Remarks by Amb Tan Jian on the Scholarship Awarding Ceremony at Jimma University
(April 5th, 2018, Jimma, Ethiopia)
Mr. Mekiyu Mohamed, Mayor of Jimma,
Prof. Fikre Lemessa, President of Jimma University,
Mr. Kora Tushune, VP of Jimma University,
Dr. Kibrom Tekleab, Dean of Faculty of Medical Science,
Dear teachers and students of the University,
A very good afternoon to all of you!
I am the ambassador of the PRC to the FDRE. I came from Addis Ababa to Jimma yesterday afternoon. Today is the Tomb Sweeping Day, an age-old tradition that we Chinese people give thanks to those passed away, to whom we owe our debt. This morning I visited Dr. Mei Gengnian's tomb, paying tribute to Dr. Mei.
It is my great pleasure to come to Jimma University to attend this scholarship awarding ceremony. First of all, I wish to congratulate the students of Jimma University on winning the scholarships. It is a recognition of your hard work and talent.
I also wish to thank Jimma University and the Faculty of Medical Science, for working with us in launching the scholarship project.
Please let me take this opportunity to make the following points.
First, a few words on Dr. Mei Gengnian as this scholarship is set up in the name of Dr. Mei.
In 1974, Dr. Mei came to Jimma as the leader of the first Chinese medical corps in Ethiopia. Living in a new environment, suffering from hypertension and heart disease, Dr. Mei worked tirelessly. For example, he once conducted 7 surgeries and treated 300 plus patients in a single day.
That day in 1975, Dr. Mei and his team traveled to Kaffatown to provide disaster relief. On his way back from Kaffatown to Jimma, he was killed in a car accident. He was 51 years of age.
Medical doctors are respected for reducing suffering of the patients and saving lives. Dr. Mei was more than that as he embodied the spirit of voluntarism, internationalism and humanitarianism. He took Africans as brothers and sisters. He left us with the legacy of hard working and fearless sacrifice.
We set up Dr. Mei Gengnian Scholarship to commemorate and publicize the spirit and legacy of Dr. Mei Gengnian.
Second, the importance of education can never be overestimated.
We Chinese believe in Confucius. One major tenet of Confucius teaching is the emphasis on education. That partly explains why some Asian economies have developed so rapidly. There are three kinds of resources: financial resources, natural resources, human resources. To me, human resources are the most important. When I say human resources, it is not just human brawn, more human brains. As we developing countries have human resources in abundance, the thing is how to exploit this bonanza.
If I am to give you any example, there is no better one than that of Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, your new Prime Minister, who was born and raised in a village 43 km away from Jimma. He is the leader of the second most populous country in Africa, and the youngest leader in Africa. I was told that when he was young, it took him two hours everyday to walk to the nearest school. In my view, education is a major contributor to his success.
In his inaugural speech three day ago, the new Prime Minister touched on education, which I quote: "As a big country and people, to reach the peak of the successes that we desire and also solve the problems that we have, we believe that the key solution is to be found in education and only in education."
China had the so-called Imperial exam for over more than a thousand years. It was the engine, motivation for many young people to realize their dream, and bring honour and glory to the families.
Education can make a difference – a big difference.
Third, we place our hope on you to further develop Ethiopia and further promote our bilateral relations. Ours is a very important relationship and your support and contribution is a must.
Both China and Ethiopia are age-old civilizations that have made great contribution to humanity. Let me give you an example. Coffee was discovered by Ethiopia, in a town called Kaffa not far away from here. Tea was discovered by China. Without coffee and tea, human being may enjoy eating but definitely not drinking. And life could be very boring.
Ethiopia is a great country. March 2nd marked the 122nd anniversary of the Victory of Adwa where Ethiopians made a historic triumph against the well equipped colonial invading forces.
As the only African country that has never been colonized, Ethiopia has inspired other African countries to win political independence.
With its double-digit growth for over a decade, Ethiopia could again inspire other African countries to achieve economic development.
We are with you and behind you. We want to build our bilateral relations a model for China-African relations, for South-South cooperation.
But we have challenges. A major one is that some people discrediting and China's investment in Africa, labeling China a neo-colonial power that grabbing natural resources from Africa, trapping African countries into debt crisis.
They are wrong.
Dr. Mei Gengnian came to Africa not for natural resources.
China helped build the railway between Tanzania and Zambia in the early 1970s not for natural resources.
China has been investing in Africa, building infrastructure and advancing industrialization - I call it three "I"s. This approach is somewhat different from that of the developed countries. For so many years, there have been teaching and preaching the merits of free trade. Yes, free trade is good -- no doubt about that. Yet we also know that free trade is not enough. It's not fair that Africans are at the bottom end of the global value chain and can only sell coffee beans just for a tiny amount of money.
Here comes the three "I"s. We need investment, infrastructure and industrialization. Let's join hands and work together to get rich. It is a shame that countries like China and Ethiopia with past glory and ancient civilization are still DEVELOPING countries today.
Let's change that, for the good of our peoples, for the good of the world.
Once again, thank you President, teachers and students of the University.
May the Sino-Ethiopian relations develop further.
Thank you very much.