Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited China on 17-21 July at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, receiving a warm welcome from the Chinese government and people.
The Chinese people often describe the China-Algeria bond as an enduring friendship deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples. Whenever the restoration of China’s legitimate seat at the UN in 1971 is mentioned, the Chinese people would be reminded of the friendly name of Algeria, one of the countries that made the proposal and one of the two countries the proposal was named after in Chinese.
During Algeria’s long struggle for national independence, the Chinese people consistently stood with the Algerian people, firmly supporting their just cause. The long history of mutual sympathy and support between the two countries during their struggles have forged what late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai called a “friendship cemented in adversity.”
President Tebboune’s state visit to China, the first visit to China by an Algerian head of state in 15 years, holds extraordinary significance. It comes at the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and marks the first meeting between the two presidents.
The joint statement issued during the visit outlines the blueprint for the future development of bilateral relations, reaffirming strong support to each other. Witnessed by the two heads of state, the two sides signed bilateral cooperation agreements in agriculture, transportation, technology, and many other areas. This visit further deepened the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
Solid strategic relations
Sixty-five years ago, the common cause of striving for national independence and liberation against imperialism and colonialism brought China and Algeria together. Even before establishing diplomatic ties, the Chinese government unequivocally supported Algeria’s just cause during its revolution for independence. China was the first non-Arab country to recognise the temporary Algerian government.
After establishing diplomatic relations, Algeria, as mentioned above, made special contributions alongside other developing countries to restoring China’s lawful seat in the UN. In 2004, the two countries announced the establishment of a strategic partnership, which was elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014, making Algeria the first Arab country to build such partnership with China.
Both China and Algeria are influential developing countries and important emerging markets. They share similar diplomatic policies and philosophies, and have been successfully cooperating on international and regional issues, representing a model partnership for developing countries.
Both countries advocate international fairness and justice, aspire to promote the establishment of a more just and equitable international order, oppose foreign interference and power politics, and resolutely uphold the tenet and principles of the UN Charter.
The two countries have closely coordinated in multilateral institutes such as the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, advocating justice in Middle East hotspots like Palestine and Syria, and insisting on safeguarding the interests of developing countries.
In important multilateral frameworks such as the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), they have achieved fruitful cooperation. Algeria has joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is one of the first members of the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative.
China also welcomes Algeria’s application to join the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, believing that this will provide a broader stage for deepening and expanding strategic cooperation between the two countries.
President Tebboune’s state visit once again demonstrates to the world the determination of both sides to uphold justice. They reaffirm their commitment to firmly support each other’s core interests and jointly safeguard the UN-centred international system and the fundamental principles of international relations based on the tenet and principles of the UN Charter. They pledged to uphold genuine multilateralism and jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.
Both sides expressed their willingness to accelerate the implementation of the outcomes of the first China-Arab States Summit, strengthen cooperation within the framework of FOCAC, and promote the construction of a China-Arab and China-Africa community of shared future. It is reasonable to believe that China and Algeria will continue to strengthen coordination and cooperation, and jointly elevate multilateral cooperation to new levels.
Based on the principles of win-win cooperation and common development, economic, trade, and technological cooperation between China and Algeria has laid a crucial foundation for their relations.
Since 2019, China has been Algeria’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching nearly $4 billion in 2022. More than 1,000 Chinese companies have participated in various projects in Algeria. China has been Algeria’s top source of imports. It is also the primary builder of infrastructure in Algeria, playing a vital role in the country’s modernisation and industrialisation efforts.
In the field of infrastructure, Algeria is one of the most important engineering markets for China in Africa. The two sides have jointly undertaken a number of landmark projects starting from the 1980s. Major projects include the East-West Highway, the new office building for Algeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Community Abroad, the Algiers International Conference Centre, the Great Mosque of Algiers, and the new terminal of Algiers International Airport Houari Boumediene.
The East-West Highway, for example, spans from east to west in Algeria and carries over 80 percent of the country’s land transport, significantly facilitating the movement of people and goods and economic development in the eastern and western regions.
Just before President Tebboune’s visit to China, the Sidi Aich Tunnel, a crucial part of the Bejaia Highway project that connects the Bejaia Port in the north to the East-West Highway, was opened to traffic on 13 July. With a length of about 100 km, the project is expected to solve the traffic congestion problem for nearly 900,000 residents in the vicinity. Since its initiation, it has provided employment for over 18,000 people, becoming another example of successful China-Algeria cooperation.
In another area of cooperation, the China-Algeria partnership in cutting-edge technologies such as aerospace is growing. In 2017, China launched Algeria’s first communications satellite, Alcomsat-1. The satellite is used for radio and television, emergency communications, and remote education, among other functions. The project is a significant manifestation of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Algeria, setting a successful precedent for China’s cooperation with Arab countries in the aerospace field.
In addition, the close cooperation between China’s leading companies in the telecommunications sector and local operators has greatly improved local networking infrastructure, laying a solid material foundation for Algeria to develop a digital economy.
Deepening cooperation in cultural exchanges, education, and tourism is an important topic of concern for the leaders of both nations. China and Algeria are both ancient civilisations with long histories, making significant contributions to human civilisation development.
The Global Civilisation Initiative proposed by President Xi has been fully recognised and positively responded to by Algeria. Frequent visits are made to each other by various delegations, including those from the medical sector, universities, film and television industry and art sector, contributing to closer bonds between the peoples of both countries.
In particular, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of China’s medical aid to Algeria. The medical aid provided by China to Algeria has been a touching chapter in the history of the two countries helping each other. In 1962, after gaining independence, Algeria, ravaged by war, faced a shortage of doctors and medicine.
China, driven by the spirit of international humanitarianism, was the first to respond to Algeria’s appeal. In 1963, China sent a medical team to help rebuild the healthcare system in post-war Algeria. This was the first medical aid team dispatched abroad by the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949.
Over the past 60 years, China has sent 3,522 medical workers in 27 batches to Algeria, providing over 27 million diagnoses and treatments for local people. They have helped to deliver over 2.07 million newborns and trained a large number of medical personnel, leaving an indelible mark on the China-Algeria friendship. The two countries also supported each other during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, further consolidating the traditional friendship.
In June, Algeria attended the 29th Beijing International Book Fair as a guest country of honour. Artworks by young Algerian recipients of the Tianhe Award were exhibited in the Tiangong space station. This year, Algeria will host a Chinese Cultural Week. Both countries are committed to deepening cooperation in health care and promoting friendly exchanges in news, tourism, youth affairs, sports, academics, and other areas, consolidating the people-to-people bond, which is a foundation of bilateral ties.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRI. China is comprehensively advancing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in its own way, while Algeria is focusing on building a “New Algeria.” A common target will enhance the alignment of development strategies between the two countries, deepen pragmatic cooperation, and promote greater development of the comprehensive strategic partnership. This will benefit the people of both countries.
The author, Wu Sike, is a former Chinese representative to the League of Arab States and a former Chinese special envoy on the Middle East issue. African Times has published the article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine.