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Carry Forward the Tazara Spirit In a Joint Effort to Build a Community of Shared Destiny

2015/07/23

Remarks by H.E. Wang Yi
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
At the Launch of the Book A Monument to China-Africa Friendship: First-hand Account of the Building of Tazara

23 July 2015

Your Excellency Ambassador Abdulrahman A. Shimbo of Tanzania,
Your Excellency Ambassador Getrude Kasuba Mwape of Zambia, Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Friends,

Good afternoon!

Thank you, Ambassador Shimbo and Ambassador Mwape, for your warm remarks.

The Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara), which was built with Chinese assistance and by the Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian people together, is known to the world as the Freedom Railway that helped African people gain national independence and liberation, and the Friendship Railway that represents the ever-lasting friendship between the Chinese and African people. It is an enduring monument in the history of China-Africa relations. During his visit to Africa in 2013, President Xi Jinping talked about Tazara in particular and made a special trip to the cemetery of Chinese experts who laid down their lives for the building of Tazara. He stressed the need to carry forward the Tazara spirit and build on past achievements while keeping up with the changing circumstances to make sure that China-Africa friendship and cooperation produce more fruitful results.

As this year marks the 45th anniversary of the groundbreaking of Tazara and 40th anniversary of its operation, it is most fitting to publish the book A Monument to China-Africa Friendship: First-hand Account of the Building of Tazara this year. Compiled by the Policy Planning Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, this book provides us with first-hand materials to review the historic feat of the Chinese and African people and new opportunities for us to envision a bright future for the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership for the 21st century.

Hereby, on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I wish to extend a warm welcome to all the distinguished guests and express heartfelt thanks to colleagues who have worked for the compilation and publication of the book. Today, former minister Sun Yongfu and several other representatives who were personally involved in the building of Tazara are also among us. Let us give a warm round of applause to them and pay high tribute to all people of the older generation who have contributed to the development of China-Africa relations.

Tazara is truly deserving to be regarded as an enduring monument, as it has made indelible, historical contributions to the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles and to the development and revitalization of eastern and southern Africa and the whole African continent. Moreover, in building the railway, the people of China, Tanzania and Zambia forged the great Tazara spirit, leaving an invaluable asset for the future generations.

The Tazara spirit is about mutual respect and equality. Having suffered from the invasion and oppression of colonialism and imperialism, both China and Africa cherish sovereignty, independence and equality, and both deplore and oppose bullying and hegemony. It is fair to say that the China-Africa relationship has been built on the basis of equality since the very beginning. The building of Tazara stood as a testimony to mutual respect and equality between China and Africa. Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders of the older generation reiterated on many occasions to Tanzanian and Zambian leaders that the sovereignty of Tazara belongs entirely to the African people, and that there are no privileges or political strings attached to any assistance or loans provided by China. In building Tazara, Chinese workers lived and worked side by side with local workers, asking for no special treatment. The cooperation among the three countries was conducted in strict accordance with the principles of respect for each other's economic and social systems and non-interference in internal affairs. As former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere pointed out at the handover ceremony, China never interfered in the political and economic policies of Tanzania and Zambia, and all was conducted on an equal footing. In fact, what happened has proved that Tazara is by no means a tool used by China to control Tanzania and Zambia as some westerners predicted. On the contrary, it has become a symbol of African countries taking destiny in their own hands and a symbol of equality between the Chinese and African people.

The Tazara spirit is about tenacity and perseverance. Tazara was a massive and daunting project with highly demanding technical requirements, and was built under extremely tough construction conditions. Some people dismissed it as a mission impossible for China, Tanzania and Zambia to build the railway all by themselves. But with faith, tenacity and perseverance, the governments and people of the three countries overcame numerous difficulties and hardships, and in less than six years completed Tazara, which the colonialists had talked about for decades. Over 160 workers, including more than 60 Chinese, sacrificed their lives. But their contribution has paid off. Over the past half a century, Tazara has stood the test of history. A UN inspection team applauded Tazara as the best railway in Africa. Its high quality was also borne out during the 1998 massive flood in Tanzania when some railways in the country were washed away while the tracks of Tazara stayed intact. That said, however, due to drastic changes in the internal and external environment for its operation, Tazara now faces various difficulties. Yet we have the resolve and confidence to find a fundamental solution through equal-footed and friendly consultation with Tanzania and Zambia to revive Tazara, and upgrade what has served in the past as the freedom and friendship railway to a railway for development and prosperity in the new era, and continue to contribute to the rejuvenation of Africa.

