May6, 2016 By Alusine Sesay
It was in the first week of March 2016, when I received a phone call from the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, informing me about a seminar in China. My phone rang and the voice of the Second Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, Gou Xin, echoed: “Hello Mr. Sesay, we would be having a three week seminar for journalists in China and we want you to attend, will you be interested?” I replied in the positive and Mr. Xin further told me that he would send my name to the Foreign Affairs Ministry for confirmation. Two weeks later, I received another phone call from him, informing me that my name had been confirmed for the trip to China.
Gou Xin told me to visit the Chinese Economic Embassy at Hill Station in Freetown for some documentation. I went there as directed and met a gentleman, who provided me some travelling documents, which I filled. He referred me for medical examination at the Jui China – Sierra Leone Friendship Hospital. “Go and see Doctor Kanu and he would direct you as to how you should go about the medical.” Indeed I was the first to see Doctor Kanu the following morning at the hospital and he provided me with the necessary directives. Fortunately for me, the medical examination went successfully. I was later given a three-month Chinese visa although the Seminar in Beijing should last for only three weeks.
We left the shores of Freetown on 2 April onboard Air France airbus 330 at 7:30pm and headed for neighbouring Guinea, where we spent about 2hrs. We left Guinea at about 9:30pm and arrived at Charles D’ Gulle Airport, Paris, in France at 5:46am on 3 April. We spent about 18 hours on transit at the airport and later headed for Guanghou, one of the provinces in China, from where our flight to Beijing was delayed from 20:20 to 23:30 pm. We finally arrived at the Beijing Airport at 2:30 am on 4 April. We waited there for some few moments after claiming our luggage and made some few phone calls to one of our guides. Finally, John the man who would ‘sail us throughout the journey’ of the three weeks seminar arrived at the airport, holding a placard with the inscription ‘Seminar for Media Officials and Journalists of Sierra Leone.’ We entered a bus and headed for the training base at Shunyi District in Beijing.
We were to attend the Seminar for Media Officials and Journalists of Sierra Leone, organised by the Research and Training Institute of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) in Beijing. SAPPRFT is the largest educational institute for media and it has trained over 2,300 people from 143 countries in the past ten years. The theme of the seminar was ‘Media Cooperation: Open a new chapter of China–Sierra Leone Friendship.’ In all, twenty Sierra Leonean media officials and journalists attended the three weeks seminar in Beijing.
In Beijing we were greeted by the usual but rather unpredictable weather –extremely cold and moderate at times. Although the weather was not extremely cold all the time, it was surely not friendly to many of us because we were used to hot tropical weather in Sierra Leone. It was spring in Beijing and we had to cope anyway. For residents in Beijing, it was a kind of very normal weather as compared to winter.
We were housed at the training base of the institute in Beijing, where we spent almost 70% of the three weeks, with a week tour to Nanny City in the Guanxhi autonomous region. I will never forget room 313 at the training base in Beijing. Memories of that beautiful and purposeful room would linger until death. Do not be surprised that I may go for more!
Since we arrived very late in Beijing, preparation for our dinner was already in place with snacks and bottles of water placed in our individual rooms. Tired and hungry as I was after long hours and days of travel, I stretched out for the snacks and helped myself with one of the delicacies. I took a bottle of water and drank, while I later left for the bathroom and did some laundering and bathing. I finally went to bed at around 5am and woke up at 9:47 am. Tuesday was a free day for us because the seminar was supposed to commence on Wednesday, 6 April with orientation and a welcome banquet.
To say that the Chinese are hospitable would be an understatement, but I am permitted to say so because there is no other better way of describing them. Despite the massive development in all spheres of life, ranging from infrastructure, social to economic, the Chinese are humble and down to earth. I would not hesitate to say that they are humble to a fault, but very much determined and optimistic about the future.
Throughout our twenty days stay in China, we were given treatment equivalent to diplomats! The two project team members assigned to us –Gou Shengyan (John) and Ma Ao (Miracle) were ready to serve us at any time and every moment of the day. We could even disturb them of their sleep at night but they always remained calm, open and ready to serve us.
Beijing is a classical example of urban planning in modern times. Aside from the perfect road network, the city is dressed with beautiful flowers that produce abundant oxygen necessary for human survival. Despite being one of the most populous cities in the word with over 50 million people, Beijing has all the basic social facilities to serve humanity. Thanks to the Communist government for being sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the citizens. The Chinese Government is working hard to ensure that development is uniformed across all regions, and that, I believe is achievable due to the political will that is guided by national interest.
“According to our development plan, we don’t want to leave anyone behind. All regions and tribes would be taken onboard and everybody would benefit and enjoy equal opportunities,” says the ruling Party Secretary Li Shaoxin.
On the whole, the country is blessed with a lot of tourist attraction centres – the Great Wall, Tianamen Square, Forbidden City, among a host of others form part of China’s sources of revenue. Millions and millions of tourists from across the world visit all those centres on a daily basis. And guess what, even the citizens of China are willing to pay money and visit those places. Absolute show of nationalism and patriotism!
In terms of media development, I would not compare the Chinese media to the west, but they are assiduously working towards perfection. And the government is determined and working hard to achieve absolute digitalisation of all media content.
Lastly, China is a force to reckon with because they are ready to working with development not only in Africa but across the world.