Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Sudan Friday, the third stop of an eight-nation tour of Africa. President Hu spent Thursday in Liberia, the first visit there by a Chinese leader since the two countries reestablished diplomatic relations in 2003.
Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He said President Hu’s visit highlighted the strong relationship between Liberia and China.
“President Hu expressed to President Sirleaf that as he came from the Robert’s International Airport into Monrovia, there were thousands of people lined up on the route all the way to the foreign ministry, and he said, as he saw those little children, students, waving the Chinese and the Liberian flags, he saw vigor and strength; he saw confidence for the recovery of the nation, and especially he saw confidence in the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to lead the nation to a brilliant recovery,” he said.
Bropleh said the Chinese leader and President Sirleaf signed seven technical and economic cooperation agreements.
“There was an agreement on economic and technical cooperation between the two governments; there was an agreement on the protocol of the government of Liberia to China that China has agreed to cancel all the debt Liberia owes China that matured by the end of 2005. And then also there was an exchange of letters on the implementation of the China-aided project, a school building at the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia. I must say that this is a trilateral cooperation because the American government, The Chinese government, and the Liberian government are working to revitalize that aspect of the University of Liberia,” Bropleh said.
He also said the two countries exchanged letters on the special preference of tariff treatment granted by the Chinese government to certain goods originated in Liberia and exported to China.
Bropleh said President Hu and President Sirleaf also signed an agreement for China to provide $1.5 million dollars to help a cash-strapped Liberian government move ahead.
Bropleh said Liberia gave up nothing in exchange for the Chinese government’s gestures.
“All that Liberian has given up is the ability to be a partner, and that ability not a giving up. It’s just a welcoming experience. China doesn’t just go here and there and say we give a million dollars, and we just want to go back to our country. China needs markets for its goods; Liberia also needs China because China has now said, you can export certain goods from your country and we will give you preferential tariffs treatment. It’s partnership; it’s not a one way street here,” he said.
Bropleh said Liberia’s relationship with China would not affect what some have called Liberia’s traditional friendship with the United States.
“Today was a good day additionally because at the airport to meet President Hu Jintao was America’s ambassador to Liberia, Ambassador Donald Booth. The Americans have no problem with Liberia extending and developing friendly relationship with China. This is a relationship where Liberia says to China you are our friend, we are your friend, America is our friend, and we are America’s friend. Here we see that the trilateral that is working with the University of Liberia, where the American government and the Chinese government are working together to improve the infrastructures in Liberia. I think this a new day in our redevelopment matrix,” Bropleh said.