The Tree of China-Tanzania Friendship is Flourishing

16Oct 2020
The Guardian
The Tree of China-Tanzania Friendship is Flourishing
  • Commemorating the 55th Anniversary of Premier Zhou Enlai's Visit to Tanzania

​​​​​​​The year 2020 is a memorable year for the friendship between China and Tanzania. It marks the 55th anniversary of Premier Zhou Enlai's visit to Tanzania, the 55th anniversary of President Nyerere's first visit to China, and the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of-

WANG Zhenling, ZHAO Chenguang.

-Friendship between our two countries.

As an African saying goes, “A river runs deep because of its source.” The tree of friendship between China and Tanzania could trace its source to the very beginning of the founding of the United Republic of Tanzania. China was among the first to establish diplomatic ties with the young independent country and send its medical teams and agricultural experts to provide selfless aid for the Tanzania people. This tree began to blossom during 1965, a milestone year in China-Tanzania relations, when the first-generation leaders of both countries exchanged visits and reached major agreements. In February, President Nyerere paid his first state visit to China, during which he held talks with Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders, the two sides signed the Treaty of Friendship, and China agreed to help build the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, or the TAZARA. As a return visit, from June 4 to 8, Premier Zhou Enlai visited Tanzania at the invitation of President Nyerere. During his 5-day visit, Premier Zhou held friendly and cordial talks with President Nyerere and other Tanzania officials for five times, exchanging views on furthering China-Tanzania friendly cooperative relations and major international issues of common concern. Premier Zhou Enlai and his delegation were always received with great hospitality and goodwill from the Tanzania government and people. It was such a great success that when Premier Zhou Enlai and his delegation were leaving Tanzania, not only President Nyerere and other senior leaders of the Tanzania government, but also President Nyerere’s mother and wife were at the airport to see them off.

One major achievement of this visit was that Premier Zhou Enlai reaffirmed China’s commitment to building the TAZARA and helped pave the way for its successful construction. Due to pressure from some Western countries and worries about China’s own economic difficulties, President Nyerere hesitated about China’s aid on the construction of the railway after he returned from China in February. In order to remove his doubts, Premier Zhou Enlai clearly expressed China’s view that the key issue was to build the railway as soon as possible, no matter whether it was done with aid from China or the Western countries; if the West refused to help, China would definitely do it. This meant that Tanzania had the right to make the decision, and China was ready to provide support. This helped dispel any doubt in President Nyerere’s mind about China’s aid. After this visit, with the personal care and promotion of Premier Zhou Enlai, President Nyerere and other leaders of the older generation, the TAZARA, regarded by the West as "a mission impossible" for China, Tanzania and Zambia to accomplish by themselves, was finally completed and put into operation in 1975. It has broken the blockade imposed by the apartheid regime on the newly independent African countries, promoted the economic and social development of Tanzania and Zambia, encouraged and supported the national liberation struggles in Africa, especially in southern Africa. TAZARA is affectionately called the "Uhuru Railway" by the Africans, and has since become a symbol of friendship between China and Africa.

During Premier Zhou Enlai’s visit, some core principles of China’s aid to Africa and all other countries were emphasized and well honored in practice later, promoting and solidifying the friendship between China and Tanzania. Core content of these principles featured helping recipient countries build up their self-development capacity by fostering local personnel and technical forces, and non-interference in recipient countries' internal affairs. These principles were not only abided by in the construction of TAZARA, but also in China’s other aid projects, including healthcare programs. Premier Zhou Enlai reiterated these principles  on the work of the Chinese medical teams working in Tanzania and Africa. He said that as the Chinese medical teams would return to China later, they should train local healthcare personnel, so as to put in place a “resident medical team”. Chinese medical teams in Tanzania and Africa as whole have accordingly trained considerable numbers of healthcare workers over the past five decades plus.

The traditional friendship between China and Tanzania cultivated by the leaders of older generation has been passed on from one generation to another. Today, the tree of China-Tanzania friendship is flourishing. China and Tanzania have enjoyed comprehensive cooperative partnership across all sectors. China and Tanzania, China and Africa have become a community with a shared future. In 2013, President Xi Jinping made Tanzania the second leg of his first overseas visit since taking office. In his keynote speech entitled "Trustworthy Friends and Sincere Partners Forever" at the China-aided Julius Nyerere International Convention Center, he summed up the friendly history of China-Africa and China-Tanzania relations with “genuineness, real results, affinity, and sincerity”, which later became the guiding principles of China’s Africa policy. Under the guidance of these principles, China and Tanzania are carrying out the BRI Cooperation in the new era. In 2016, the cross-sea bridge between Dar es Salaam and Kigamboni Peninsula, built by Chinese enterprises with Chinese technology, was completed. President John Magufuli named this largest cable-stayed sea-crossing bridge in Sub-Saharan Africa after Julius Nyerere, father of the nation and a great friend of China. As a landmark achievement of BRI Cooperation in Africa, this bridge is one of the latest fruits of China-Tanzania traditional friendship. The year 2020 has witnessed the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 across the world. In the face of great challenges, the Chinese and Tanzanian governments and people have been supporting each other throughout the difficulties. In addition, despite the pandemic, the bilateral trade has continued to grow. From January to August this year, trade between China and Tanzania increased 3.91%, and Tanzania’s exports to China grew 18.66%  year-on-year. This demonstrates the great potential and vitality of China-Tanzania friendly cooperation.

The tree of China-Tanzania friendship, which has been through thick and thin in the past five decades plus, is now bursting with great vitality and growing stronger with each passing day.

(The authors are research fellows at Zhou Enlai Center for Diplomatic Studies, China Foreign Affairs University)

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