China and Africa is deeply rooted in people’s hearts, and promoting solidarity and cooperation with African countries has always been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy.

Chinese Nation Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown that China’s industrial output expanded 6.8 percent in May 2018. Its data also showed that the country’s GDP rose to 80 trillion yuan (about 12.3 trillion US dollars), over 13 million jobs were created, more than 700 million of which 10 million rural residents were lifted out of poverty. In order to encourage African industrialization, China also established the China-Africa Fund for Industrial Cooperation, with a startup capital of $10 billion and increased the capital of $5 billion each to the China-Africa Development Fund and the Special Loan for the Development of African SMEs.

Statistics have shown that over the past 40 years, China-Africa economic and trade cooperation has achieved leap-forward development, the trade volume between China and Africa increased more than 200 times from US$765 million in 1978 to over US$170 billion in 2017. China has maintained its position as Africa’s largest trade partner for many years. “China’s 40 years of opening up have made remarkable achievements that have attracted the attention of the world.

Also, the country’s share in the global economic growth rose from 2.7 to 16 percent; its per-capita GDP exceeded US$800 in 2017; in the past 40 years, a total of 800 million Chinese are helped out of poverty which amounted to over 70 percent global poverty reduction. According to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), China’s industrial output expanded 6.8 percent in May 2018. It data also showed that the country’s GDP rose to 80 trillion yuan (about 12.3 trillion US dollars), over 13 million jobs were created, more than 700 million of which 10 million rural residents were lifted out of poverty.

Presently, China-Liberia ties are stronger and positively moving ahead in a very positive way, based on a vision of the community of a shared future, mutual support and equality grounded on win-win cooperation and common historical struggle against imperialism and national independence. China gains at least short-term popularity by answering the request of the Liberia Government especially in the time of urgent need and long term solution to the country’s numerous infrastructural needs.

Recent trends confirm that China-Liberia relations are moving ahead in a very positive way, based on a vision of the community of a shared future, mutual support and equality grounded on a common historical struggle against imperialism and national independence. A closer strategic alignment between China and Liberia and in areas of key focus such as economic cooperation will produce win-win cooperation for both nations.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China (2019), the main characteristics of Beijing’s foreign policy  basic objectives center on safeguarding national independence and state sovereignty, and creating an international environment favorable to its reform, opening and modernization efforts,  maintaining world peace,  friendly relations and cooperation,  good-neighborly and friendly relations,  enhanced unity and cooperation with developing countries ,and promoting common development.

For Liberia, the guiding principles of foreign policy have been the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states ( MOFA, 2016). The Chinese growing economic presence in the country, centered on trade, foreign aid assistance, industrialization, social development, and investments has resulted in win-win cooperation between the two states, governments and people, bounded by an amazing tie and cooperation.

Considering Liberia’s current economic inertia, the right policy at the right time by the right people at the right place should be instituted and that those at the helm of various agencies and ministries of power be proactive, not just the office of the president by knocking on the doors of vibrant Chinese financial institutions like the Bank of China for economic growth and human resource and infrastructure developments. To achieve this goal, the right people with the requisite skills, experience, qualifications, and education need to be accorded the task and place in the rightful position of national duty.

The Chinese government has captured the attention of many African countries including Liberia due primarily to Beijing’s reasonable approaches towards socio-economic and infrastructural development, and the ways in which the Chinese government practices win-win diplomacy and is foreign aid’s policy. Beijing’s “win-win” diplomatic style has featured greater accommodations with several African countries like Liberia.

Beijing’s “win-win” diplomatic style has featured greater accommodations with several African countries including Liberia. Chinese government growing popularity in Liberia is due to the soft power approach in the region and the speed of which it is responding to the country’s development needs and requests without too many severe conditions.

The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Liberia established bilateral relations on February 17, 1977. In 1989 Beijing broke diplomatic ties with Liberia after the Liberian Government signed Joint Communiqué with Taiwan authorities. But in August 10, 1993, China and Liberia resumed diplomatic ties. Again in September 1997, the diplomatic ties broke due to former president Taylor’s recognition of “Two Chinas”. In October 2003, the two governments resumed diplomatic ties; with the Chinese Embassy in Liberia reopening in January 12004. Since then China remains strategic and true partners of Liberia.

