Exclusive Interview with Ambassador Zhao Zhiyuan

Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) conducted exclusive interview with H.E. Zhao Zhiyuan, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, and discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues as well as issues of common concerns; the following are excerpts from the interview.

 Question: First, we would like to thank you for your willingness to have an interview with ENA, just to kick off, recently, an Ethiopian high-level delegation paid an official visit to China; how do you look at its importance in refreshing the bilateral relationship between these two countries? 

Amb Zhao Zhiyuan:  We are very pleased to see the successful visit to China of the delegation led by H.E. Ahmed Shide, which has further advanced bilateral economic and trade relations. During the visit, the 10th Session of Economic, Scientific, technical Cooperation and Trade Joint Commission was held with the Ministry of Commerce. This is the first meeting of this kind between China and an African country in 2023, which fully reflects the good wishes of the two governments to deepen cooperation and common development. H.E. Ahmed Shide’s visit to China and the convening of the joint commission have injected new impetus to the relationship between the two countries, contributing to the building of China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. During the visit, China and Ethiopia have achieved fruitful economic and trade cooperation results:

1Bilateral field. China and Ethiopia had discussions on expanding cooperation in sectors such as trade, investment, development assistance, infrastructure construction, and debt treatment, and reached a series of consensus. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of an investment and economic cooperation working group, which is of great significance for strengthening the construction of bilateral economic cooperation mechanisms and increasing policy support for economic and trade cooperation.

2Attracting investment. The two sides conducted in-depth discussions on boosting Chinese investment in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a vast market and huge development potential. Investment in key areas has always been an important part of the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. The Chinese side stated that it will continue to encourage and support domestic enterprises to participate in investment in Ethiopia’s agriculture, tourism, medicine, energy, mining, telecommunications and other fields. During the Minister of Finance’s visit to China this time, an investment promotion meeting was held by the Ethiopian Embassy to actively promote investment opportunities in Ethiopia and hold discussions with Chinese-funded enterprises, which achieved good results.

3Promoting trade. In recent years, the trade volume between China and Ethiopia has continued to increase, and the channels for Ethiopia to export coffee and other specialty products to China have been continuously smoothed, which has become a new highlight of China-Ethiopia economic and trade cooperation. During the meeting with H.E. Ahmed Shide, the Chinese side warmly welcomed the Ethiopian side to continue to actively participate in exhibition platforms such as the China International Import Expo, the Import and Export Fair, and the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, and at the same time make full use of the tariff-free treatment for 98 percent of products exported to China. China will work with Ethiopia to continuously optimize the trade structure between the two countries, and to develop measures to further facilitate the export of Ethiopian products to China.

Question: Ethiopia and China have enjoyed good bilateral economic relations over the past decades. In light of this, what are you doing on your capacity and the embassy at large to diversify and further strengthen these partnerships in the years to come?  

 Amb Zhao Zhiyuan:  The Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia has been taking practical actions to attract more Chinese companies to invest in Ethiopia and help Ethiopia’s manufacturing industry take off. In the past six months, I have traveled to almost all the states and major cities in Ethiopia, focusing on the main local industrial parks and manufacturing enterprises to get a comprehensive understanding of the development of Ethiopia’s industry, and thinking about the paths and methods for Chinese enterprises to participate in developing Ethiopia’s manufacturing industry. The Chinese Embassy has also been advocating the advantages and potential of the Ethiopian market to Chinese companies, sharing market information in a timely manner, and actively coordinating relevant parties to help Chinese investors establish contact with the competent authorities in Ethiopia. We are also actively working with the Ethiopian side to jointly improve the business environment by holding business environment workshops to solve the difficulties encountered by enterprises in Ethiopia and attract more enterprises to invest in this country. The Chinese Embassy will continue to spare no effort to strengthen cooperation in the manufacturing industry between China and Ethiopia, and explore deeper cooperation in areas such as the construction of special economic zones.

Question; China is making great strides in applying science and technology in multiple sectors as an important drive to its development; hence, what are some of the activities being carried out to facilitate sharing experience and knowledge transfer?

Amb Zhao Zhiyuan:  We are very pleased to see that Ethiopia has placed scientific and technological development in an important position in its national strategy in recent years, and we are also supporting Ethiopia’s scientific and technological development in our own way. The first is to strengthen cooperation in knowledge and skills. In 2022, the Ministry of Commerce of China enrolled 380 Ethiopian students in degree programs, and provided high-quality short-term capacity building programs for more than 2,000 students from various departments in Ethiopia, offering valuable opportunities for Ethiopian government officials and experts to learn advanced science and technology in China. In the future, we will also strengthen communication with relevant domestic and Ethiopian departments, optimize the capacity building programs to promote more effective transfer of advanced technology to Ethiopia.

 The second is to encourage high-tech enterprises to deeply engage in the Ethiopian market. Our enterprises in telecommunications, medicine, agriculture and other fields have gone into production and operation in Ethiopia for many years, which has not only promoted the economic development of Ethiopia, but also introduced advanced technology to the country. Next, we will also encourage more high-tech industries to invest in Ethiopia, so as to drive the development of science and technology through industrial development. The third is to focus on cultivating local high-tech enterprises in Ethiopia. Ethiopian enterprises are good at innovation, and many excellent start-ups have emerged. As long as we continue to pay attention and create an environment, I believe that the overall technological development has a promising future.

Question: The conflict in the northern parts of Ethiopia has ended with a peace agreement. However, reconstructing these war-torn regions demand a huge amount of resources. In this respect, what is China doing to support the Ethiopian government in its effort to rehabilitate the regions?

We welcome and appreciate the peace agreement reached by relevant parties under the auspices of the African Union. We hope that the peace agreement will be implemented smoothly and Ethiopia will restore prosperity and stability as soon as possible, and at the same time focus on economic and social construction. Ethiopia is the “anchor of stability” in the Horn of Africa. We believe that peace and stability in Ethiopia is also of great significance to the long-term stability of the region.

China is willing to actively participate in Ethiopia’s post-war reconstruction and provide support to Ethiopia in the fields of humanitarian aid, health and education. At the same time, when the time is mature, we will actively promote investment and trade cooperation to help Ethiopia realize rapid economic and social development, and improve the living standards of the Ethiopian people. At present, I am closely following the situation in the north to make preparations for China’s participation in the reconstruction progress.

Question: China recently released the concept paper for its Global Security Initiative; as a result, how will you collaborate with Ethiopia to maintain peace and security throughout the region of Horn of Africa?

Amb Zhao Zhiyuan:  Chinese president Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) in 2022, which has received extensive endorsement. To maintain the peace and security in the Horn of Africa as a whole, China is ready to conduct cooperation to actively implement the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa on the basis of the GSI. Since China put forward the outlook, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Affairs of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has visited countries in the region for many times. China supported Ethiopia in the First China-Horn of Africa Peace, Good Governance and Development Conference, which was a resounding success, making great contributions to the peace and development of the region. Together with Ethiopia and other countries in the region, China will continue intra-regional dialogues, accelerate the revitalization of the region and support our African friends in an African solution to African problems. Based on respect for countries in the region, China will play a constructive role in properly handling hotspot issues and actively contribute China's solution and strength to the peace and security in the Horn of Africa.




Ethiopian News Agency