An eye-opening encounter
By Ephrahim Bahemu  ·  2023-02-17  ·   Source: NO.8 FEBRUARY 23, 2023
Ephrahim Bahemu peers through a microscope during a visit to a Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company (COURTESY PHOTO)

"I am so happy to meet you, my African brother," "It's a pleasure to have friends visiting from afar," "Building an African-Chinese community with a shared future in the new era," "China will always be Africa's partner of mutual respect,"... 

These are just a handful of expressions I have often heard over the more than six months I have been in China.

They came from some Chinese friends and officials whom I met on different occasions in this beautiful country with the world's largest population and second largest economy.

As a citizen of Tanzania, a country where China is the No.1 foreign investor and a major business partner, the Chinese people's remarks about and reflections on Africa bear great significance for me and my colleagues.

Other developing countries can, without a doubt, draw lessons from China's progress. In terms of growth and poverty alleviation, i.e., eradicating extreme poverty as listed on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, China has set a unique world record, and people are trying to understand how it achieved this miracle.

As a guest journalist of the Public Diplomacy Association, I had the opportunity to visit several areas in China and witness many interesting and surprising examples of development.

Technology and digital innovation is one such area. China's numerous related innovations have made life easier, just think about its elaborate e-commerce system. Today, if I ask about an enduring memory of someone who has lived in China, one of the most common replies is "food delivery—anywhere, anytime." Millions of people have benefited from this business, which in turn greatly contributes to the Chinese economy.

When you are in China, you can easily see the digital economy at work as well as uncover the role of digital creativity in economic development and people's daily lives.

For me, many things grabbed my attention: the Chinese hospitality, the preservation of history and the country's great progress in construction, infrastructure and industrial development.

But the thing that interests me most is China's high level of safety. One rarely hears of crime in this country of more than 1.4 billion people. During my time in China, I have never heard of a robbery or a person getting attacked, rather unlike the scenario in other large countries where you often hear about shootings and gun attacks. The rates of crimes like robbery and physical violence are indeed very low in China.

Security cameras are almost everywhere and should any wrongdoing occur, the offender can, and will, be swiftly identified. Some critics say this type of pervasive monitoring interferes with people's privacy, but the use of security cameras is not about privacy invasion, but about the safety of the people and their property. You can go anywhere, anytime without the fear of getting robbed.

Among the many things that may surprise the country's visitors is the way grass, flowers and trees are cared for in different cities. When and where necessary, tree trunk and soil injections will be provided. In addition, many trees are protected from being damaged by human activity and their growth is followed up to ensure that they have the appearance they should.

Walking around with an African friend in the coastal city of Weihai, Shandong Province, we were surprised to see red roses planted alongside the roads.

People who visited China in the past have often said that it was completely normal to see big cities nationwide enveloped in heavy smog, even impacting one's breathing; now, you can see clear blue skies and breathe in clean air.

This is a testimony to the progress China has made in environmental protection and ecological civilization and how the country is forging a new relationship between humans and nature. A new, eye-opening era has arrived, indeed.

The author is a journalist based in Tanzania

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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