|Knowing China like the Back of His Hand|
Author: Duan Linna
Source: Africa Magazine
Date: April 11th, 2011
He loves Li Bai and Du Fu’s poems and admires Lao Zi and Confucius’ wisdom.
The Ambassador of Gabon to China knows his host country like the back of his hand
An exclusive interview of the Gabonese Ambassador to China – Emmanuel Mba Allo
(Africa Magazine, issue March, 2011)
The bonds that attach Gabon and China have been characterized by sincere friendship, confidence and esteem over 37 years. The dynamic and multiform cooperation between the two countries is imbued with these three sentiments. Gabonese ambassador Emmanuel Mba Allo said to Africa Magazine, “In the future, we look forward to closer political and economic cooperation between Gabon and China for mutual benefit.”
Staff reporter of this Magazine - Duan Linna
If a reader assumes that Emmanuel Mba Allo, Gabonese Ambassador to China coming from Africa far away, knows little about China, you will be wrong. He talks in great eloquence like an “old China hand”, as he is very familiar with China’s history of five thousand years, including the historical evolution, various dynastic figures and major events, being able to recount them with ease. His way of talking beams with a self-confidence arising out of his familiarity with Chinese culture. On the Spring Festival Card he presented, the words “Gabon Rise” is printed, making his pride for his native country more than evident.
He knows China like the back of his hand.
Allo’s office located at No. 36, Guanghua Road, Beijing, brims with a combined charm of Chinese and Gabonese elements. Apart from the family snapshots on a table against the wall, figurines of the full-bellied Maitreya and Li Bai, one of China’s leading classic poets, occupy prominent positions on the tea table in front of the sofa and on the desk.
Allo, who came to China to assume his post on September 24th in 2004, has a career spanning across two domains, the mass media and diplomacy. Before going to work for a Gabonese TV Station in 1980, he majored in political studies, international relations, mass media and sociology at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, and in international law at the hometown of Hugo Grotius, father of modern international law, in the Netherlands.
“When I was a young boy, I got to know about China through reading the Travels of Marco Polo. During the time he was studying in Belgium, Allo’s interest in China was further aroused by lectures on Chinese history given by the professors. “The Chinese civilization of five thousand years is one of vigor and continuity. I have visited the terracotta warriors at the Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum in Xi’an. Though they are images of China more than 2,000 years ago, each terracotta figure looks so alive that they appear to be like the faces of the Chinese people that I see on the street.”
When Allo was saying this, his eyes shone. “China is a country with a long history. In the Ming Dynasty, Zheng He sailed to the Western Oceans and visited many places, bringing an open China to the world. However after Zheng He came back home, the dynastic ruler decided to make China into the most closed country in the world at the time and was soon replaced by the Qing Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty had some enlightened emperors, who brought about prosperity to the people and improved their livelihood. And then, Mr. Sun Yat-sen led a revolution that ended the dynastic rule. The brightest moment in China’s modern history is when Chairman Mao Zedong made it possible for the Chinese people to stand up on their own feet!”
Reporter: Which dynasty are you most interested in?
Allo: The Han, Tang and Song Dynasties. These times were the golden era in ancient China. At that time, China had deeply influenced the current cultures of Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Famous poets like Li Bai and Du Fu all lived in that epoch. I went to Mianyang, Sichuan Province, to attend the Li Bai Festival, a.k.a. International Li Bai Cultural Tourism Festival, in April 2006. I love Li Bai’s poems very much.
Prior to the above mentioned dynasties, in the Spring/Autumn and Warring States Period, many personalities of great wisdom such as Lao Zi, Confucius and Sun Zi emerged. In literature, China’s Four Great Classics are of supreme values. I have read the translated versions. You know, if you want to know the nature of a county, you must learn its literature, and the Four Great Classics have been made into movies. I also like to read political books and watch movies, for instance, the movie about Marco Polo and Kublai Khan in the Yuan Dynasty.
Reporter: You must be well versed in the modern history of China.
Allo: From Wuchang uprising to Sun Yat-sen’s Kuomintang and later to the Chiang Kai Shek period; then the Kuomintang and the Communist Party’s joint resistance against Japanese aggression, and down to the civil war between the two parties, and then the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1st, 1949, the modern history of China is magnificent. I have been to many places in China, such as Luoyang, Kaifeng, Hangzhou and Nanjing etc. I am very interested in the cities that are connected with the history of China’s revolution and Chinese Communist Party, especially Yan’an. Among my friends, Yan’an is a city that is often mentioned. When talking about China, we think of Yan’an. I have been there and seen the cave dwellings in person, so I have firsthand understanding. The Chinese people are not slaves of any one and that is very important. Moreover, not a Chinese person will ever be a slave for any one any more.
From the late 1970s, Mr. Deng Xiaoping’s introduction of the Reform and Opening policies, which has been taken over by the successive generations of Chinese leaders, has made it possible for us see China’s economic takeoff, which we now know by just looking at the cars going about outside the window. Now, China has witnessed the tremendous achievements of the Reforms and Opening up, incomparable against any country in the world, being the most successful. No country in history with a population of 1.3 billion has been able to keep the annual economic growth rate at 8%-11% in as long as 30 years.
Allo’s knowledge about China went beyond the imagination of the reporter. When he was told this, Allo laughed and said modestly, “You will find a Chinese person who knows about Gabon more than I do, for sure.”
