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How a Chinese millennial became an African chief******
With the expansion of Chinese-African cooperation over the last decade, Chinese enterprises have made significant investments in African infrastructure.
Many construction sites there have Chinese workers. The two peoples work and live together and have developed a close friendship. For their outstanding contributions, some Chinese people have even been named "chiefs" by African leaders.
Among all the Chinese who have been given the title of "chief" in Africa, Li Manhu stands out as a "Post-90s" figure.
He is not only the youngest known Chinese "chief," but also the recipient of the Nigerian and Cameroonian "double chief" titles.
Li is only 30 years old, but he has worked in Africa for six years.
Why did he go to Africa? What contribution has he made to Africa earned him the title of "Double Chief"? What kind of special power does he have?
As the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference came to an end, a Shanghai Daily reporter reached out to this legendary millennial to learn more about his life.
Li Manhu in his office.
Searching for the 'African Dream'
Li is a typical young man who studies science and technology. He joined a state-owned enterprise to explore coal mining after graduating from university.
However, in his opinion, the concept of the "stable, life-long job" is meaningless.
"There is no point in living a life like this. So, despite my family's strong opposition, I resigned from my job."
After resigning, Li began to look for more "exciting" work and gave a curriculum to a mine in Nigeria.
The Nigerian company was very welcoming. After some English training, Li flew to Africa in 2015 with his dream in hand.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the African countries with the largest Chinese population. The local government works closely with China.
However, it wasn't until he boarded the plane and flew for more than 10 hours that Li truly felt the vastness of Africa. He was dimly aware of the difficulties that lay ahead.
Photo with the senior officer of the Nigerian Border Immigration Service.
Nigeria has no winter, only rainy and dry seasons. "I went in January. It was the dry season; the local temperature was more than 30 degrees, but I was wearing a sweater. When I got off the plane, my only feeling was the heat."
Li's first job in Nigeria was to do mineral exploration, which entails living in a mining area for a year in miserable conditions.
There was no local signal, so "communication by shouting, traffic by walking" was his regular life. He also had to sleep in a room with four or more people while suffering from mosquito bites.
In just a few months, Li contracted malaria, developed a high fever, vomited, and suffered for several days. "At the time, I was remorseful for having come here. But when I got better, I forgot about it all and pretended it wasn't a big deal."
He said he never mentioned these things to his family, and when asked, his answer was always "It's fine."
After two years of training, Li joined China Overseas Group (CGCOC GROUP) in 2017 as the office director of the "Cross-border bridge between Nigeria and Cameroon" project.
He has over 200 African workers under him, and he must be concerned about their life, work, and safety. He is also in charge of paying their salaries at the end of each month.
And it was also this bridge project that laid the foundation for Li to earn the title of "Double Chief" later on down the road.
Li with his bodyguard.
The 'fortunate' Chief I
According to Li Manhu, before the construction of the cross-border bridge, there was only a one-way old bridge connecting Nigeria and Cameroon, which frequently blocked traffic, whereas the construction of the cross-border bridge will greatly improve the two countries' cross-border port traffic congestion, promoting trade and economic development between the two nations.
"The bridge was completed in April this year and is expected to be open to traffic next year," Li exclaimed joyfully.
Throughout his career, Li has developed a close relationship with the local paramount ruler (the king). On the Christmas Eve of 2018, Li was invited by the leader of the Etung local government as a guest to his home, and as he was leaving, the leader told him that he was going to bestow upon him the title of chief.
The king informed Li that the cross-border bridge project had benefited the local community and that he had been appointed chief as a sign of local recognition of the company, and that he would be representing the king in some of the company's future dealings with the local people.
"The chieftaincy title is not only a personal honor but also represents the respect and recognition of the local people for the company's projects," said Li. "In Africa, only foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the local economy and social development can be awarded the chieftaincy title."
It should be noted that although Nigeria has a modern administrative system, chiefs, as traditional tribal leaders, still enjoy high prestige among the population and are also highly respected by the government, which even consults with local chiefs before making major decisions.
The chief's white suit and a leopard-print leather hat are presented to Li on the day of the chieftainship.
On the day of the chieftainship, the local Nigerian government held a grand ceremony and invited members of other tribes to participate. Even neighboring Cameroon sent representatives.
The king bestowed the title "Ntui Ofa 1" on Li, with "Ofa" meaning "fortunate" in the native language, and expressed his hope that the title would bring good fortune to his Chinese friend.
