China and Zambia have taken significant steps to bolster their bilateral ties, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema meeting in Beijing on Friday, September 15th, to upgrade their relationship to a ”comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.” This move underscores China’s commitment to deepening its relationship with the resource-rich African nation, particularly in sectors like infrastructure, agriculture, mining, and clean energy.
During their meeting, President Xi emphasized China’s support for Zambia in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security, and development interests. He also expressed China’s desire to see more high-quality Zambian products enter the Chinese market and encouraged further Chinese investment in Zambia. This comes as Zambia seeks to restructure its external debt with China and explore greater trade opportunities with the world’s second-largest economy.
Zambia, rich in resources like copper, has been a significant focus for Chinese investments, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past decade, China has invested in more than 30 projects in Zambia, spanning sectors from energy to agriculture and aviation. These investments, worth an estimated $11.3 billion, highlight China’s strategic interest in the nation.
The Tanzania-Zambia Railway, a symbol of China-Africa friendship, stands as a testament to the deep-rooted ties between the two countries. Initiated five decades ago, this railway remains China’s largest foreign aid project in Africa. President Xi remarked on the special bond between the two nations, stating, “The Tanzania-Zambia Railway is a symbol of China-Africa friendship, and the people of the two countries have a special friendship with each other.”
Zambia’s recent economic challenges, including becoming the first African country to default on its external debts in 2020, have brought its relationship with China into sharper focus. In June, China, along with other bilateral creditors, restructured Zambia’s $6.3 billion in loans, with $4.1 billion of that owed to China. This restructuring showcases China’s significant role as Zambia’s largest bilateral lender.
President Hichilema expressed gratitude for China’s support, especially regarding the African Union’s recent accession to the G20 and China’s role in addressing Zambia’s debt challenges. Both nations released a joint statement emphasizing their commitment to using local currency settlements in trade and investment, a move aimed at reducing exchange costs and mitigating exchange rate risks.
Hichilema said, “Zambia abides by the one-China principle, highly appreciates the guiding concepts and principles of Chinese-style modernization, and hopes to learn from China’s development experience.”
Furthermore, the two countries have agreed to strengthen cooperation in mineral exploration and will hold high-level exchanges between their militaries. Zambia has also extended an invitation to Chinese mining enterprises to continue their active participation in mining cooperation. Notably, China accepts one-fifth of Zambian exports, with a majority of the exports being copper.
As President Hichilema’s visit to China concludes, the strengthened ties between the two nations signal a new era of cooperation and mutual benefit, with both countries poised to reap the rewards of their deepened relationship.