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But we found a completely different China!

By Kimeng Hilton Ndukong (People's Daily Online)    16:42, December 05, 2017

Guests and reporters at the 2017 joint closing ceremony of journalism fellowships. Photo by Kimeng Hilton

Here we are, 10 months after the start of the 2017 China Africa Press Centre, CAPC fellowship programme. How fast time flies! Before we knew it, 10 months had already slipped away. I must say it was an eventful stage in our careers – us 27 journalists from 27 different African countries.

We left for China earlier this year not too sure of what we were going to find on the ground. This was more so because persistent negative reporting by a section of the international media gave all of us the wrong impression that China was such a “backward, authoritarian and totalitarian” nation where the people had no liberties whatsoever. This is the same manner they report Africa as is if only hell existed there!

Hellas, we discovered a China 1,000 per cent different! Quite different from the deliberately erroneous picture that was painted to us – and continues to be done right to this day to foreign audiences. Representatives of our host organization, the China Africa Press Centre, CAPC, took us to many events, provided the material needed and left us to do our work.

Never did they at any time try to influence the choice of angles of our stories, insist on reading through our articles before we filed them home, nor instruct us on what to write on and what not to write on. We carried out our work without any “eagle eye” peeping from behind at our laptops to see what we were writing. The subjects we wrote on were therefore purely our own choices.

His Excellency Hu Zhengyue, Vice President of the China Public Diplomacy Association , speaks of how much China values its cooperation with Africa and Asia. Photo by Kimeng Hilton

So, why the repeated bashing of China by a section of the international media? Only one reason, to my mind, explains such relentless hostility. These people are simply envious of China’s trail-blazing achievements and growing international clout over the years! Someone has aptly likened success to the incessant manner in which quality honey attracts quality bees.

The more you succeed, the more some people become envious – even if in public, they smile with you and pretend to be your confidantes. And so these media people and their sponsors would like to see a collapsed, fragmented and feuding China with very slim chances of ever standing its own in the comity of nations.

But the reality on the ground - to their greatest dismay - is quite different. China will never be the same again. It has risen and will continue to rise to even greater development heights. In a matter of years, China will become the world’s biggest economy – much earlier than the forecasts of many experts. And when this happens, it will become a very tall order for many years before any other nation overtakes her.

China’s progress is invariably Africa’s! We - that is, Africa and China - have been trusted friends for decades. Africa’s support was crucial in getting the People’s Republic of China admitted to the United Nations in the early seventies. This move, as we all remember, was strongly opposed by certain nations. China, alongside the defunct Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba and other Communist-leaning nations, strongly supported Africa’s struggle for liberty and independence.

Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, journalist from Cameroon Tribune newspaper, Cameroon, speaks on behalf of African journalists at the joint closing ceremony of the 2017 journalism fellowship. Photo by CAPC

Today, Africans are mature enough to choose their true friends. And one of them is China – no matter the criticisms about this relationship. It is therefore no accident that China is now Africa’s largest trade partner. Other nations spent more years on the continent, leaving behind the balance sheets we all know too well. China has maintained strengthened, effective, practical and friendly ties with Africa for just about five decades. But the dividends are all too glaring and undeniable even to the blind.

Thanks to the China Public Diplomacy Association, CPDA, through the China Africa Press Centre, we were able to come over to China and spend 10 months. It was indeed a time to discover the true China through political, economic, technological, cultural, diplomatic, industrial and sports lenses, etc.

Our visits to various public institutions in Beijing and trips to 10 provinces and autonomous regions and municipalities, enabled us to appreciate this great nation. Especially its diversity, grandeur and superlative achievements that make mockery of what obtains in most parts of the world. China is not only big in geographical size and population, but in almost everything it undertakes. This one of the lessons we learnt.

The secret of China’s meteoric rise to near all-round greatness today from a fragmented, poor, feuding and virtually starving nation under constant foreign hegemony some decades back, is understandable. It is simply attributable to the resolve, commitment, devotion, focus and stable policies of its leaders. And the hard work and untiring ingenuity of Chinese people. Moreover, Chinese people are simple, humble and generally welcoming to foreigners.

Officials, African, South Asian and Southeast Asian journalists at the joint closing ceremony of the 2017 journalism fellowship programme. Photo by CAPC

This was described in the articles we wrote. It might therefore not be presumptuous for us to say that through the close to 1,500 stories we published in the past 10 months, audiences in 27 African countries and even beyond were opportune to know more China.

Our experience does not however end with the conclusion of this year’s fellowship programme. We will share stories of our stay in China when we return home and continuously sensitize colleagues on websites that report the true China.

The 2017 batch of the China Africa Press Centre fellowship programme will remain special in CAPC annals for the next five years. We were privileged not only to cover the annual Two Sessions of CCPCC and NPC, Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Media Cooperation Forum on Belt and Road, the Ninth BRICS summit, China Arab States Expo, but most especially the 19th National Congress of Communist Party of China, CPC. This event takes place after five years. None of the past three batches of CAPC covered it, and it is only in the next five years that any group can hope to cover the 20th CPC national congress.

We took note of the strides made by the CPC in the past five years under the leadership of President Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Under his tenure, China has not only continued to witness steady economic growth, but is today an indispensable voice and partner in the comity of nations.

It was therefore no surprise that the Chinese people - through the 19th CPC national congress - renewed their confidence in Xi Jinping by re-electing him for a second five-year term as CPC Central Committee General Secretary. This election, it must be noted, came at a historic moment as China enters a new era of sustained economic pursuits and development.

The creation in 2014 of the China Africa Press Centre was well thought of. It has since enabled four batches of African journalists to visit China and learn more about the country’s development model, political system, diplomacy, etc. This is no doubt the beginning of a long process to bridge the gap in understanding China and Africa by our media and peoples.

The role of the media cannot be underestimated as its impact tends to last much longer than we realize. What our predecessors wrote since 2014 and what we reported in the past 10 months will for long continue to be useful to those seeking to know more about China-Africa relations.

As we conclude this year’s fellowship programme and prepare to return home to our families and work places, we have just one big wish. That China-Africa cooperation and people-to-people exchanges will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. And that our two peoples will see more improvements in their livelihoods as dividends of this long-standing relationship.

*Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, Sub-Editor for World News with Cameroon Tribune bilingual daily in Cameroon, presented the original version of this write-up as a speech on December 5, 2017 in Beijing, China, on behalf of African fellows on the occasion of the joint closing ceremony of the 2017 China-Africa Press Centre and China-South Asia and South East Asia Press Centre fellowship programmes. 

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(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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