A scepter and the chief's white suit, as well as a leopard-print leather hat, were presented to Li, all of which are typical for chiefs to wear.
Despite the fact that his main title is merely a sign of honor and that he is not involved in the day-to-day business of the local tribe, Li claims that the title has brought him closer to the locals. When he walks down the street dressed as the chief and wielding the scepter, he can sense the people's respectful attention, and some will even approach him to respectfully ask for a blessing.
Certificate of chieftaincy title given by the Etung local government
What Li didn't expect was that just three months after he became the chief of the Etung local government in Nigeria, he received a letter from the king of the Ekok community in Cameroon.
The Ekok community accepted Li's chieftaincy title in Nigeria, according to the letter, and will arrange a coronation ceremony for him on March 31.
The honor was also conferred because of the cross-border bridge project, according to Li. Because the Etung local government of Nigeria and the Ekok community of Cameroon are "brothers" of the same clan, culture, and language, his chieftaincy title in Cameroon is the same as his chieftaincy title in Nigeria.
But unlike in Nigeria, in Cameroon, Chinese chieftainship requires not only the approval of the king, but also the consent of the local government.
"As far as I know, no Chinese chief has ever served in Cameroon before me."
Confirmation of the chieftaincy title of Ekok community
Li Yi / SHINE
The African king's 'Chinese prince'
Li recalls the words of Cameroon's king on the day of his enthronement: "When you go back to China, you can tell the Chinese people that you still have a home in Africa."
These are not just "beautiful words." Li has formed strong bonds with the locals over the years in Africa, and his relationship with the king is like "father and son," with the locals even referring to him as the king's "Chinese prince."
"There is no difference between people; as long as you treat them sincerely, they will sense it," Li said.
Coronation ceremony for Li in Ekok community.
However, due to the pandemic, Li has not been back to Africa since the end of last year. In addition to doing some work at home to help farmers, he also does some live commerce in TikTok, to help his friends sell Chinese wolfberries.
Concerning his TikTok account, Li confessed that he did not like to use this social platform at first, but because his friends always send him funny videos, he downloaded one, tried to share his work and life in Africa, and did not expect to become popular.
Now, Li's TikTok account has more than 500,000 followers, and the highest number of likes on a video has surpassed 400,000.
Li's Tiktok page
He stated that, despite the fact that the pandemic will not be over for some time, he intends to return next year.
"Their coffee and cocoa beans are perfect, and I'd like to go back and try to do live commerce over there as well in hope of driving the local economy."
Li is also keeping an eye on the recently concluded the Eighth Ministerial Conference of The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
"I used to work on engineering projects as part of the country's Belt and Road Initiative. Now that the country has put forward a number of good ideas through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and I want to do something practical for the local community through my identity as a chief and promote more cultural and trade exchange between China and Africa."
Li reveals that many people actually leave messages to him via TikTok wanting to learn about Africa and some of the projects Chinese companies are working on there. "China is paying increasing attention to Africa, and many people want to understand the market over there and want to go and break into it. I hope to communicate with them more in the future."
"As a result, the title of the chief is really just the tip of the iceberg for me."
Li with a local child
Countdown to Beijing 2022******
LISBON, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Portugal expects to have its best performance and its largest delegation ever at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, according to Pedro Farromba, member of the Portuguese Olympic Committee (COP) and President of the Federation of Winter Sports of Portugal.
"We have a long friendship with China, and these Games will be a milestone. It will be the biggest Winter Olympics of all time because we trust China's organizational capacity, logistics, infrastructure, and quality of facilities," he said in a joint interview with Chinese media.
According to Farromba, Portugal's preparations have been difficult due to pandemic-related restrictions, with many changes and cancelations to schedules.
"We have no idea of the exact number of athletes that we are going to take. It is very difficult to develop in our country a sport that is not linked to the sun, the beach, and football," he explained.
However, he highlighted that this will be the fifth consecutive edition of the Winter Olympic Games in which Portugal will participate.
"We have a learning path and we have already gained some experience, with financial support from the Portuguese government. We will do our best, even without waiting for medals, but we will fight and represent our country with dignity, developing winter sports in Portugal," said Farromba.
He added that Portugal would this month complete the construction of an ice rink to help develop sports that until now were developed outside the country or on wheel tracks.
Farromba added that he believed the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be "very safe" despite fears of COVID-19.
