BY H.E. MR. ZHOU YUXIAO, CHINESE AMBASSADOR
June 10, 2008
Her Excellency Madam President Ellen Johansson Sirleaf,
Honorable President of University of Liberia
Her Excellency Madam Loj, SRSG
Ambassadors and diplomats
Representatives from the UN family & International Organizations
Respected faculty members and students
Friends from the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin my remarks by warmly welcoming all of you to the official launching of the China-aided expansion project at the Fendall Campus of University of Liberia. I wish to express my special thanks to Madam President Sirleaf and other distinguished guests for their personal presence at this function.
Madam President, Ladies and gentlemen,
As you can see from the introduction in the program booklet, the (project consists of four parts: namely the teaching and administrative buildings, apartment buildings for faculty members, student dormitory buildings and auxiliary facilities. The project covers an area of 11 hectares with 24,800 square meters of floor space. The construction work started on April the 18th, 2008 and is scheduled to be completed in two years. The total investment is US$ 21.5million which is twice as much as the investment in rehabilitation of the SKD Stadium. That gives you some ideas about the scale of the project. I hope it will contribute significantly to the improvement of education of higher learning in Liberia after its completion.
Ladies and gentlemen
This is a very special day for all of us. It is special not because the project is sponsored by the Chinese government, but because we are sharing the dividend of peace. Without the peace that is prevailing today, no construction work is possible. Therefore, I wish to commend all those actors, particularly the UNMIL which is ably headed by the SRSG, who have contributed to peace-making and peacekeeping in the Liberia and to emphasize that peace is more important than anything else. I hope that our young Liberian friends will cherish peace ever more when they enjoy their university life in a brand new campus. I also would like to remind the university students that they should not take peace for granted as there are still 13,000 plus peacekeepers in Liberia, among which about 600 are from China. Continued efforts need to be made to ensure that peace will remain when the peacekeeper are gone.
The recently announced Poverty Reduction Strategy which was formulated with most popular participation, listed road, education and health as the three priority areas in Liberia's postwar national reconstruction. China is very proud to be a faithful partner in all those three aspects.
In the road building area, China Henan International Corporation is already involved in the World Bank funded road rehabilitation in Liberia and we are encouraging more competent Chinese companies to engage in road building as suggested by Madam President Sirleaf and the World Bank President Mr. Zeolic.
In the health field, a Chinese medical team of nine members have been working in JFK Medical Center for three year to provide medical services for the local people. China has set up a malaria treatment and prevention centre in JFK. China is to build a hospital with 100 beds and modern facilities in Tarpeta during the next dry season.
In education area, the list is much longer. In addition to this campus expansion project which is the largest project taken by China in recent years, we are going to help UL to renovate three labs devoting to soil testing, civil engineering and computer science respectively. A renovating team and 340 boxes of equipment will arrive in Liberia in early and mid-July respectively; A Confucius Centre will be set up in UL and a Chinese teacher will come to offer Chinese language lessons in July; 58 young Liberians are now studying in the Chinese universities under the Chinese government scholarships. The Chinese Embassy is going to work harder to get more scholarships for Liberia in the future and I hope some of the students present will get chances to study in China; Three high schools are being built right now in Monrovia and Bomi; An agricultural expert team of five members from China has been teaching in BWI and training the students and local farmers on rice growing. An agricultural technology demonstration center will be built in CARI with Chinese assistance in the next dry season; A group of five Chinese experts have been running training courses on bamboo and rattan weaving for the unemployed young people; In the last few years, 450 Liberians have been trained in China in short term programs such as health, education, agriculture, aquatic culture, hydro power and etc.
From the above information, you can see very clearly that the Madam President's government is very far-sighted and education-oriented as it channels most of the Chinese assistance into education which is very essential in national reconstruction and rejuvenation in any country after war. We all know that the 14 year civil war in Liberia did not only destroy its infrastructure, but also eroded its social ethics, such as honesty, dignity, responsibility, sacrifice, hardworking, respect for life and etc. The reconstruction of infrastructure can be done with outside assistance. But the rebuilding of the social ethics has mainly to be done by the Liberian educational institutions. I am sure that the University of Liberia will take the lead to do so when better hardware is available.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are offering Liberia a little help not because we are rich, but because we are friends in need and because we know fully well that we are living in an increasingly interdependent world in which no country can go ahead single-handedly. In this global village, we are all neighbors. We all need to help and support each other. The world's kind reaction to China's recent catastrophic earthquake is a case in point. The whole world rushed to China's rescue when it suffered devastating natural disaster. So many countries have donated so much to China and sent so many rescue and medical teams to the disaster areas to save human lives. China is extremely grateful to the world for the unprecedented level of help made available to it. The outside assistance does not only help China materially, but also morally. It greatly encourages the Chinese government and people to be stronger and more determined to rebuild the devastated areas as quickly as possible.
With regard to Liberia, China's help is not one-sided neither. 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. Just a few days ago, Madam President Sirleaf, Vice President Boakai, many cabinet ministers and other Liberian citizens all came to the Chinese Embassy to express their condolence, sympathy and solidarity following the Sichuan earthquake. The Liberian government also made a valuable donation to China despite its own dire financial difficulties. We were very much touched by their words and deeds and we shall never forget all this.
In China, we have a saying that goes: A big mason can be easily built if everyone adds a brick or tile and a fire can be strong only when everybody gathers firewood. I regard the new Fendall Campus as a big mason. The contractor needs to work very hard to ensure speed and quality. It also needs support from the Liberian government and people as they are faced with enormous difficulties such as heavy rain, malaria, material shortage, delayed container clearance, transport interruption, language barrier and etc. The gracious personal presence at this function by Madam President and many other senior officials as well as university authorities is just one of the indications of the high level support given to the project by the Liberian government. I wish to take this opportunity to make an appeal to the local people to do the same. If the expansive construction materials disappear frequently, it will not only adversely affect the speed of the project and but also dampens the enthusiasm of the contractor to do a quality job. Let us all try to be brick-carriers and firewood gatherers. I hope a wall is not needed between the contractor and the local people because the campus is being built for them, not for the contractor.
Since my arrival in this country, I have seen two cranes, one at the construction site of the new Chinese Embassy, the other is right here at this campus. I wish to tell the contractor China Guangdong Xingguang Group International that I do not want to see a situation where you have to dismantle the crane, pack your suitcases and go home after the completion of the project. I want you to undertake more aid projects and make more contributions to Liberia's post-war rebuilding process. To do this, you are required to show that you are a credible and reliable constructor who is welcomed by the Liberian construction market, which is expanding very rapidly. I am confident that you can prove your worthiness and credibility with the work you are doing.
Having made all these appeals, let me pass on to you my own personal massage: As a devoted envoy of China and a true friend of Liberia, I am fully prepared to do everything possible to promote bilateral friendship and cooperation in all fields, particularly in the field of education.
Thank you for your attention.