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Namibia - China Relations

Namibia and China enjoy excellent relations based on historical ties and current bilateral trade and development assistance. The size of the Chinese community in Namibia is estimated at between 3,000 and 4,000. China provided significant financial support to the ruling SWAPO party during the liberation struggle, and it continues to maintain close political, financial, and commercial ties to SWAPO. The Chinese government has given the GRN over 1 billion Namibian dollars since independence (USD 100 million), and Beijing has funded a number of large construction projects involving government buildings, including a new official residence for the President and a promised military academy. Bilateral trade soared from USD 74 million in 2003 to nearly USD 400 million four years later.

Ties have only strengthened since 2007, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Namibia and the two governments signed an agreement for a concessionary loan and a credit line -- each valued at approximately USD 130 million -- as well as initiated several cooperative agreements on economic technology, human resources, education and tourism.

In a country in which anti-colonial rhetoric still resonates, the refrain that the Chinese presence in Namibia is growing too large and influential and that the country has been sold to its Asian friends, is becoming increasingly common. An April Fools Day 2009 joke in a local German-language newspaper, which featured an article stating that Windhoek street signs would soon be posted in Chinese, resulted in numerous angry calls and letters to the editor. Business owners, particularly those in the northern regions near the Angolan border, and labor unions were becoming increasingly outspoken on the issue and began asking the government to intervene.

Resentment against Chinese companies, which maintain a heavy presence in Namibia's construction sector, is growing, as the general public believes they receive preferential treatment in awarding of government tenders and fail to comply with Namibia's labor laws. There is also a perception that the Chinese, many of whom own shops in the northern part of the country, near the Angolan border (over 500 retail stores in the small town of Oshikongo), do not make an effort to assimilate or learn local languages. It is also commonly believed that immigration authorities overlook visa fraud and grant entry permits to Chinese who claim to be investors when in reality they intend to open retail shops.

Chinese construction companies are often criticized for skirting labor regulations and winning government tenders despite, some allege, not complying with all the requirements for submission of bids. Chinese business people are frequently accused publicly (but without many concrete examples) of bribing public officials to win government contracts. In fact, the perception that Chinese business people bribe government officials is so pervasive that the leading guide book on anti-corruption contains a cartoon of a Chinese man handing a bag of cash to a government official during a ceremony celebrating the award of a construction tender.

Military cooperation with China is significant. China has an extensive bi-lateral cooperation effort with Namibia that includes Namibia-based pilot training, donations of Chinese military hardware as well as China-based professional military training for NDF personnel. In 2007 alone almost 30 military personnel attended training courses in China. Senior Ministry of Defense personnel make regular trips to China and often look east when making decisions.

China's focus in Namibia is mainly economic and commercial, with an underlying political objective of maintaining Namibian support for Chinese positions on certain issues (One China policy, Taiwan, UN, etc.). Chinese firms dominate the Namibian construction industry and have faced numerous allegations, including by some government officials, that they have improperly won government construction tenders. Local construction companies and human rights groups have accused Chinese firms of disregarding labor laws and of paying workers less than industry-mandated minimum wages.

Small Chinese retail operations have a growing presence across Namibia in trade and the sale of household goods. There are indications that local Namibians have growing resentment for the Chinese retail enterprises that are reportedly adversely affecting Namibian small and medium enterprises in rural Namibia.

China's long-term interests in Namibia are tied to Namibia's raw materials (uranium, zinc, and liquid natural gas that could be produced in the future), as well as interest in possible large-scale Namibian mineral exports to China and increased Chinese participation in infrastructure development in Namibia.

China has a space tracking station located on the Namibian coast.

In 2013, the friendly and cooperative relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Namibia maintained a sound momentum of growth, and further progress was made in the exchanges and cooperation in all fields.

The two countries enjoyed frequent political exchanges and everdeepening friendship and mutual trust. In February, Commerce Minister Chen Deming visited Namibia. In March, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Wan Jifei visited Namibia. In March, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and founding President Sam Nujoma sent congratulatory letters to Xi Jinping on his election as President. In May, CPPCC Vice Chairman Ma Biao visited Namibia. Namibian founding President Nujoma, Deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku, Vice Chairperson of the National Council Margaret Mensah, and Secretary-General of the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO Party) Nangolo Mbumba visited China or attended international conferences in China.

Progress was made in economic cooperation and trade between the two countries. In 2013, the two governments signed two agreements on economic and technical cooperation. The Husab (formerly known as Rossing South) uranium project with investment from a consortium formed by China General Nuclear Power Group and the China-Africa Development Fund was officially launched. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the two sections of DR 3608 and MR 67 of the Namibian Northern Highway upgrading project supported by Chinese concessional loans.

New steps were taken in exchanges in culture, education, press and space and there was growing mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples. An art troupe from Tianjin held a "Happy Chinese New Year" gala in Namibia. The artist group "Embrace China" organized by All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese gave performances in Namibia. A national art troupe of Namibia staged performances in China. The inauguration ceremony of the Confucius Institute jointly established by China University of Geosciences and the University of Namibia was held in Windhoek, capital of Namibia. Xinhua News Agency and Namibia Press Agency signed a cooperation agreement whereby Xinhua news services became available in Namibia. The Chinese Space Tracking, Telemetry and Command Station in Namibia successfully supported the Shenzhou-10 manned space mission.

In July 2013, the Chinese government provided US$200,000 in cash as emergency assistance to the Namibian government for fighting drought. On 11 October, the new Namibian Ambassador to China Ringo Abed presented his credentials to President Xi Jinping.

On February 5, 2016 local time, Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks in Windhoek with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah of Namibia. Wang Yi said, Namibia has maintained political stability and economic development for a long time. In recent years, Namibia has proposed to develop economy, improve people's livelihood, eliminate poverty, and achieve the "Second Revolution" goal of national economic independence, which shows new bright prospects.

Wang Yi said, China stood firmly with Namibia in striving for the national liberation and will become Namibia's most reliable cooperation partner in its course of pursuing economic independence. The important meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Hage Geingob during the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) charted the course for China-Namibia relations. Both sides shall convert the ten major China-Africa cooperation plans proposed by President Xi Jinping to concrete actions in China-Namibia cooperation, the traditional friendship between the two countries to mutually beneficial cooperation achievements, and Namibia's rich resources to the engine in national development.

On June 23, 2016, Assistant Foreign Minister Qian Hongshan met with the outgoing Namibian Ambassador to China Ringo Abed. Qian Hongshan spoke positively of Ringo Abed's contributions to the development of China-Namibia relations and deepening bilateral communication and cooperation during his tenure. It is hoped that he will continuously care for and support the cause of China-Namibia friendship after leaving the post. Ringo Abed expressed that harboring profound feelings towards China, he is willing to continue to make contribution to Namibia-China friendship and cooperation after leaving office.

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Page last modified: 09-09-2016 20:05:24 ZULU