The 43 years of relationship and cooperation have witnessed major visits exchanged by Liberian and Chinese leaders and other state actors including the June 1978 state visit of former President William R. Tolbert and in May 1982 ex-President Samuel Kanyon Doe paid a state visit to China.  While in October 2006, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid a  state visit to China, and on February 1, 2007, former President Hu Jintao paid a historic state visit to Liberia reciprocating, the first visit to Liberia by a head of state from China.

Accordingly, both leaders during their exchange of visits, the two chartered the direction for the future development of bilateral relations and the two sides signed several agreements on bilateral economic and technical cooperation, cancellation of Liberia’s debts owed to China, provision of financial assistance to Liberia for its post-war reconstruction.   On November 3, 2015, President Xi Jinping held talks with ex- Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia at the Great Hall of the People. The two heads of state agreed to make joint efforts to build China-Liberia comprehensive cooperative partnership so as to better benefit the two peoples.

While in August 2018, President George Weah at the head of a high-powered delegation paid a state visit to China to participate in FOCAC and held bilateral talks with his Chinese counterparts, President Xi Jinping.    President Weah spoken positively about his trip to China and the benefit Liberia stands to accrue with specific reference to the US$54 million grant and other largesse soon to be revealed.  And the gains made in the area of re-strengthening its relations with China as well as its support for agriculture, road, health, and technology under the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda.

Sino-African trade and economic cooperation have been advancing smoothly. For long, China has provided within its capacity sincere assistance to the economic development of African countries, Liberia is a case study where China’s infrastructures are visible.  China has provided aid to hundreds of projects in Africa which involved agriculture, road, infrastructure, health, education, animal husbandry, fishery, textile, energy, water conservancy, power generation and other sectors. China’s vastly increased involvement in Africa over the past decade is one of the most significant recent developments in the region.

According to the summary publication of the Embassy of China in Liberia, trade, economic assistance and cooperation have always been important factors in China and Liberian relations. Particularly since the resumption of bilateral relations in 2003, the Chinese Government has tried its best to promote bilateral cooperation and trade and provide assistance within its capacity to Liberia in fields of education and human resources development, agriculture, health, infrastructure.

China’s relationship with Liberia is a strong example of how China is using soft power to successfully and deftly broaden its influence in Africa. In the views of Liberians, China is not only a credible and willing international partner but also a strategic option for the country’s development.

In the area of trade, a statistics issued by the Ministry of Commerce of China, the Sino-Liberian trade volume in 2006 totaled 531.76 million US dollars, among which China’s export reached 529.83 million US dollars while its import was 1.93 million US dollars.  China has been encouraging all sectors in Liberia to expand its export to China by taking the advantage of China’s offer of zero-tariff on more than 440 commodity items exported to China by the least developed countries, so as to reduce its imbalance of trade.

The report further indicates that in 1981, China began to offer a scholarship to Liberian students. By 1995, altogether 41 Liberia students benefited from this arrangement. Since the resumption of bilateral relations in 2003, the Chinese Government has increased its scholarship to Liberian students. There are hundreds of Liberian students studying in China under full Chinese government scholarship. Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Chinese Government has been strengthening its cooperation with Liberia in human resources development. Since 2003, more than 300 Liberians from various professions have attended short-term training courses in China.

According to the report, China has also completed works on the rehabilitation of the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia and undertook the renovation of 3 laboratories in the same university.  In the area of health, the report disclosed that China began dispatching medical teams to Liberia in July 1984. By October 1989, 3 Chinese medial teams totaled 42 personnel had successively worked in Liberia. In September 2005, China resumed its medical assistance to Liberia by sending a 9-person medical team to JFK Medical Center in Monrovia. The second medical team of the same number arrived on October 17, 2007 to replace the first one and has provided medical services for the Liberian people for another two years.