The Tazara spirit is about selfless internationalism. Back in the 1960s and 1970s when China made the decision, without hesitation, to help build Tazara, China itself was facing great economic difficulties with a per capita GDP of merely 100 US dollars. China made the decision because we saw Africa as our sincere friend and wanted to contribute our due share to the independence of African nations. As Premier Zhou Enlai said, we must have the courage to help African brothers as we are internationalists. Inspired by the Tazara spirit, workers from China, Tanzania and Zambia worked as one family and wrote a heroic chapter of solidarity and cooperation between China and Africa. Former President of Zambia Dr. Kenneth Kaunda once said movingly that the people of Tanzania and Zambia were victoriously united with the Chinese people, and that no one, no country could separate them. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa on his first foreign trip as head of state in 2013, he stressed the importance of upholding a balanced approach to principles and interests, that is, to provide the less developed countries with best help possible, and always put principles before interests. This is the very manifestation of the Tazara spirit in the new era.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past decades, the Tazara spirit, like a bond transcending time and space, has tied the Chinese and African people closely together. It embodies the essence of China-Africa relations and the common aspiration of the Chinese and African people. It also represents the inexhaustible driving force for greater China-Africa cooperation.

Both China and Africa are now at a crucial stage of development. Africa, once poor and backward in development, is emerging as a continent of hope and growth, and making big strides towards the goals set out in the African Union's Agenda 2063. China, on its part, is working relentlessly to realize the two centenary goals and the Chinese dream of great national renewal. China and Africa enjoy more profound common interests, more solid foundation for cooperation and broader prospects for cooperation. Under the new conditions, we will carry forward and renew the Taraza spirit and work with African friends to build a China-Africa community of shared destiny and provide a strong impetus to China-Africa cooperation.

China will work to align its development strategies with that of Africa. With deepening political mutual trust and high complementarity in economic structures, China and Africa face important historic opportunities to align our development strategies. China will act on the policy of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith put forward by President Xi Jinping for our relations with Africa, follow a balanced approach to principles and interests, advance China-Africa cooperation in the six areas identified by Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Africa, transform and upgrade China-Africa cooperation by expanding it from general trade to broader areas such as investment cooperation, and help Africa translate its potential in human talents and resources into strengths for economic growth. On major development issues such as the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda and response to climate change, China will continue to strengthen coordination with African countries and urge the international community to give priority to addressing the difficulties and challenges facing developing countries, African countries in particular.

China will support Africa in seeking industrialization and modernization. In African countries' pursuit of political independence, Tazara served as a catalyst. Now, as African countries strive for economic independence through industrialization and modernization, we will firmly support our African brothers in attaining this goal. In terms of infrastructure and industrial development, the two areas crucial for African industrialization and modernization, China has relatively strong investment and construction capabilities and quality surplus capacity. We will, in light of the actual needs of African countries, strengthen industrial cooperation in infrastructure development and manufacturing, support African countries in building high-speed railway, highway, and regional aviation networks and transfer in an appropriate way equipment production capacity and relevant technologies which Africa needs the most for its industrialization with a view to enhancing Africa's capabilities for independent development.

China will work with Africa to build a China-Africa Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Security. Peace is the prerequisite for development, and stability provides safeguard for cooperation. Among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is the biggest contributor of peacekeeping personnel to Africa. Going forward, we will put more efforts into peace and security in Africa, firmly support African people in resolving African issues in the African way, implement the "Initiative on China-Africa Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Security", actively support the building of the African collective security mechanism and help African countries enhance their capacity for peacekeeping and combating piracy, thus making a greater contribution to peace and stability in Africa.

China will help Africa improve its public health system. China has always been a staunch supporter for public health endeavors in Africa. As we speak now, there are around 1,000 Chinese medical workers providing services in 42 African countries. When the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa last year, China was the first to send a charter plane carrying assistance supplies to the affected areas. So far, China has provided a total of RMB750 million in assistance to relevant African countries and sent out more than 1,000 medical workers and experts, setting a new record in the history of New China's response to international public health crises in terms of duration, covered area, scale and intensity. We will further leverage our unique strengths to help African countries enhance their disease prevention and control capabilities and improve their public health system.

Distinguished Guests,

Friends,

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of FOCAC, which will convene its next meeting in South Africa at the end of this year. China will work with African countries to carry forward the Tazara spirit, identify new measures for deepening all-round practical cooperation, and further substantiate the new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa. Working together, we could usher in a better future of win-win cooperation for our people and make fresh and bigger contribution to world peace and development.

Thank you.

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