Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcome ceremony for President Isaias Afwerki of the State of Eritrea at the square outside the east entrance of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 15, 2023. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with President Isaias Afwerki of the State of Eritrea in Beijing on Monday, with Chinese analysts saying that China-Africa relations are crucial as the world experiences turbulence, and further promoting ties with Eritrea, which is under sanctions from the US and which also holds a geopolitically important location in the continent, is a signal to the world that China will firmly stand with the developing countries in Africa as well as the rest of the world despite pressure and disruption from the hegemonic power.
Experts said Afwerki's visit is expected to inject new impetus into the bilateral cooperation in infrastructure construction, telecommunications, agriculture, mining, fisheries, healthcare and governance to promote the high-quality construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and the peaceful and stable development of the Horn of Africa.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, hailing China and Eritrea's profound traditional friendship, Xi said at the meeting with Afwerki that the two countries will mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations on May 24 and that over the past 30 years, China and Eritrea have always trusted and supported each other.
"China views and develops bilateral relations with Eritrea from a strategic and long-term perspective, and is a reliable friend of Eritrea," Xi said.
China and Eritrea have a deep friendship of mutual support in times of hardship. Afwerki has a special connection with China because he received military education and training here in 1967. That experience played an important role in helping him lead Eritrea's independence movement, Liu Qinghai, a professor at the Institute of African Studies of Zhejiang Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.
As Eritrea is located in the northernmost part of East Africa and the Horn of Africa, bordering Ethiopia to the south, Sudan to the west, Djibouti to the southeast, and facing Yemen and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea, Liu said Eritrea's strategic location is very important and has a unique influence in the Horn of Africa region.
Xi said at the meeting that "In face of the current international situation, which is full of instability and uncertainty, a sound China-Eritrea relationship not only serves the common and long-term interests of the two countries, but is also of great significance to regional peace and international fairness and justice," and he pledged to advance China's strategic partnership with Eritrea.
China appreciates Eritrea's long-standing adherence to an independent foreign policy, firmly supports Eritrea in exploring a development path suited to its national conditions, firmly supports Eritrea in safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests, and opposes external interference in Eritrea's internal affairs and the imposition of unilateral sanctions, the Chinese president said.
Stand with Africa
Xi said China is ready to share experience with Eritrea on national governance, jointly oppose unilateralism and bullying, and safeguard the common interests of the two countries and other developing countries.
Eritrea also borders Djibouti, a country that hosts China's overseas logistic base that supports the Chinese navy in executing anti-piracy missions authorized by the UN Security Council in the relevant regions, and observers believe the African countries in the region are very motivated to further develop relations with China to seek development and security, as some of them are under the threat of US pressure and sanctions.
Eritrea and its neighbor Ethiopia on March 21 rejected a determination by the US State Department that their armies, along with all sides in the concluded conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, had committed "war crimes." Ethiopia's foreign affairs ministry called the US claims "inflammatory" and "untimely", while Eritrea's foreign affairs ministry said they were "unsubstantiated and defamatory," Reuters reported.
In November 2021, Eritrea condemned sanctions imposed on its military and other Eritrea-based individuals and entities by the US, calling them a continuation of Washington's "misguided and hostile policy."
In contrast to the US, China shows a completely different attitude toward the African countries in the region and helps them to realize peace and promote development via cooperation.
"China is ready to work with Eritrea to advance mutually beneficial cooperation and achieve common development through various frameworks and platforms, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa," Xi said to the president of Eritrea.
China supports Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in Eritrea, and stands ready to strengthen cooperation on infrastructure construction, telecommunications, agriculture, mining and fisheries, and will continue to send medical teams and senior agricultural experts to Eritrea, Xi said.
Special and solid friendship
Liu said, "Afwerki has a profound understanding of and insight into the international and regional situation. He shares similar views with China on upholding independence, maintaining political and social stability, and exploring its own development path. China has given him a high-level reception, sending a signal to the world that China and Eritrea jointly oppose power politics and hegemony, safeguard the common interests of developing countries, and uphold international fairness and justice."
During the meeting with Xi, Afwerki spoke of his special bond with China that has lasted for over half a century, saying that the Eritrean people will never forget the precious support the Chinese people provided for Eritrea's independence and liberation.
Afwerki said that China is a great country. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the country has grown into a world power, making outstanding contributions to peace and development of humanity, he said.
"The emphasis on enhancing China-Eritrea bilateral relations also reflected China's willingness to continue to strengthen friendly cooperation with African countries. As the US has continuously sent senior officials to Africa to exert its influence recently, China will further strengthen its traditional and close friendship with African countries," He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.
Xi thanked Eritrea for providing support and assistance to China during its recent evacuation of Chinese citizens in Sudan, which again demonstrated the profound friendship between the two countries. He called for more measures to enhance people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Afwerki said that any attempt to contain or suppress China's development is bound to fail. The evolution of international order is at a critical stage, and African countries still face hegemonism and unfair and unjust treatment. The international community expects and believes that China will make greater contributions to human development and progress, and to international fairness and justice.
Eritrea hopes to strengthen cooperation with China and believes that the Eritrea-China strategic partnership will help Eritrea achieve national economic and social development, Afwerki said.