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Republic of Congo 'cherishes friendship with China'

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)

08:36, March 29, 2013

The Republic of Congo cherishes the 50 years of close friendship with China and hopes that President Xi Jinping's visit to Brazzaville on Friday - the first by a Chinese head of state since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1964 - will bring even greater cooperation, said Daniel Owassa, the country's ambassador to China.

"The Republic of Congo and China have always maintained a sound relationship, which is being proved once again by President Xi's visit," Owassa said.

Bilateral trade between Beijing and Brazzaville has seen steady growth in recent years. In 2011, the trade volume reached an all-time high of $5.16 billion, up 48.5 percent year-on-year. The country ranks second among 24 central and western African countries, and seventh on the continent, in terms of trade with China.

The West African country's friendship with China is a good example of the proverb "a friend in need is a friend indeed", the ambassador said.

China has continuously provided aid to help build roads, bridges and hospitals in the Republic of Congo, Owassa said, and, in turn, the country has done what it can to lend a helping hand.

The country, which has a population of 4.2 million, donated $1 million to the Chinese government after the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan province, in 2008.

It also donated 2 million euros ($2.56 million) to build a school in Yushu, Qinghai province, to help local children resume their studies following a strong quake there in 2010.

"We can't wait until we're rich to help others," Owassa said. "Just as China helped us in the past, we'll certainly lend a helping hand when Chinese people are in trouble. Our people and our government are willing to offer more help in the future."

Owassa was appointed Brazzaville's ambassador to China in July. But the 53-year-old ambassador's links to China can be traced back to his childhood, when the Chinese government started sending doctors to his school to treat local people. The young Owassa grew up watching Chinese movies and could name some famous Chinese volleyball and basketball stars of the era.

As ambassador in Beijing, Owassa's understanding of the country deepens each time he visits a new place in China. As a student he knew the names of many Chinese places from books and now he's getting the chance to see them. He believes the same is happening with journalists from both countries, who now have more opportunities to talk directly and learn about each other.

It's important to have direct communication channels, he stressed. In the past, people from the two countries could not freely and easily access information about each other, and instead had to rely on Western media reports.

Now there are many chances for cultural exchanges. A Confucius Institute was set up at the Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville in June, and a series of cultural events known as Experience China - which kicked off across the country on March 19 - will last until Saturday.

"We hope there'll be more direct flights between China and Africa to make the travel much easier," the ambassador said.

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