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The Beijing seminar: Sudanese Chinese cooperation from a journalist stand point

By: Sahar Osman & Salma Salih

It was within the context of the joint Chinese Sudanese cooperation, exchange of visits and training that a group of Sudanese journalists, including three journalists from the Sudan news agency (SUNA), participated in a course for information officers and journalists from English-Speaking African countries.

The seminar which took place in Beijing, China, August 1st - August 15th 2016, was organized by the China International Publishing Group CIPG and sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Trade, with the aim of discussing areas and horizons of development in the Chinese -African relations, Chinese vision, the Belt and Road Initiative, China News system and New Media Landscape and Internet development. 


These were interesting issues for African countries seeking to catch up with developments in those areas where China has made huge strides and achieved remarkable success, to the observing eyes of the participating journalists.

In the seminar that brought representatives from 13 African countries and in which the visiting journalists, attracted by interesting topics that were under discussions, engaged in lively debates opening new horizons of thinking and avenues of joint intrests between journalists from these countries and the host country, China.

The three journalists from SUNA, though they could not speak for all other African journalists that took part in the seminar, could clearly see that it only is a tip of the iceberg for deep relations between their country and China. And of course it goes without saying that whenever relations are deeply rooted, they usually go higher and higher based on solid relations of understanding, respect and non-intervening in the affairs of others. 

For us journalists from the Sudan, we saw the visit within the context and chain of events that seek to further cement relations between the various popular and official institutions between the Sudan and China. 

The Sudanese Chinese relations are aimed at strategic partnership serving the common interests of the two nations and the two people. 

This was what the two countries announced recently and stressed particularly during the historic visit by the president of the Republic Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir to Beijing, china, 2015. 

The visit was for participation in the memorial activities of the Chinese people victory during the Second World War. President Bashir reaffirmed during that visit the depth of the relation and their importance. China, likewise, was keen on these distinguished relations when the Special Envoy of the Chinese President and the Minister for Environment in China, paid a visit to the Sudan to attend the ceremony marking the investiture of President Omar Bashir for a second term as president of the Republic. 

The same period saw the visit of the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi to the Sudan. This was a historic relation from the perspective of the two countries. It was described by his Excellency the Chinese ambassador to the Sudan Li Lianhe, as an important and serves in the promotion of relations to better horizons. 

Last year also witnessed the convening of the high level dialogue at the level of the Chinese Communist Party and the National Congress Party, in Beijing, China. The same year also witnessed the opening of the new Presidential Palace which was built with Chinese grant to the Sudan. 

The activities marking 20 years of cooperation between the Sudan and china in the domain of petroleum were also marked that same year. And one of the most important events that year was when the Chinese military warships docked at Port Sudan to mark the first such visit in the history of the two countries that is since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

The Chinese ambassador to the Sudan has described in a speech during an activity organized by the Chinese embassy in Khartoum last year under the title of: Chinese economy and the Sudanese Chinese relations, the relation s as having achieved waves of development and fruitful cooperation in all the domains and that the two presidents have reached wider horizons of cementing mutual political confidence and pushing practical cooperation forwards at all levels.

To us the three Sudanese journalists and our colleagues from China was generous enough to let us share its rich and advance experience and know-how in the media and pay field visits to such institutions as: China.org.cn, HTV and Beijing Review.

The journalists from SUNA, two female journalists and one male, were furnished with the opportunity to discuss and review with the Chinese media official institutions means for reflecting the real image of Sudan including different aspects of life. It wasn't a one-way flow, but rather an exchange of experience and views and standing with the Chinese encouraging journalists to reflect the true situation and real life in their home countries, in an interactive and lively and free debate.

To the enjoyment of the journalists, it wasn't a close door lecturing, rather it was a lively and practical event that included field visits to institutions and areas such as the Wuhan, Jinzhou and Yichang in Hubei provinces, where participants were able to see for themselves and in a real life situation the Chinese media institution in action and how China media were able to develop and to flourish, within the home tradition and assume an international position of huge caliber. The journalists were able to witness and evaluate learn from the Chinese experience in this connection.

Meeting such as that with the Mayor of Hubei's has given us the flavor, the smell and the flavor of the Chinese generosity and welcome, having received a well-balanced review of the Chinese African relations, reflecting Hubei's Province present and future plans. Another outstanding highlight during the journalists stay in China was the meeting with the representatives of Ministry of Commerce and Trade and the CIPG.

But all this was within a context and a framework. The current depth of relations and exchange of visit and experience was not the work of one day, as a recent report by the Sudan news agency SUNA has shown. To just understand part of the relations between China and Africa, one could take as example the relations between the Sudan and china, as an example, as a model.

According to that report by SUNA Sudanese Chinese relations base their impotence and vitality from the fact that they enjoy continuum, stable and developing links. These are based on a series of partnerships between Khartoum and Beijing. 

Top of these partnerships could be seen in the tangible partisan relationship, international cooperation, use and export of petroleum which has been a strong addition to the edifice of the Sudanese national economic capability in face of the economy boycott imposed on the country from a number of political and economic power circles led by the United States of America. These relations between Sudan and China have also developed in the trade, investment and construction areas as well as the fields of dams and roads construction, besides investment in minerals.

And if the majority of people studying or interested in the Sino-Sudanese relations link them to the National Salvation era, that is to the early nineteen nineties, and at best to the time of the rule of Gen Ibrahim About and his diplomatic recognition of the independent People's Republic of China in the year 1958, still the facts of history date these relations between China and the Sudan to times far deeper in the ancient history. They date them to the BC history, to the Merowe era and to the Ancient Nubian kingdoms and to the Trade Trip via the Silk Road that linked China to East Africa and the Red Sea regions.

