Putting China-Zambia Ties in Top Gear
The brand-new comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership has done justice to wide-ranging diplomatic and economic growth points while positioning relations as a catalyst for Sino-African unity in the new era.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema recently led a highly successful visit to China, which culminated in the elevation of all-weather ties to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.” This landmark chapter was unveiled in a joint statement between the two countries in Beijing. During the visit, China said it has always viewed and developed China-Zambia relations from a strategic and long-term perspective and stands ready to work with Zambia to transform the profound traditional friendship into a strong driving force for win-win cooperation in the new era and push bilateral relations to a new level.
It is a fitting tribute to relations that have encompassed political mutual trust for nearly six decades. Moving forward, time-tested ties are set to dial up trade through local currencies and expand cooperation in key sectors such as infrastructure construction, agriculture, mining, and clean energy.
Zambia and China’s embrace of a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership should be seen as a massive win for the Global South. Their partnership provides an even stronger framework to advance practical cooperation in Africa under the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and arrives on the heels of Zambia’s new membership in the GDI Group of Friends. Both sides have agreed to accelerate their joint implementation of major development outcomes in Africa. That includes high-level collaboration outcomes under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue. Together, Zambia and China are on course to deepen their championship of Africa’s development rights and representation in global affairs while joining forces to declare 2024 as the “Year of Business Cooperation” between both sides.
For over two decades, China and Zambia’s trade volume has shot up by an annual increase exceeding 15%. Flourishing trade is also complemented by dozens of projects financed through China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Elevation of ties to the comprehensive strategic level promises to further scale up high-quality BRI cooperation on a range of new levels. These include win-win partnerships in green and low-carbon development, increased Chinese business investments in Zambia’s new-energy battery space, and a “one-stop service platform” introduced by Zambia to cater to Chinese business interests in specialized economic cooperation zones.
On the diplomatic front, Hichilema’s trip was also a potent reminder of the deep bilateral symbolism that accompanies their historic relations. It is reflected in China’s support for Zambia’s debt restructuring process under the G20 Common Framework, unwavering support for each other’s economic transformations, and demonstrated resolve against external interference. That sense of solidarity is likely to strengthen, with both leaders describing their countries as “role models” in safeguarding the common interests of the developing world. “President Hichilema’s state visit to China was a complete success and is of great significance to the development of China-Zambia relations and a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future,” read their joint statement.
On peace and security, Hichilema’s visit also gave more strength to a principled position against mutually recognized irritants to global stability. That includes conflict spillovers in food, energy, and finance that have disadvantaged the developing world and form an important part of Lusaka’s redoubled support for the Global Security Initiative. A joint agreement to strengthen high-level exchanges between their military forces is also a vital leap toward strengthening Lusaka’s gains against transnational crimes, underscoring their dedication to a “comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable” view of security in the new era.
Thus, China and Zambia’s imperative to “make a success” of their celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties next year is worthy of anticipation. After all, their brand-new comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership has done justice to wide-ranging diplomatic and economic growth points while positioning relations as a catalyst for Sino-African unity in the new era.
Hannan R. Hussain is a foreign affairs commentator, author and recipient of the Fulbright Award.