Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chinafrica (19) Watching for PRC Influence in Africa

Close to home: and introspective look at Liberia - China relations...

'No Conflict of Interest,' President Sirleaf Says
The Analyst (Monrovia)
11 June 2008
Posted to the web 11 June 2008

By Edwood DennisMonrovia

Liberia is painstakingly emerging from the depths it was thrown by 14 years of civil infamy and there is no question that it will use all available assistance.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf seems to have no problem with this approach to recovery and said so this week.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has disclosed that there is no conflict of interest in Liberia's relationship with both the U.S. and China.

She said what rather seems to exist is a confusion of interest amongst some of Liberia's international partners on how rapidly and to what level to help spur Liberia's post-war security and economic recoveries.

The President made the assertions, yesterday through an aide, when she addressed a ground-breaking ceremony for the US $21.5 million expansion project of the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia.

The Fendell Campus Expansion Project, sponsored by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as part of its assistance to the recovery efforts of the Sirleaf Administration, is expected to be completed in 2010, according to the PRC Ambassador to Liberia, Zhou Yuxiao.
Incidentally, the project is being undertaken by the China Guangdong Xinguang International Group.

The President Sirleaf said while neither the U.S. nor the PRC at any time expressed disquiet about the nation's partnership with the other, some Liberians and non-Liberians at one time or the other expressed fear that the direction the administration has taken may, at some point, fuel diplomatic conflict.

She did not say why the Liberians and non-Liberians thought that was a possibility, but observers recalled that the Tolbert administration paid dearly for such relation with China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.

Then, the U.S. regarded the two communist nations as threat to the democratization of Third World nations, including Liberia which many say the U.S. guided jealously as a satellite or pilot state.

Today with the U.S. and China cooperating at several fronts including the levels of trade, global terrorism, finance, and banking, analysts say, that Liberia will fall into trouble for courting China is far unlikely.

Fair unlikely is the catchword and President Sirleaf agreed, noting that her administration would ensure that neither the U.S. nor China misunderstands what role the other was playing in Liberia's recovery efforts.

She said Liberia needed all of its friends, traditional and new, so that the widespread desperation being felt across the country can be taken care of as rapidly as necessary to protect the nation's stability obtained through the sacrifice of UNMIL.

According to her, both the U.S. and China were genuine friends of Liberia who, in their own ways, were concerned about the plight of the nation following years of bad economic policies and a devastating civil war and doing what best they could to help the nation out of its current dilemma.

She said both governments were equally concerned about Liberia's quick recovery as indicated by their past contributions and present efforts to contribute to the improvement and expansion of the nation's only public institution of higher learning and to education in general.
She said not only has the U.S. government contributed to the economic recovery efforts of the country, but that it also collaborated in the Fendell modernization efforts through the construction of annexes to the Fendell Science Complex.

Meantime, the Liberian leader praised the Chinese government for embarking upon the construction of several buildings that would host students and faculty of UL at the Fendell Campus.

She said the project marks 'an important landmark in Liberia's quest to prioritize education in Liberia' and noted that it is significant in several respects including that it represented the government's commitment to education as well as the priority placed on education.
She also used the occasion to caution those who she said were in the habit of stealing building materials from major public construction sites to desist as such act would prompt sponsors to stop remitting funds to the projects.

She revealed that public projects that were being subjected to untold property theft under the pretense of scrap collection were the Hotel Africa and White Plans Hydro projects, amongst others.

The President called on residents to report such people to police for an appropriate action by the government.

For his part, Chinese Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao expressed the hope that the project will contribute significantly to education in Liberia.

He observed that the construction is proceeding due to the level of peace in the country. The Chinese envoy further challenged the University students not to take peace for granted, but rather work towards its strengthening in the country.

He reiterated his government's support towards working harder to obtain more scholarships for Liberians to study in China as well as offer Chinese lessons at the University of Liberia. Ambassador Zhou commended Liberia and the international community for the concerns shown after the recent earthquake in China.

In a statement delivered by the China Added Project School buildings, the Chinese Ambassador reiterated the commitment of his government and people to contribute to the reconstruction of Liberia since the two countries were traditional friends.

Amb. Zhou revealed that when completed, the UL Campus Expansion Project that is the largest for now by the Chinese government, will put at the disposal of a students laboratories for soil testing and for civil engineering research and experimentation plus a computer science center.
Also to be put at the disposal of students and instructors, according to Ambassador Zhou, is one four-story comprehensive teaching building, four two-story dormitory buildings for students, five three-story apartment buildings for faculty members, a friendship tower (water tower) generator house, water treatment room, sports field, two basketball courts, three tennis courts, and other supportive facilities.

"We are offering Liberia a little help not because we are rich, but because we are friends in [time of] need and because we know fully that we are living in an increasingly interdependent world in which no country can go ahead single-handedly. In this global village, we all neighbors. We all need to help and support each other.

"With regard to Liberia, China, is not one-sided either; it is a two-way traffic. In our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, Liberia has given so much support to China over the issues that are dear and near to China's national interest," he said.

Copyright © 2008 The Analyst.



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