President Julius Nyerere and Chairman Liu Shaoqi signs the Friendship Treaty between the United Republic of Tanzania and the People's Republic of Tanzania, Beijing, 20 Feb. 1965
This year is critical to the bilateral relationship between the United Republic of Tanzania and the People's Republic of China, as we celebrate 55 years since the signing of the Friendship Treaty between Tanzania and China in 1965. A Treaty that formed the core values of our friendly cooperation and solidarity. In every respect, this is a significant milestone of our long historical and all-weather friendship. A friendship that upholds the ethos of mutual respect, sovereign equality and non- interference in each other's internal affairs.
As we venerate the Co-founders of this Treaty, namely the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the late Chaiman Liu Shaoqi, Tanzania would like to reiterate its commitment to maintain and develop the relations of peace and friendship not only in conformity with the Treaty but in line with the comprehensive strategic partnership underscored by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
It is befitting the occasion to recall what Mwalimu Nyerere had to say during his maiden State Visit to China on 26th February 1965, the visit which witnessed the signing of the Treaty we celebrate today. As he was addressing a mass rally of many thousands of people in Beijing he aptly stated that:
"We wish to be friendly with all, and we will never allow our friends to choose our enemies for us. It is pursuance of this doctrine that Tanzania is so happy in its new friendship with China; and China has extended her own hand to meet ours. We now have a friend, and a great, new friend, and a friend from whom we were barred in the days of colonialism. The fears of others will not affect Tanzania's friendship with China, any more than our friendship with other countries would be affected by what their opponents say of them."
Indeed, China's support to Tanzania since the signing of the Treaty, five decades ago is unmeasurable. China has provided a helping hand to Tanzania in implementing various projects in all fields including health, defense and security, agriculture, infrastructure, education and industrial sectors. These projects have enormously contributed to the development and well-being of Tanzanians, clearly attesting to the mutual respect and friendship that happily exists between our two countries.
One of the biggest milestones of the relationship between Tanzania and China is the construction of 1,868 km long Tanzania-Zambla railway line (TAZARA) also known as the UHURU railway. The request to Chairman Mao Zedong, to build TAZARA was made jointly by the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the father of our Nation and Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, the former President of the Republic of Zambia, at the height of the Cold War. It was made at the time Zambia, a land-locked and newly independent country was surrounded by hostile regimes that denied her access to the sea and the only safe outlet to the sea was through Tanzania. This is the extent to which China was ready to support the struggles of the people of Africa for economic, social and political development. That position of China has continued to be consistent even today.
Other illuminating examples of our economic cooperation in the earlier phase of our friendship include the establishment of the Tanzania-China Friendship Textile Mill (URAFIKI), the Ubungo Fam Implements (UFI), Keko Phamaceutical Industries, Mahonda Sugar Factory in Zanzibar, supporting the Ruvu Irrigation scheme in Coast Region and Mbarali rice farm in Mbeya. This was done by China to heed the call for Industrialisation initiatives in Tanzania in the textile, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
For that and many other, Tanzania was highly delighted when the People's Republic of China was re-admitted to the United Nations in 1971. Tanzania supported the People's Republic of China re-admission to the United Nations as we believed its exclusion greatly reduced the effectiveness of the United Nations in dispensation of its mandate to unite the strength to maintain international peace and security.
In recent years, Sino-Tanzania ties have evolved into a modern and pragmatic relationship with greater and diversified economic engagement in trade, infrastructure projects, and investments. China remains Tanzania's largest trading partner, with 19.3% of Tanzania's imports in 2017/2018 originating from China. China is also Tanzania's largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with investment stock of over 700 projects valued at USD 7.1 billion and creating over eighty-seven thousand (87,000) jobs.
As we work towards a speedy finalization of the commencement of Air Tanzania (ATCL) direct flights from Dar es Salaam to Guangzhou and opening Tanzania Consulate in Guangzhou, China, we are sure that this will enhance and consolidate mobility of people, trade interaction and tourism not only between China and Tanzania but also between China and East and Southern Africa.
Tanzania remains a firm supporter of the FOCAC and BRI as their main priorities are in total sync with the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 spearheaded by the Fifth Phase Government led by His Excellency Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Indeed, at the heart of both agenda is to foster socio-economic development through industrialisation. As we continue to consistently benefit from the common core of scholarships, short-term training, capacity building, cultural partnerships, knowledge sharing, research, and people-to-people exchanges offered by China, Tanzania remains convinced that, with concerted and intensified efforts our education cooperation would be further enhanced and flourish by involving primarily on-the-job training, critical thinking, problem-solving, discovery, and experiential training.
The celebration of 55 years of friendship comes at the time the whole world is battling with the extremely challenging pandemic of COVID-19. Tanzania was not spared by this contagion. In our fight against this pandemic, we believed in a strategy of a "shared battle", calling for observance of national values of unity, solidarity, prayer and peace.
While in every respect these national values remain key in our fight against the pandemic, it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the Government of the People's Republic of China for its persuasion which led to the decision by the G20 Leaders to suspend debt repayments for the Least Developed Countries including Tanzania.
This relief will allow us to quell the adverse economic impacts caused by COVID-19. We equally, highly appreciate the readiness of China to provide support and assistance to enhance medical preparedness of the other affected countries. This fully demonstrates China's exceptional generosity and ability in handling public health emergencies by putting the interests of the people first.
In abstract, this is how one could depict the relationship between Tanzania and China in the past 55 years. The journey we have traversed, the personalities that shaped the relationship, the milestones achieved in our relations and the challenges we have overcome, should serve to remind us especially the younger generation where we have come. Things that the younger generation must emulate from founders of this relationship in order to carry forward its spirit and keep it afloat.
(The author is Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of Tanzania.)