A China-aided Anti-malaria Prevention and Treatment Center was set up in JFK Medical Center in February 2007. Anti-malaria drugs and equipment have been donated to the Centre by China.  A group of experts will come before the end of 2007 to train local personnel to manage the Centre.

Regarding infrastructure development, in 1986, the China-aided SKD Stadium was successfully completed. After the resumption of bilateral relations, the renovation of the same stadium became the priority of Chinese assistance. After 19 months of hard work, the project was completed in July 2007.  In March 2007, the China-aided Inner Decoration of the Foreign Ministry Office Building was completed. China has agreed to rehabilitate the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS). Chinese Government encourages Chinese private sectors, particularly the enterprises that enjoy the strong financial capability and good reputation to come to Liberia for mutually beneficial cooperation in different fields.

Its efforts have yielded some positive results.  For instance, China Henan International Corporation (CHICO) has won the bid and rehabilitated the Monrovia-Buchanan Roads, while Chinese companies are modernizing the Harper-Freetown highway and completed works on the Mount Barclay-Ganta highway.  China Union Investment Corporation has offered to invest in the building of a special economic zone in Buchanan.

In July 2011, the project of Bang Iron Mines in Liberia undertaken by Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation was put into operation. In September 2011 China, for the first time, sent a 140-strong riot squad to Liberia for the UN peacekeeping operation.  Other projects include the renovation of the SKD Stadium, the construction Ministerial Complex, annexes to the Capitol Hill building, the New Terminal at RIA. “Chinese Building” University of Liberia Fendall Campuses, the Jackson Doe’s Medical Hospital in Tapita in Nimba County, the rehabilitation of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, the Extension of MVTC, rehabilitation and refurbishing of roads and bridges, peacekeeping mission, awarding fellowships to public and private sectors, and support to the national army and security apparatus.

Others include the construction of public buildings, health delivery, and educational facilities across the country, telecommunications sector and rehabilitation of major and fender roads while   Sixty Million United States Dollars Ministerial Complex and the New Terminal at RIA are expected to be dedicated soon as they almost completed. .China has refurbished and decided the Annex of the Capitol Building.

Some other projects related to infrastructure, human resources and manufacture are being undertaken to help Liberia achieve economic independence and self-reliant sustainable development with China’s development for win-win cooperation and common development.

On the front of people-to-people exchanges, the two countries have maintained close ties on public health, medical care, education and human resource training. Intensive cultural exchange and people-to-people bonds have brought the people of the two countries closer.

Many experts argue that China’s soft power policies of non-interference, one-China policy and no political attached strings‘ have resonated so strongly among African countries including Liberia which have become so weary of those sanctimonious clichés about democracy, human rights, and good governance being proposed by America.

.The new era of friendship subsisting between the two countries-Liberia and China, should move forward against all odds, build on open and inclusive friendship through exchanges and mutual understanding by fostering partnerships based on dialogue, common interest, and non-confrontation. At the peak of this level, our leaders need to be proactive, not reactive; they should not wait for their counterparts from Beijing and other great capitals or investors to identify Liberia’s needs of interests.

On the other hand, the Liberian market is relatively small in comparison to many African markets. Ordinary Liberians feel that Chinese-made commodities are not durable.  In the face of Liberia-China’s remarkable ties, President Weah’s administration needs to move faster to take advantage of exceptional bonds of friendship with China to achieve its pro-poor agenda. The Weah’s regime can use its unique friendship with China to seek more assistance to engage in other several developmental projects especially in the areas of agriculture and social-economic development.

The Weah’s administration can also use the unique ties between China and Liberia to access the Bank of China US$100 Billion earmarked for investment in Africa which is geared towards achieving a win-win cooperation between China and African countries; Just as other African countries like Tanzania, Sudan, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, Uganda, and Ethiopia among others are highly benefiting from the Bank’s projects. The friendly relations and cooperation between China and Liberia enjoyed the sound and all-around growth evident by Beijing’s development pack in the country.  The two countries over and over have demonstrated their frequent political exchanges.

