China University of Geosciences: African Students In China Establish New Cooperation Mechanisms

More than 40 diplomats, students and experts from China and 30 African countries called to further strengthen cooperation between China and Africa at the first Forum on International Students from Africa, We, the Inheritors of Africa-China Friendship, held by the China-Africa Institute in Beijing on Sunday.

The event discussed the role African students should play in China in the promotion of the traditional friendship between China and African countries and how the two sides could better seek more opportunities to meet future challenges.

“I am very happy to see the success of the forum. China and Africa have now embraced a new cooperation agenda. In a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, young Africans are not just coming to China to get a diploma but to contribute to the future development of Africa, to the cooperation between the two sides and to the friendship between peoples of different countries,” Martin Mpana, Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Cameroon to China said in his opening remarks.

Mpana noted that currently, Africa is developing rapidly and hopes that young Africans can take advantage of their study opportunities in China to learn more about China and from the policies and development experience of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

“But we see some former players in the global scene want to eventually contain our effort. That is why I think China and Africa must stand together hand in hand. And standing together, we will overcome any challenge,” Mpana told the Global Times.

“Do not expect Western countries to come and help us come out of this situation. They will not do that, because it is against their own interest,” he noted.

Gao Xiang, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and President of the Chinese Academy of History, said in his speech that China and Africa have a long history of friendship and have faced the same or similar fate in many aspects, such as improving the capacity and level of national governance and enhancing the wellbeing of the people. Promoting China-Africa traditional friendship through youth exchanges has always been an important topic in China-Africa relations.

Gao pointed out that since China established diplomatic relations with African countries in the 1950s, countries such as Egypt, Ghana and Tanzania have sent students to China. They have played an indispensable role in promoting China and African countries, oppose colonial and imperial power, defend national sovereignty and national dignity, and continuously strengthen cooperation.

After the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, the number of African students coming to China began to grow rapidly. According to data from China’s Ministry of Education, as of 2018, the number of African students in China exceeded 80,000. With the joint efforts from both parties, African students in China have become the most representative group to fulfill the mission of China-Africa youth exchange.

“China is our second hometown and Wuhan is my second home,” Tiando S. Damien, an international student at China University of Geosciences from Benin, talked about his life as a foreign student in China. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Damien has been staying on campus in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, where he initiated a team of volunteers called “Iron Man,” made up of international students from 13 countries, to work with the university to ensure the daily lives of 320 international students.

Referring to the team’s name “Iron Man,” Damien believes that the spirit of steel and toughness is one of the sources of the founding spirit of the CPC. He noted that his study in China has allowed him to learn more about the philosophy and achievements of the CPC. Damien noted that the “CPC has a very strong leadership and it always insisted on reaching out to the grassroots and building practical ties with people, which I think is one of the keys to China’s success.”

Faced with ulterior motives from anti-Chinese forces to agitate the friendship between China and African countries through smear campaigns against foreign students, Damien told the Global Times that after coming to China, he understood Chinese culture more deeply and felt the warmth and tolerance of the Chinese people. “Although the languages and cultures of China and Africa are very different, here, my Chinese friends and I respect and help each other. Internationally, we need China very much and China also needs Africa. The friendship between China and Africa will not be affected by unwarranted vilification with ulterior motives.”

Monday Semaya K. Kumba, Chargé d’ Affaires ad Interim of South Sudan to China, pointed out that the forum has built a new exchange mechanism, allowing young people from China and Africa to meet face to face and promote the implementation of more ideas and initiatives together.

“From the moment we decided to learn Chinese language and culture and come to China, we naturally became the inheritors of the long-standing China-African friendship,” said Uzodinma Chinenye Gerlof, Nigerian student who is now attending at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Uzodinma noted that the study journey he started in China has diversified his mind and opened his eyes. “China is the world’s largest developing country, while Africa is the continent with the largest concentration of developing countries in the world with a combined population of more than one-third of the world’s population. China and African countries are an important force to jointly promote world peace and development,” he said, calling on the young people of the two sides to further understand each other to make the time-honored friendship bloom.

The year 2021 is not only the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and African countries, but also the year of the new session of the FOCAC. At the end of the Forum, the representatives of African students sent an initiative to all African students in China to “study hard and be the inheritors of China-Africa friendship,” vowing that they would do their best to inherit, protect and carry forward the traditional friendship ties and actively contribute to the common development of China and Africa in the future.