The Chinese Ambassador to The Gambia, His Excellency Zhang Jiming congratulated President Yahya Jammeh on the anniversary July 22nd coup celebration and what he said are laudable progresses achieved in the past decades, especially in education.
Ambassador Jiming was speaking at a ceremony where the Chinese government presented 12 Gambian students with scholarships to study in the Asian nation, which has become The Gambia’s newest diplomatic partner.
The Gambia resumed diplomatic relations with China in April and bilateral ties have grown stoutly since.
Jiming said the two nations normalizing relations is in common pursuit to meet development goals that work for the best interest of the people of China and The Gambia.
Though with little interest in The Gambia, Beijing is expected to deepen economic and commercial cooperation with Banjul and coordinate and cooperate on international and regional issues.
But experts say China is looking for puppet allies especially in Africa – searching far and wide for allies to back its grab of the South China Sea. At least 35 of the countries that supported China in the South China Sea dispute are from Africa, including its newest diplomatic partner, The Gambia, which is kind of odd and the unlikely type of nation to be involved.
Just weeks after resuming relations in April, The Gambia said China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters and supported Beijing’s position not to accept and participate in the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Republic of Philippines in its notification and statement of claim to the Secretariat of the Law of the Sea Convention, on the grounds that the arbitral tribunal under the Law of the Sea Convention has no jurisdiction in pronouncing a verdict on maritime boundaries in the South China Sea.
The Gambia was the first to support China in the South China sea case then followed Kenya, Lesotho, Togo, Niger, Sudan and other African nations where Beijing has given contracts to Chinese companies building infrastructure across Africa, not to local companies. It is like a new scramble for Africa.
But around the same time, The Gambia started relations with Russia, a country that China is also court and has reasons to dislike the Permanent Court of Arbitration but China is known for always having a group of implausible allies like North Korea and East Timor. Now add The Gambia.
But China or Russia was not the first communist country that established formal relations with. Before the powerhouses, there was Cuba , which brought in doctors accused of wrong diagnosis and there was Venezuela, where students on scholarships were said to have lived under difficult circumstances.
The Gambia ended its two-decade checkbook diplomacy with Taiwan in the fall of 2013. Taipei said Banjul wanted nearly $10 million aid without providing proper project documents prompting President Yahya Jammeh to unexpectedly severe ties. Jammeh broke The Gambia’s ties with China to start his friendship with Taiwan. China built The Gambia’s only national soccer stadium after it gained independence from British rule.
Taiwan has trained many Gambians to become petrochemical and civil engineers with hundreds of others in many disciplines. At least a high school was built and a science and technology college was being constructed before relations ended. With the new scholarship program from China, a question pops up: did Beijing take cues from Taipei?
But is China so like The Gambia? Both countries blame colonialism and the West for a lot of wrongs in their countries and of course, are repressive and top abusers of the rights of their citizens.
“Since the advent of modern times, China experienced untold sufferings from colonialism, imperialism, and domestic turmoil and faced its greatest perils,” said Ambassador Jiming.
China says there are there are plans and projects in the pipeline which both nations will start implementing for the benefit of our two countries and peoples as The Gambia, now called the North Korea of Africa, cozy up with communist China and Russia.
The Gambia is facing serious challenges: tens of millions of European Union funding have been frozen, U.S. aids are virtually non-existent, the country is not benefitting from the AGOA program and the Millennium Challenge Fund, and the economy is performing badly with domestic borrowing at 100% of the GDP.
The ouster of Moammar Ghadaffi of Libya, the severing of ties with Iran and Taiwan has left a huge hole in The Gambia government’s finances. Jammeh has since turned to the Arab World, declaring the popular holiday making destination for Scandinavians and British tourist an Islamic Republic. The strategy made little progress for the majority moderate Muslim country.
Aid from China therefore even if contracts are given to Chinese firms will go a long way for The Gambia but will Beijing shift to Taiwan type checkbook diplomacy?