Zhao Xiyuan’s time as Minister Counsellor and China’s Deputy Head of Mission in Nairobi has come to an end. Zhao has been Beijing’s second-highest-ranked diplomat in Kenya for the last four and a half years.
During a farewell dinner held in his honor at the embassy on Friday, Zhao was celebrated for playing an important role at the embassy to strengthen ties between Nairobi and Beijing. He was praised for helping to channel much-needed support to Kenya during the covid-19 pandemic period.
During the pandemic period, Zhao disclosed that he personally felt the support and expectations from the Kenyan people for China-Kenya friendship.
“What I cannot forget forever is while fighting covid-19 together, we donated medical equipment to Kenya and helped some Kenyans in Guangzhou, China, at the beginning of Covid-19,” Zhao Xiyuan told the congregants who included other diplomats, government officials, elected leaders, media practitioners, business executives, scholars among others.
While lauding the existing diplomatic relations between Nairobi and Beijing, he said the Swahili proverb “Akufaaye kwa dhiki ndiye rafiki” best describes the value of friendship between the two sides. He said the 60 years since the establishment of Kenya-China diplomatic relations has been an extraordinary journey that is worth recording and commemorating.
“The 60 years have witnessed our deepening mutual trust expanding pragmatic cooperation strengthening the bond between the Chinese and the Kenyan people. I wish Kenya-China relations flourish in the future,” he said
According to Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian, Zhao played an important role in strengthening China-Kenya relations during his time in Nairobi.
“Everybody has played a good part in this but definitely, Mr Zhao has done a lot in promoting our friendship and cooperation. Out of the more than four years that he has been with us, three years we were in the pandemic, that was a huge challenge,” said the Chinese envoy
As a second-in-command at the embassy, Ambassador Zhou noted that Zhao has numerous tasks on his shoulders, but he executed them all with excellence and professionalism.
“We appreciate you. You have done a good job. I really admire you,” the ambassador told the outgoing diplomat, even as he praised his ability to create links and develop networks both in government, the private sector, and communities.
“I was in his position before as deputy head of mission and Minister Counselor. You have done a much better job than me. You have friends from all branches of the government, the media, academia, and all walks of life in Kenya and the UN system” he said
Zhao Xiyuan’s position at the embassy will be taken up by Mr Zhang Zhizhong who previously served in Asia and America.
In his speech, Zhang said he was happy that Kenya was his first country of posting in Africa and promised to continue the good work done by his predecessor Zhao Xiyuan.
“I feel very proud to be here as a diplomat. An old Chinese saying that says Amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states” he said of his plans to promote people-to-people exchanges between Chinese and Kenyans
He expressed satisfaction as a diplomat that Kenya was an important part of the Chinese-sponsored Belt and Road Initiative and that the relations between the two countries have seen profound progress.
“I already feel the great responsibility on my shoulders but I am confident that, led by our Ambassador Zhou and with all your support, I will do my best to strengthen our bilateral relations and strongly believe that we can make the future days right,” the new Minister Counselor said
Ambassador Zhou Pinjian said Zhang belongs to a new generation of Chinese diplomats.