Xiplomacy: How Close People-to-People Bond Consolidates Cooperation Between China, Eritrea

ASMARA — In the port city of Massawa, Eritrea, a piece of pottery displayed in a museum tells a story of friendship and exchanges between people of the East African country and China that dates back two thousand years ago.

The brown article, with four Chinese characters — “Wan,” “He,” “Chan” and “Shan” — engraved on it, was unearthed along the Red Sea coast in northern Eritrea where the ancient city of Adulis was found.

The character “He” means peace, concord and harmony, which are the goals China has pursued and carried forward for thousands of years, guiding the Chinese people to respect and live peacefully with one another. Apparently, the piece of pottery was brought by people who shared China’s vision of peace to Eritrea, a hub on the ancient Silk Road.

Two thousand years later, China and Eritrea, as like-minded friends, are striving to deepen cooperation in politics, economy, trade, people-to-people exchanges, agriculture and other fields, under the guidance of the leaders of the two countries.


Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of China-Eritrea diplomatic relations, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with his Eritrean counterpart Isaias Afwerki and called for taking the anniversary as an opportunity to consolidate mutual support, strengthen all-round cooperation, and push forward the China-Eritrea strategic partnership to a new level.

For his part, Afwerki said that he is glad to see that the friendly cooperative relations between the two countries have been elevated to a higher level, covering all-round cooperation and coordination in various fields.

He also noted that Eritrea and China enjoy a time-honored friendship, and China had provided moral and material support to the Eritrean people in their struggle for national independence.

Over the past decades, leaders of the two countries have forged a profound traditional friendship. During his visit to China on May 15, Afwerki had an in-depth talk with Xi, and the two sides exchanged views on further deepening bilateral relations as well as international and regional issues of common interest and reached many important consensuses.

With solid public support for cooperation, the two countries have been lending a helping hand to each other in times of crisis. In 2008, an 8-magnitude earthquake devastated China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, causing heavy casualties and huge property loss. The Eritrean government and people offered their help to China soon after the disaster occurred.

In April, the Chinese government decided to evacuate its citizens from Sudan after a conflict broke out in the Northeast African country. The government of Eritrea, bordering Sudan to the north, provided transportation and accommodation for Chinese fleeing the conflict before they returned home.

“Many Eritrean people will wave their hands and extend their warm greetings when they see the Chinese national flag and Chinese people,” said Cai Ge, Chinese ambassador to Eritrea. “It shows that the friendship between the two countries is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.”


It has been 26 years since China sent its first medical team to Eritrea as part of health cooperation between the two countries. Nearly 300 Chinese doctors have worked in the African country.

At Orotta Hospital in downtown Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, 33-year-old Dr. Selam Kidane Woldu has been working with Chinese doctors to provide outpatient care for half a year. She was deeply impressed by their professionalism and dedication to patients.

“The Chinese doctors usually see many patients every day, and many times they have to return to the hospital for emergencies after work,” Woldu said.

“Looking into their eyes, I can see that they really care about the patients, which is the most admirable thing to me. They have won the trust of local patients,” she added.

The China-built Orotta Hospital is one of the largest and best-equipped hospitals in Eritrea after it was put into use in 2003. A total of 18 Chinese doctors are working there.

Twelve-year-old Anwar Amir was lying quietly on the bed waiting for acupuncture treatment. He was struggling to recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome that paralyzed him three months ago. After taking medicine and receiving acupuncture treatment, he can now walk slowly with the help of others. Amir’s father was overjoyed and thanked Xu Zhenghua, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine.

“Despite the language barrier, I can feel the trust of local patients in Chinese doctors and traditional Chinese medicine,” Xu said.

In the past three decades, “we have a very much strong relationship with China as far as health concerns,” said Eritrean Health Minister Amina Nurhussien, adding that “their support for the country is very great.”


This year, China and Eritrea will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. In the past three decades, their cooperation in economy and trade has developed steadily and achieved fruitful results.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Eritrean economy, with about four-fifths of the population engaged in farming and animal husbandry. However, the lack of crop varieties and underdeveopled agricultural technology hindered the country’s agricultural development.

To help tap Eritrea’s economic potential and improve the well-being of local people, China and Eritrea have rolled out a series of agricultural cooperation projects.

China-Africa agricultural cooperation is an important part of the project on reducing poverty and benefiting farmers under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has sent three groups of experts to Eritrea to offer technical assistance in such fields as legumes and fruit tree gardening, and achieved remarkable results.

After being planted for one year, the apple trees from across the ocean are growing well, and the improved local tree species have begun to bear fruit. Nearby, in a demonstration field of beans and oil crops, broad beans, red kidney beans and oilseed rape have been harvested, with unit yields increasing by more than 50 percent compared with local varieties.

After years of conflicts, all industries in Eritrea are waiting for recovery and prosperity. “In any developing country, for people to get out of poverty, it starts from agriculture,” Eritrean Minister of Agriculture Arefaine Berhe said. “China’s experience is fantastic, and it is very relevant to us.”

In addition, Chinese enterprises have been actively participating in the fields of electricity, telecommunications, mining and infrastructure construction in Eritrea. In 2022, the bilateral trade volume between China and Eritrea reached 610 million U.S. dollars, up 32.2 percent year-on-year.

“China, in terms of infrastructure and industrialization, can offer us development opportunities. And of course, in terms of trade and investment, China is a great reliable partner for Eritrea. So, I think it is win-win cooperation for both countries,” said Dr. Fikrejusus Amahazion, an Eritrean scholar focusing on African development and political economy.

During his meeting with Afwerki in mid-May, the Chinese president underlined China’s commitment to forging closer ties with Eritrea and other African countries. “Africa is a promising land. Under the new circumstances, it is more important than ever for China and Africa to strengthen solidarity and cooperation to overcome difficulties together,” Xi said.

China is ready to work with Africa to carry forward traditional friendships, consolidate strategic mutual trust, create new opportunities for Africa with China’s high-quality development and modernization, deepen practical cooperation with Africa, and build an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future, Xi said.

Talking about the vision of building the China-Africa community with a shared future and a community with a shared future for mankind, Berhe said: “It is an excellent vision. It is a vision that we share, because it benefits the entire humanity.”

Source : China Daily

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