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Tending the garden of friendship

By Tian Erlong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-23 08:53

Thanks to their careful cultivation by both sides, amicable exchanges between China and Armenia are blossoming and bearing fruit

For most Chinese people, Armenia is a remote, mysterious country with an ancient civilization. It was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion.

Despite the vast distance between China and Armenia, the history of friendly exchanges between the two countries can be traced back to the ancient Silk Road. Armenia has preserved Chinese coins from that period as well as the 14th century post sites along ancient Silk Road where tradesmen and travelers would rest.

Armenian records of the 5th century narrate the beautiful legend that the ancestors of the Mamikonyan family, the ancient heroes of Armenia, came from China. In Armenian language, there is a word qnhawxapnk, which can be literally translated into "wonderful goods from Chinese world". It is obvious that friendship with China is a long-standing tradition in Armenia.

In September 1991, Armenia declared its independence. In April 1992, China and Armenia established diplomatic relations, opening a new chapter of friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries. Especially in recent years, under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, the political, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has developed rapidly, with active cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

In May this year, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a visit to Armenia. During which he signed a visa exemption agreement between Chinese government and Armenian government with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. According to the agreement, a Chinese citizen holding a valid ordinary Chinese passport and an Armenian citizen holding a valid ordinary Armenian passport may enter, leave or transit the other side, staying up to 90 days in total within 180 days from the date of entry, without obtaining a visa.

The agreement is currently in the process of approval. In the first half of this year, the number of Chinese tourists to Armenia increased 53.5 percent year-on-year to more than 5,000 person-times. It is believed that with the implementation of the visa-free policy, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Armenia will increase significantly.

China and Armenia have a time-honored history and splendid civilizations and uphold the civilized concept of friendly cooperation and mutual respect. In recent years, bilateral cooperation in culture, education and information has been very active, playing an important and unique role in consolidating the traditional friendship between the peoples of China and Armenia and enhancing mutual understanding between them. The Confucius Institute in Armenia is the first Confucius institute established in Transcaucasia. It has a total number of students exceeding 2,000. At present, many primary and secondary schools in Armenia have opened Chinese courses and universities have set up Chinese majors, basically realizing a whole system of Chinese education in Armenia.

On Aug 22, last year, the opening ceremony of the Chinese-Armenian friendship school was held in Yerevan, capital of Armenia. This school is the first full-time secondary school in Transcaucasia having Chinese as the first foreign language. It opens a new window for more than 400 students in Armenia to learn about China and Chinese culture, and also builds a new platform for enhancing cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

In July this year, journalists from Armenia visited China. The visit enhanced the journalists' understanding of China's development path, enhanced their awareness of the Belt and Road Initiative, and inspired them to reflect on China's successful development experience and model. After returning to Armenia, they passed on what they saw, heard and felt in China to the Armenian people through text, video and radio reports, and made suggestions on strengthening cooperation with China. Their reports enabled more people in Armenia to have deep understanding of China's development today, and aroused the strong desire of all sectors in Armenia to further expand and deepen cooperation with China for the benefit of the development of both countries.

On Sept 17, the Armenia-China Friendship Association released its official anthem, which coincides with the eve of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. This has a special symbolic significance. It was touching to hear the stories of the friendship between Armenia and China. Armenian artists and teenagers performed Chinese songs and other performances, which filled the scene with the warm atmosphere of Chinese-Armenian friendship. The scene impressed me deeply. The cause of friendship between the peoples of China and Armenia is like a beautiful garden. Thanks to the meticulous care and hard work of the gardeners, the garden keeps blossoming with beautiful flowers.

Each generation has its own destiny. Standing at a new historical starting point, the Chinese embassy in Armenia will work under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi's thoughts on diplomacy, to implement the agreements reached by the leaders of China and Armenia and strengthen friendly cooperation in all areas. The peoples of China and Armenia have practiced sincere cooperation and close exchanges, and the fruits of their cooperation have benefited the two peoples. We will make all efforts to plow the Armenian foreign garden with the Armenian people, continue to deepen cultural cooperation between the two countries and the friendship between people, to build a global partnership network.

The author is Chinese Ambassador to Armenia. 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.

Tending the garden of friendship

(China Daily Global 10/23/2019 page13)

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