The Belt and Road Initiative in the context of the China-Liberia Relationship: a Liberian perspective on how China is working to change the development narrative in developing countries

By Deanna Seakor

First and foremost, permit me to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Embassy of China in Liberia through His Excellency Ren Yisheng for affording my institution The AnalystNewspaper the opportunity to participate in such marvelous media engagement program that isexpanding my worldview about China as a powerhouse in international relations and infrastructure development. As a young journalist from a developing nation such as Liberia, I have recently witnessed the impact of China’s growing development partnership with my own country that suffered 14 years of civil conflict, but is now on the path of national recovery.

Officially launched in 2013 by the Chinese government under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) remains the main avenue China deals with other countries around the world, especially developing countries like Liberia.

The BRI focuses on the development of large infrastructure projects, and with the huge deficit in infrastructural development on the continent, the initiative has come to constitute a major driver for rapid economic development and transformation in so many African countries.

It is important to stress here that though African Countries began subscribing to this scheme between 2018 and 2019, there are ample indications that the pre-BRI era witnessed China committing assistance to Africa through such mechanism like the China’s second Africa Policy and the “three networks and industrialization principle” which was based on construction of roads, railways, aviation networks, industrial development, thus the previous arrangements have already incorporated many of the concepts and ideas of BRI.

Therefore, it is safe to say that BRI should not be seen as an entirely new concept but rather a continuation of the friendly and win-win China-Africa relations established in previous years.Though Liberia established relations with China in 1977 and the relationship has been cordial and beneficial to the both countries over the years, it is important to note that the Belt and Road Initiative which Liberia entered into marked the major watershed of the cooperation that has existed between the two countries.

Liberia expressed its desire in joining the BRI when President George Manneh Weah on

September 12018 while having a bilateral meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping

preparatory to the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) the same year told Jinping that Liberia was interested in signing on to the initiative.

In agreeing to the new cooperation, the two governments have reasoned to leverage on enhancing policy coordination, deepen mutual beneficial and practical cooperation and mutual learning between civilizations, with the view to realizing joint development and common prosperity.

Liberia’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs was to later on at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)on behalf of the government of Liberia while Mr. Ning Jizhe, Vice-Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission signed on behalf of the People’s Republic of China. This was the final outcome of the series of negotiations and discussions held between officials of the two governments in Beijing as well as those of the two Presidents.

Since the signing of the BRI understanding, the Chinese government has made some interventions in critical areas which are cardinal considerations under the flagship of the national development plan of the government, the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). To date, according to sources from both governments, some of the areas of intervention include health care, infrastructure construction, food security, and human resource development, with fruitful results being achieved.

Under this bilateral development framework, China has ensured that the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center and the Bamboo and Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Planting Technology Project in Liberia have been fully implemented with several hundreds of trainees graduating from these vocational institutions. At present, the two sides are actively implementing such development projects as the capital overpass bridges, clinical diagnosis and treatment laboratory, LBS expansion and upgrade, as well as the Somalia-Sinkor Road and Bridge. The China-Liberia development effort is expected to expand cooperation in the fields of agricultural modernization, industrialization development, digital economy, green economy, smart city andtelecommunication, electricity, and roads, among others.

Furthermore, the Chinese government, in implementing the Nine Programs of FOCAC, has applied a zero-tariff policy on 98% of imported goods from Liberia, and has expressed readiness to work with the Liberian side to build China-Liberia win-win cooperation into a demonstration zone for BRI international Cooperation in West Africa.

The BRI no doubt has been a major leeway towards the rapid development and awesome transformation of so many developing countries such as Pakistan, Laos, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, etc. Though these countries have their own peculiar development and project needs, there is a common understanding that China’s support to these countries have been massive in recent times.

The China-Africa relations with respect to the BRI is to forge a closer cooperation between the Chinese and the African countries as well as seeking to further expand on the existing cooperation that is anchored on a win-win, mutual respect for the sovereignty of the countries concerned and non-interference in the internal affairs of each country while promoting mutual and sustainable development.

In a similar vein the China-ASEAN is to underscore the cooperation between and the rest of the Asian countries as they all move towards mutual benefits from cooperation and understanding.

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of