Zhou's visit to Africa had lasting effect

Updated: 2014-05-05 08:20

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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Closer friendships

Zhou's consideration and sincerity won closer friendships and led to some unforeseen accomplishments.

When the delegation was flying a distance of more than 5,000 kilometers from Albania to Ghana, China asked Tunisia, which did not have diplomatic relations with Beijing, to be permitted to stop to refuel the aircraft.

Tunisia, which was not originally included on Zhou's African tour, granted the request and signaled the hope of upgrading the "refueling" to an official visit.

The differences between both sides were still evident during the first meeting of Zhou and Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba when Zhou arrived in the northern African country on Jan 9, 1964.

At a reception banquet, Bourguiba, who took a pro-Western position during the Cold War, criticized Beijing for its foreign policies, including the Sino-Indian border issue and its relations with Moscow.

Huang Jinqi, Zhou's interpreter at the meeting, said he was surprised by such remarks by the host. But what was more surprising, Huang said, was Zhou's calm response.

Zhou put aside his prepared speech, stressing that the differences between both countries would not prevent them from seeking common ground and building a relationship.

Zhou's comments triggered applause from the entire hall and dispelled the tension, Huang recalled.

On the second day of the visit, China and Tunisia announced the establishment of diplomatic ties. A flurry of African countries were encouraged to follow Tunisia's example and establish ties with Beijing by the end of the year.

Dai, the diplomat, said African politicians still talk to him about Zhou's support for Africa, especially China's assistance - nurtured by the visit - with the continent's badly needed infrastructure construction. Because of China's financial and technical aid, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway was completed in 1975.

After concluding the visit in March 1964, Zhou said he hoped his visit to Africa would serve as an "exploration" that would lead to more exchanges between Chinese and African governments and peoples in the future. Judging from what both sides have now, his hopes have been realized.


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