Our leaders, especially those at the corridor of power, should be fully aware of the international balance of power and win-win cooperation, and should pinpoint Liberia’s priorities areas of interests of modernizations, industrializations, and economic growth; if President Weah’s pro-poor philosophy which literally means poverty reduction is to be achieved. Those at the helm of key positions of state powers and others assigned at the notion’s diplomatic missions abroad need to be ahead of the game, be farsighted and proactive and not place themselves in the position of a  “push and start”.

In March 2012, ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sent a congratulatory letter to Xi Jinping on his election as Chinese President. Notable progress was made in business ties as well as people-to-people, cultural and military exchanges between the two countries while in September this year His Excellency President George Weah had a fruitful discussion with the Chinese leadership…resulting to a US$54 Million development assistance for poverty-stricken nation Liberia.

All of these projects create opportunities (include jobs) for the current administration to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people. Chinese Government growing popularity Liberia is due to the soft power approach in the region and the speed of which it responses to developmental requests by unpunished countries like Liberia. The Chinese win-win diplomacy and soft power in Liberia have given the Beijing leverage in the country. Today, some of the Liberian political elites have concluded that China is not only a credible and willing international partner but also a strategic option for growth in Liberia. China sees a small window of opportunity to consolidate its influence and project in Liberia as a means to meaningfully contribute to Liberia’s socio-economic and industrialization especially to support president Weah’s pro-poor agenda aimed at lifting ordinary people out of abject poverty.

Whilst as the United States continues to debate the merits of aid to Liberia, China will continue to fill a major gap in several areas of interventions. While it is too early to predict precisely whether Chinese long-term rendezvous in Liberia will produce a positive influence, the impact of China in the country is highly visible in several developmental areas including roads rehabilitation, constructions of bridges, hospitals, schools, sports stadium, agriculture facilities, and investments projects.

Nowadays, China remains a shining and deeply admired posture in the realm of mutual respect for others to be master of their own destiny and captain of their own future. Indeed, that’s praiseworthy.  For instance, during the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, China was the first to respond with medical aid and cash. In July 2011, the project of Bang Iron Mines in Liberia undertaken by Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation was put into operation. In September 2011 China, for the first time, sent a 140-strong riot squad to Liberia for the UN peacekeeping operation.

The African continent has now become a vital arena of strategic and geopolitical competition for not only the United States and China but also the global south and east including India, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Japan as well as other new emerging powers. The main reason for this level of a new partnership with Africa states is that the continent is the final frontier as far as the world’s supplies of oil and energy are concerned with global competition for both oil and natural gas becoming just as intense.

As the United States continues to debate the merits of aid to Liberia on the basis of good governance, China continues to fill a major gap in several areas of interventions without many conditions besides the one-China policy.

While it is too early to predict precisely whether Chinese long-term rendezvous in Liberia will produce a positive influence, the impact of China in the country is highly visible in several developmental areas including roads rehabilitation, constructions of bridges, hospitals, schools, sports stadium, agriculture facilities, and investments projects. All of these projects create opportunities for the current administration to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people although minty percent was the making of the former regime.

In 1949, the birth of new China opened up a new chapter in Sino-African relations. Since 1950s and 1960s, as more and more African countries won independence and established diplomatic relations with China, the Sino-African relationship was ushered into a new era of all-round development that is having great impacts on the lives of millions on both fronts; the presence of China in Africa’s development cannot be questioned.

China’s robust economic growth in the past 40 years, which has lifted 600 million people out of extreme poverty, offers lessons for other regions, especially Liberia and African states. China has been consistently supporting African regional and sub-regional organizations like OAU, AU, SADC, and ECOWAS, in efforts to safeguard regional peace and security but the various competing interests along African governments and institutions make it difficult for development on the continent while rampant corruption and frequent changed of leadership also undermine Africa’s development.

Let us not forget that China and the U.S. on one hand and Africa on the other hand “have always belonged to a community of shared values and fruitful future” and “have always been good friends who stand together through thick and thin, good partners who share weal and woe, and good brothers who fully trust each other despite changes in the international landscape. Authored by: Josephus Moses Gray, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Liberia Graduate Studies Program. Email; graymoses@yahoo.com/ Mobile: 080330299

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Cholo Brooks 10804 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.