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Wednesday, October 11, 2000, updated at 17:57(GMT+8)

Feature: Tazara, Eyewitness of China-Tanzania Friendship

With a long whistle, a fully loaded passenger train as usual leaves the noisy capital city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and gradually merges into the tranquillity of African savanna.

The train is heading for Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia along the famous 1,860-kilometer-long Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara) known as "Freedom Railway" among local people.

Since it began operation in 1976, one train after another have been shuttling back and forth between the two places along the railway, an "eyewitness" of a long history of sound relationship between China and Tanzania.

The Chinese government set aside an interest-free loan of some 680 million U.S. dollars for the railway construction in the late 1960s when China itself was also extremely short of funds for rebuilding its economy.

In the early 1970s, tens of thousands of Chinese workers bade farewell to their relatives and came here by sea to build the railway.

They stuck to the construction sites around the clock despite the harsh weather, horrible diseases and sudden attack by animals, and more than 60 workers even died here, recounted a retired Tazara worker, now doorman of a cemetery for the deceased Chinese workers in the suburbs of the capital.

The friendship between the two countries, fostered by the late Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, and of course the railway workers, is indeed cemented with blood, said Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, when paying his tribute to the cemetery during a 1999 trip to the country.

"These workers contributed their lives to building a bridge of friendship that links China with Tanzania as well as the whole Africa," said Tang, with tears in his eyes.

Tazara is, of course, only representing a part of the long-standing Sino-Tanzanian friendship.

Separated by mountains and oceans, the two countries have politically sympathized with each other.

Tanzania's firm support for China's resumption of its U.N. membership is a well-known story in the history of international relations.

While hearing the news that China regained its legitimate seat at the U.N. in 1971, the then Tanzanian representative to the U.N.Salim Ahamed Salim, who is now secretary general of the Organization of African Unity, was too excited and couldn't help dancing at the U.N. assembly hall.

Such brotherly relationship has brought leaders of the two countries closer. They have had frequent exchange of visits, deepening mutual understanding and promoting cooperation of mutual benefit.

Nyerere visited China for 13 times in his lifetime, setting a record in this regard among African leaders. Chinese leaders, high-ranking officials as well as entrepreneurs also set foot on Tanzanian soil with the purpose of paying visits, doing businesses or conducting academic exchanges.

Owing to the common efforts by the two governments, Sino-Tanzanian economic cooperation is fruitful and bilateral trade on the increase.

Although it is still not wealthy, China, a developing country, has extended to Tanzania economic aid worth more than 2 billion dollars since 1960s, making it the largest beneficiary of Chinese aid in Africa.

Over the years, China has built up in Tanzania more than 100 factories such as the Sino-Tanzanian Joint Shipping Co., the Friendship Textiles Co., the Kiwila Coal Mine, and the Mbarali Rice Farm among others.

Since the late 1970s, China has made great progress in its opening up and economic reforms, which offers fresh opportunities for the further expansion of the existing bilateral good economic cooperation.

"With an average annual growth rate of 15 percent, the volume of bilateral trade exceeded 100 million dollars in 1997, ranking the 10th among all African countries," Ma Zhihe, economic and commercial representative in Tanzania, told Xinhua.

The Friendship Textiles Co., Tanzania's first plant built with Chinese aid and largest textile mill, has been transformed into a Sino-Tanzanian joint venture with enhanced profit and job creating capabilities.

The non-governmental elements in the bilateral economic ties have been vigorous more than ever. Riding high on the tide of globalization, more and more Chinese enterprises have been coming to invest in the country, setting up new ventures or joint ventures.

New companies with Chinese investment have sprung up like mushrooms. These include the Sino-Tanzanian Joint Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., the Chinese Agricultural Development Company Ltd., the Jiefang Truck Company Ltd., the Yuejing Truck Company Ltd. among others, which have helped boost Tanzania's economic development.

Besides, Chinese doctors may also deserve credit in expanding ties between the two countries.

Over the past decades, China has dispatched 16 groups of medical experts, totaling some 858 people to Tanzanian, to help uplift the level of medical service in the country.

In recent years, some Chinese doctors also set up special clinics in Tanzania to help curb the wide spread of HIV/AIDS pandemic by using traditional Chinese medicines.

Like what Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has said on many occasions, there is no other country in the world like China that has given Tanzania such an amount of selfless help.

The president, who is now in Beijing attending the three-day China-Africa Cooperation Forum opened on October 10, described the forum as "a historic occasion".

He said he interrupted his election campaign to come to China as "an expression of faith - faith in China, faith in what China and Africa can achieve together, and faith in the shared and achievable vision for the future".

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With a long whistle, a fully loaded passenger train as usual leaves the noisy capital city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and gradually merges into the tranquillity of African savanna.

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