OPINION: Distance, time no barrier to China-Somalia ties – Fei Shengchao, China Ambassador to Somalia4 min read
Fifty years ago, China restored its lawful seat at the United Nations. The Somalis were as proud and excited as the Chinese, because Somalia was not only one of the 23 countries co-sponsoring the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 supporting China, but also had submitted similar proposals twice to the UN General Assembly before.
Somalia was among the first African and Muslim nations that supported China at that time. Chairman Mao Zedong said: “It was African brothers who had carried China back to the United Nations.” Somalia is a good brother of China.
Sixty-one years ago, Somalia established diplomatic ties with China as soon as it became independent, becoming the very first East African country to establish diplomatic relations with China.
More than 600 years ago, Chinese navigator Zheng He arrived in Mogadoxo, that is, Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia today. Dating back hundreds of years, historical records show that the two sides had exchanges as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Time and tide have changed, so has the world. Yet the traditional friendship between China and Somalia has withstood the test of time and distance.
Somalia is in the Horn of East Africa, thousands of miles away from China in East Asia. Both China and Somalia have a long history and faced similar sufferings in modern times. The Chinese are just as hardworking, courageous, resilient and warmhearted as the Somalis, and both have a strong sense of national pride.
These similarities make the two faraway countries feel particularly close and familiar to each other. As a Chinese poem goes, “Long distances cannot separate true friends”.
Both China and Somalia firmly uphold the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law, cherish national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and oppose external interference in their internal affairs. The two sides also uphold fairness, speak up for justice, and understand and support each other on their core interests and major concerns. Somalia firmly supports the one-China policy, and China firmly supports the legitimate rights and interests of Somalia and other developing countries.
China’s return to the UN meant developing nations, for the first time, finding their voice and strength among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
This year, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo in his correspondence with President Xi Jinping congratulated China on the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and on China’s National Day. He commended China’s great achievements, and contribution to political civilization, and asserted Somalia will always remain a friend of China. President Xi thanked the Somali president for the commendation.
In September, in his address to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly via video link, President Xi proposed the “Global Development Initiative”, emphasizing that we all need to put development first with a people-centered approach and leave no country and no one behind.
China has always honored its words with real actions. After the establishment of diplomatic relations, China helped Somalia in building, among other things, the National Theater, the National Stadium, and the Banadir Hospital, many of which are still in use today. China also sent more than 13 medical teams to assist Somalia in treating patients.
Unfortunately, Somalia has been caught in civil conflicts since 1991. But that has not stopped China from continuing to reach out to Somalia in fields such as humanitarian aid, education and healthcare.
Today, as a result of natural disasters and conflicts, more than one-third of Somali people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, and one-fifth are displaced. A new batch of Chinese humanitarian aid was recently handed over to Somalia and will soon be delivered to the vulnerable population. It comes at the right time for those in need.
The two countries have also written a new chapter in combating the COVID-19 pandemic together. At the peak of the pandemic last year, Somali students in China joined volunteers to fight the pandemic shoulder-to-shoulder with the residents of Wuhan, Hubei province. And in April this year, the Chinese government lost no time in donating 200,000 vaccines to Somalia.
Not long ago, Chinese astronaut Tang Hongbo took a photo in space with the outline of the Somali Peninsula pointing in the direction of the dawn.
In recent years, despite daunting challenges, the Somali people have made unremitting efforts with broad international support, and Somalia has secured good progress in the peaceful reconstruction.
Somalia is known to have the largest number of camels and the sweetest bananas in the world. It also has the longest coastline on the African continent, as well as abundant fisheries and mineral resources. As such, China-Somalia cooperation has huge potential and a promising future.
Mogadishu just had its first public film screening in 30 years in the National Theater, whose construction was aided by the Chinese back in the 1960s. Some said: the historic night shows how hopes have been revived after so many years of challenges.
With the Chinese and Somali people joining hands to build a community with a shared future for mankind, the ship of our friendship will hopefully break the waves ahead and sail toward another dawn to the benefit of our two countries and peoples.
The author is the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Federal Republic of Somalia.
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