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Friendship shines brightest in the darkest days

By ZHOU DING | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-20 09:03

China and Albania are translating the great potential of their friendship into practical cooperation producing tangible results

Albania was one of the first countries that established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1949. Throughout the past 70 years, both China and Albania have undergone tremendous changes, yet the ties between the two countries remain strong.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge ongoing crisis for the whole world, which has posed a grave threat to people's health and lives. In the global fight against the pandemic, the friendship between China and Albania has withstood this test.

When China was hit by the novel coronavirus, the Albanian government was among the first to express sympathy and support. Albanian President Ilir Meta sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, reiterating Albania's continued solidarity with China and the Chinese people. Prime Minister Edi Rama and Speaker of the Parliament Gramoz Ruci sent messages to support China. Many Albanian people have also expressed their support and good wishes to the Chinese people in various ways. Some Albanian students studying in China gave heartfelt accounts of their experiences in China to the Albanian media. All of these reflect the sincere friendship between the two countries.

Albanian leaders and friends showed their solidarity with China in our most difficult moments, and we have reciprocated now that Albania faces the same challenge. We've overcome huge shipping barriers to provide Albania with emergency medical supplies, including test kits, protective suits, gloves and masks. Half a million masks have been donated to hospitals and families in need. Albania's Vice-Foreign Minister Etjen Xhafaj expressed his country's gratitude at one of the handover ceremonies: "China's helping hand is appreciated, and the much-needed supplies will effectively improve Albania's capacity for pandemic control. A friend in need is a friend indeed."

Apart from material assistance, the Chinese government has organized its public health officials and medical experts to share their knowledge and experience by holding videoconferences with their Albanian counterparts. The Chinese embassy in Albania has also continually shared the latest versions of protocols for the prevention and control as well as diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. Some Chinese companies and people, both in China and Albania, have provided support and assistance to Albania in their own ways.

Last year the two countries witnessed a variety of events celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC), the two countries' mutual trust has been consolidated, and the two-way exchanges and cooperation in various fields has been enhanced. Investment from China has reached $1 billion in Albania, and China has been Albania's third-largest trade partner. In tourism cooperation, the two countries have reached concrete results, including a visa free policy for Chinese tourists to Albania. To boost bilateral trade, we are also helping Albania to export more of its honey, dairy products and seafood to China.

The total number of Chinese tourists to Albania increased by 27 percent year-on-year in 2019.

There are about 200 Albanian students currently studying in China, and around 12 Chinese students studying in Albania. Both governments are working on an agreement on Mutual Recognition of Higher Education Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees.

Albania has been an active participator in the China-CEEC Cooperation. Last October, the 4th China-CEEC Forum of Capital City Mayors was successfully held in Tirana, the Albanian capital. The mayors shared their experience in fields of city governance and environmental protection. Looking forward, I believe there will be more progress within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and China-CEEC Cooperation.

The world is changing at an extremely rapid pace. Over the past several months, we have experienced things that we have never imagined before. In times of change, that which remains unchanged shines the most. The time-honored friendship of China and Albania is one of them. Just as the famous Tang Dynasty poem goes: "A bosom friend afar brings a distant land near." After this trial, the two countries' bond will surely become stronger.

The author is the Chinese ambassador to Albania. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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