Sino-Sierra Leone partnership fortified with state visit and strategic agreements

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Before engaging in dialogue at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 28, 2024, Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted a reception ceremony in honour of Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio, who is on an official visit to China. Photo source: CNS Photo

29th February 2024 – (Beijing) President Xi Jinping of China welcomed the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, on a state visit that has seen the deepening of ties between the two nations under the auspices of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The visit, which began on Tuesday, underscores a burgeoning Sino-African relationship and cements a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two states.

President Bio inaugurated his five-day sojourn with a tribute at Beijing’s Monument to the People’s Heroes on Wednesday before his discussion with President Xi. This gesture set the tone for a series of talks aimed at bolstering the longstanding friendship and cooperation shared by the two countries.

During their meeting, President Xi extolled the virtues of the enduring China-Sierra Leone bond, highlighting mutual support in pivotal areas of economic, social, and global peacekeeping endeavours. The partnership has notably thrived through collaborative efforts during the Ebola outbreak and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Xi voiced China’s commitment to fostering a robust political trust with Sierra Leone, fuelling pragmatic cooperation for mutual benefit, and coordinating on international and regional matters. China’s readiness to support Sierra Leone’s development initiatives in agriculture, infrastructure, and human capacity building was affirmed, alongside advocating Chinese enterprise investment within the West African nation.

For his part, President Bio reiterated Sierra Leone’s allegiance to the one-China principle and endorsed China’s stance on sovereignty and territorial integrity. Bio expressed Sierra Leone’s eagerness to assimilate China’s developmental strategies, particularly within the BRI framework, seeking to expand cooperation in infrastructure, commerce, education, and public services.

The two leaders presided over the signing of multiple bilateral agreements, spanning BRI commitments to agricultural and economic development and the Global Development Initiative’s implementation. A joint statement was issued, reinforcing the intent to deepen the strategic cooperation.

Zhan Shiming, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, notes that this visit from President Bio, the first African leader hosted by President Xi this year, signifies the weight China places on the relationship. The reciprocal support in global initiatives has been a cornerstone of Sierra Leone’s backing of China on the international stage, while China actively champions Sierra Leone’s national development and stability.

The collaboration is set to concentrate on several sectors, including agriculture and infrastructure, with Song Wei of Beijing Foreign Studies University indicating that the partnership aims to bolster regional peace and counteract the destabilising effects of military coups in West Africa.

Amid intensifying global strategic competition, particularly from Western nations, China views the enhancement of ties with Sierra Leone as a strategic asset, Song added.