"We have had conversations with the Olympic organizing committee that give us great confidence in the event," he said, noting that he agreed with China's decision not to allow spectators from overseas to be present during the Games.
"In competitions, it is always important to have the support of the public. We had the expectation, when the Games were scheduled, to have the support of the Portuguese community in Macao. But we can't have the best scenario in this difficult time we live in," he recalled.
For the member of the COP, the Olympic Games means "hope", and the most important is the "appreciation of the Olympic ideals, fraternity, and healthy competition", he concluded in the interview. Enditem
Bernabeu meeting to test Real Madrid and Sevilla's title credentials******
MADRID, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- La Liga leaders Real Madrid entertain third-placed Sevilla on Sunday night in a game that has a lot to say about both sides' title hopes.。
Real Madrid climbed to the top of the table last weekend after a 4-1 win in Granada, and a 3-0 victory in the Champions League away to Sheriff Tiraspol only served to confirm the good form of Carlo Ancelotti's men, with Vinicius Jr in the best form of his career and Toni Kroos also commanding in midfield.。
Ancelotti kept the pair on the pitch for the full 90 minutes in midweek along with Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, and one of the small doubts ahead of Sunday's game is whether or not they might start to feel tired, especially after also playing 90 minutes in Granada.。
Meanwhile, David Alaba, who has been excellent since joining from Bayern Munich in the summer, will miss the game with a minor knee injury, while Gareth Bale remains sidelined with a calf injury.。
Eden Hazard should be available after a bout of gastroenteritis, but the Belgian will once again have to settle for a place on the bench, while Nacho Fernandez is the natural replacement for Alaba alongside Eder Militao.。
Sevilla travel after a 2-0 win at home to Wolfsburg on Tuesday which kept their Champions League hopes alive, and the side coached by former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui have had 24 hours more to prepare for the match.。
They are without injured striker Youssef En-Nesyri, but could start with the powerful Rafa Mir and the pacy Lucas Ocampos in attack.。
"It will be the first time I have played in the Bernabeu, I'm looking forward to it. Why can't we win there?" commented Mir in sports paper Diario AS.。
Lopetegui is likely to set his side out to contain Madrid, with midfielders Joan Jordan and Fernando sitting in front of the defense and looking for Ocamos and Acuna to try and hit their rivals on the break. A win for Sevilla could see them go top, while three points for Ancelotti's side would give them the chance to confirm their leadership and open a gap at the top if they can win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday. Enditem。
End of pandemic in sight for Europe: WHO******
Two years after the outbreak of COVID-19, Europe could soon enter a "long period of tranquility" due to high vaccination rates, the milder Omicron variant and the end of winter, the WHO said Thursday.
WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said the respite was "a ceasefire that could bring us enduring peace."
"This context leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquility," he told reporters on Thursday.
Widespread immunity from vaccines and infections, combined with the change of season, also puts Europe in a better position to fend off any resurgence in transmission, he said.
"Even with a more virulent variant" than Omicron, Kluge said.
"It is possible to respond to new variants that will inevitably emerge – without reinstalling the kind of disruptive measures we needed before," Kluge said.
This was "not to say that (the pandemic) is now all over," but "there is a singular opportunity to take control of the transmission," he stressed.
He cautioned that the optimistic scenario would only hold true if countries continued their vaccination campaigns and intensified surveillance to detect new variants.
He also urged health authorities to protect risk groups and to promote individual responsibility, such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
With the more contagious Omicron variant in circulation, infections have surged across the WHO's European region, which comprises 53 countries, including some in central Asia.
Some 12 million new cases were registered last week in the region, according to the WHO, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.
But faced with a lower level of hospitalisations than in previous waves, several European countries, including France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, have announced the lifting or a considerable reduction of restrictions, despite record or very high cases.
Denmark on Tuesday became the first European Union country to lift its domestic COVID-19 restrictions, followed later in the day by Norway.
Speaking on the eve of World Cancer Day, Kluge also expressed concern over the "catastrophic impact" the pandemic has had on cancer care around the world.
In the last three months of 2021, cancer screenings and treatments were disrupted by five to 50 percent in all countries surveyed, he said.
"The situation has improved since the first quarter of last year," he said. "But the knock-on effect of this disruption will be felt for years."
He urged Europe's health-care authorities to take advantage of the expected seasonal COVID lull to reduce backlogs in chronic care services.