The Sudan news agency report quoted Dr. Jaafar Karar, of the Sudanese academia now in China, has stated in a scholarly paper published in Issue No 85 of the Arabie books series, July 2011 under the title: Arab Turn Eastwards, dealt with these relations. His study reviewed the Sudanese Chinese relations during the pre-Islamic times up to the dawn of the 20th century, with emphasis on the time of Tang dynasty (618-907) and the Sang dynasty (966-1279) and the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) and to Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

So for us, the visit comes within the continuum of this well established and deeply rooted relations and they Chinese topped it with amicability and with friendliness that made it more enjoyable. 

Again we could see these relations and their development from the stand point of other areas including economic angle.

The Sudanese-Sino relations have witnessed, during the recent years, great prosperity. China is considered the biggest trading partner for Sudan with volume of exchange of trade reached 13 billion dollars in the year 2015 and that China is investing in Sudan in fields of oil, mining, agriculture and infrastructures.

The Chinese investments in Sudan have grown rapidly since 2000 and that the oil sector constitutes the most of such investments.

And during the recent years, the cooperation relations between Sudan and China progressed rapidly and that China has become the No.1 trading partner for Sudan and the key partner for Sudan in fields of investments and construction.

And according to Chinese official figures, the volume of bilateral trade reached $8.63 billion dollars in 2010, increasing by 35 percent compared to year 2009.

The Chinese companies are currently operating in establishment of projects in fields of oil, water, electricity, roads, bridges and telecommunications with total cost goes beyond $10 billion dollars.

The volume of China's investments in Sudan is the biggest foreign investments, especially in fields of petroleum and petrochemicals that surpassed 11 billion dollars in domains of oil, infrastructures, dams, power, and roads, which affirms strength of economic relations between the two countries.

China entered as key partner in oil industry in Sudan in 1996 and since then the economic and commercial relations greatly developed and expanded to cover many fields in Sudan. All in all, the Chinese companies have contributed to establishment of all the major projects in Sudan.

No doubt that the activities of Chinese companies have clearly contributed to support of Sudan economy and that they effectively contributed to rebuild the Sudan economy while it is thought this distinguished economic relation could lead to further cooperation by including new fields such as agriculture and mining.

The agricultural cooperation between the two countries based in fact that Sudan has vast arable lands, and waters from River Nile, while China possesses advanced technologies, improved seeds and modern machines and all of these are necessary for development of agriculture.

Sudan received a preferential loan of 700 million dollars from the Chinese Bank of Import and Export for funding the New Khartoum International Airport in December of last year, which was the biggest loan for one project, a loan of 100 million Chinese Yuan, and 150 million Yuan grant for financing a number of development projects in Sudan, a matter which underlines that China is pressing ahead with supporting economy and development in Sudan

Furthermore, there are the cultural aspects, as we could not ignore the huge Chinese contribution in many for the cultural arenas in the Sudan 

The relations between Sudan and China are characterized by their inclusiveness in the political, economic, cultural, information, technological and other fields of cooperation, especially during the era of the National Salvation and President Jaafar Nemeiri.

Sudan and China have succeeded in cementing the relations between the peoples of the two countries through the cultural exchange, visits of the cultural and cultural delegations and the people's arts bands which are still remembered by people. This cultural exchange and mutual visits affirm the effective role of arts in informing about the history and glory of nations because arts are fast the in addressing to the feelings. 

The Sudanese Acrobat Band was considered a nucleus to bolstering the Sino-Sudanese cultural relations especially that they have appeared in a period that has witnessed increasing concern with the role of arts in the cultural and social development.

An example of the great role of arts in enhancing the relations between nations happened when the former President Jaafar Nimeiri participating in and African summit in Addis Ababa at a period when Sudan regional relations are troubled. In this event the girl Lubna of the Sudanese acrobat has given a brilliant show. After this shown President Nemeiri has turned his head to the Sudanese ambassador saying that "what was given by this girl in 15 minutes the Foreign Ministry fails to achieve in 20 years".

The reactivation of the Sino-Sudanese cultural protocol started in the early 1970s when a group of Sudanese children were selected in the year 1971 for acrobat training in the Chinese Wuhan city by Chinese experts. These Sudanese children have been subjected to intensive training programs which have lasted for four successive years. The performance of the Sudanese acrobat was great to the extent that it has astonished the Chinese trainers themselves. 

A music band using the Chinese musical instruments for the Sudanese acrobat band was also formed. The first batch of Sudanese acrobats was composed of 50 persons and graduated in the year 1970 after training in China that has lasted for three years. The selection of children for acrobats is usually conducted by the Artistic Panorama Department at the Ministry of Culture and Information every year. These children are to be sent to China in training missions, the last of which was the sixth session in the year 2011.

The year 2014 witnessed the signing of a cultural protocol between the General Administration of Performing Arts at the Sudanese Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Public Relations Administration of the Acrobat Group, which deals with providing training opportunities for the cadres of the Sudanese Acrobat Band and providing the technical equipment for enhancing their performance and the maintenance of their show hall.

Aspects of the cooperation and the distinguished Sudanese - Relations were the signing of agreements of cooperation in the field of information between Sudan News Agency (SUNA) and the China News Agency (XINHUA). Part of these agreements was implemented in stages

It was within all these aspects and others that we enjoyed and savored our stay in china, a stay which brought together the practical aspects as well as the joy of seeing and learning about life and culture in china. The visit has helped us even better understand each other, we as Africans .



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