Ambassador Allo with terracotta warriors at Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum
Friends and Brothers
Ambassador Allo was responsible for the 8 p.m. news at the Gabonese TV Station in the 1980s. After working for the mass media for 10 years, he turned into diplomatic work. “In fact, the two roles of being a reporter and a diplomat are somewhat interrelated. To be a diplomat, one needs to watch and listen carefully and then pass on the message upon making analysis, the same as a reporter does.” Allo says.
Allo took up the post of non-resident ambassador of Gabon for Central and South American affairs from November 1989 to February 1991 and then worked in New York as Gabon’s representative to the UN from February 1991 to the end of 1994. Then, as ambassador of Gabon, he traveled frequently between Geneva and Vienna and spent four years there. He was in charge of Gabon’s international affairs in Sao Tome and Principe from March, 1999 to August 2004 before he came to serve as the ambassador to Chin in September 2004.
On Gabon-China relations, Allo said all African countries are good friends with China, being close like buddies. African countries are very happy to see the achievements made by China. When Africa encounters a problem, China is always ready to help with sincerity, and when China needs help, African countries are also ready to make their utmost efforts. Since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974, the relationship between Gabon and China has been sincere, friendly, mutually trusting and respectful. These heartfelt feelings have permeated bilateral cooperation, which is full of vitality and in diversified forms.
In the economic field, the bilateral trade volume between Gabon and China was close to USD945 million from January to July, 2010. With the start of the three aid projects, the Belinga iron ore exploration, Poubara hydropower station and 2010 Africa Cup stadium, the trade between Gabon and China will keep going with the trend of high speed development.
Allo emphasizes that 2011 is the 37th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Mr. Hadj Omar Bongo, late president of Gabon, is an old friend of the Chinese people who visited China for 11 times and met with all the four generations of Chinese leaders, having witnessed the growth of the New China. Mr. El Bongo Ondimba, the present president, has always devoted to and never wavered in enhancing the friendly cooperation between the two sides. “We must say, African countries need to learn from
On China’s help to Gabon, Allo mentioned a Chinese person’s name in particular. Wei Zhenxing is the inventor and one of the creators of the production process of an anti-malaria drug, arteannuin. Allo says, “There is a child dying from malaria every 30 seconds in Africa and the invention of arteannuin has saved many African lives. To the African peoples, Wei Zhenxing is a hero who has helped a lot of people. His contribution has played a very important role in China-Africa cooperation.”
Having worked for more than 6 years in China, Allo has kept his passion for news alive and contributed articles to news agencies and magazines in Gabon, Belgium and France. He says, the Belgians and French are paying close attention to
Message to Africa Magazine
Land of Plenty and Prosperity
Gabon is a good place to experience the flourishing life forms, where the equator strides across the country and the sun shines all year round. The Atlantic brings about plenty of rainfall, and the local people are proud of the saying, “In Gabon, if you cast out a stone, seedlings will grow out of it”. Because of that, forests account for over 85% of the total territory of Gabon, making it a country possessing the highest per capita forestland in the world.
As the Ambassador to China, Allo hopes to inform the Chinese readers about the situation in Gabon through Africa Magazine. He disclosed that the three pillars pushing the economic growth of Gabon are composed of the green, manufacturing and service industries. Take forestry as an example, Gabon has rich forest resources, with forestry reserves second only to the Congo (Kinshasa) and Cameroon, being the third largest in Africa. Of the nearly 4,000 rare tree species in Gabon, Angouma is the most cherished, as the Gabonese people regard it as the “national tree”, which can be found in the national emblem. This tree, tall, light, supple and tough, is believed to reflect the national character of the Gabonese people, tough and resilient. It brings about actual benefits to the country, as of the timber exported from Gabon, Angouma accounts for more than half of the total volume.
Just like the spirit represented by the Angouma, Gabon’s economy has seen vigorous development. According to the global trade ranking released by the World Bank in 2010, Gabon is positioned 158th, having gained 40 places comparing to 2009.
“Forests bring about a lot of gifts to us and we have great affections for them. In September 2002, when President Bongo participated in the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, he expressed the hope of setting aside 11% of our territory to establish 13 natural parks to protect the unique species of nature and the over-400,000-year-long archaeologically proven history of our country. As a member of the Forestry Minister Conference of Six Central African Countries, Gabon and the other members have made joint efforts in protecting the tropical rain forests, which account for nearly 30% of the world’s total.”
On the Environment Sustainability Index List released by Yale University in 2005, Gabon stood at 12th place in the world, and number one in Africa. Allo commented that Gabon has made ceaseless efforts in achieving sustainable development. Thanks to the strong protection measures, Gabon boasts rich tourism resources, proudly being the Land of Plenty and Prosperity. What Allo says is absolutely true. On the per capita GDP ranking of the world released by IMF in 2009, Gabon ranked 65th with USD7468, higher than China’s place, and is one of 11 African countries that positioned among the top 100. Gabon has also made plans to attract 100,000 high-end tourists a year by 2020.
The Ambassador’s Recommendation – Ecotourism in Gabon
Gabon has 13 natural parks, each one boasting unique characteristics. If one wants to admire the
Furthermore, Gabon has the Ogooue wetland, which is too good to miss, being the second largest fresh water delta on African continent and natural habitat for the unique aquatic animal, manatee. It is also one of the world heritage sites.