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Strong foundations of friendship

2014-05-07 09:38 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

The principles and policies elaborated by Zhou Enlai during his trip to Africa 50 years ago have cemented the bonds of amity

The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of former premier Zhou Enlai's historic state visit to 10 African countries, which set the tone for the friendship between China and Africa and had lasting and profound significance on their engagement today.

Around 34 African countries had obtained their political independence, others were still struggling to get rid of the shackles of imperialism and colonialism, when Zhou led a Chinese government delegation on visits to Egypt (then called the United Arab Republic), Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. The trip lasted for almost two months, from December 14, 1963 to February 4, 1964, a rare phenomenon in the history of summit diplomacy, and the first time that a Chinese national leader had stepped on the continent of Africa. The trip laid the foundation for ChinaAfrica friendship, and defined China's policy toward Africa in the decades to come.

In Egypt, the first leg of his trip, Zhou said that instead of the land of darkness and desperation vilified by the imperialists, what he saw was an awakening and combatant continent; the dawn of freedom had appeared on the horizon, and the regimes of colonialism and imperialism were inevitably falling apart. When meeting with Egyptian President Gamal AbdelNasser, Premier Zhou put forward the five principles governing China's approach to relations with African countries, the first being China's support of African people in their fight against imperialism and colonialism and their struggle for national independence.

During the welcoming reception in Tunisia, the host, President Habib Bourguiba, criticized China's October 1962 approach to its territorial dispute with India, and China's disapproval of the Partial Test Ban Treaty signed by Soviet Union, Britain and America in August 1963. His remarks made the atmosphere very tense. However, Zhou reacted gracefully, saying he appreciated Bourguiba's frankness. He said it would help China better understand African countries' stance on important issues. He stressed that it was normal for China and Tunisia to hold different opinions on some issues, and that the purpose of his trip was to seek friendship and cooperation with African countries, and China was willing to develop friendly relations with Tunisia based on the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences. Moved by Zhou's sincerity, Bourguiba announced the official establishment of diplomatic ties with China the next day.

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