By Xu Weizhong
Algeria occupies a very special place in the history of China-Africa cooperation, bearing witness to many events of friendly cooperation since the founding of the People's Republic of China. The peoples of the two countries established a friendship during the Algerian War of Independence between 1954 and 1962. Algeria is one of the few African countries that successfully won independence through armed struggle. This experience drew Algeria and the new China closer.
When the Algerian interim-government was formed in September 1958, China immediately gave it recognition and established full diplomatic regulations with Algeria on December 20 the same year. Since Algeria won full independence in 1962, friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries have developed comprehensively in political, economic, cultural, health and military fields. Algeria made significant contributions to restoring China's legitimate seat in the United Nations.
After the Cold War, Algeria gave China support in relation to human rights and the Taiwan question. When it chaired the Organization of African Unity (1999-2000), Algeria gave help with preparatory work for the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, therefore ensuring the successful convening of the forum in Beijing, October 2000.
The two countries have maintained political exchanges since the establishment of their diplomatic ties, after each reshuffle of Algerian government or adjustment in Chinese leadership.
Over the past 40 years, no matter what changes have taken place in the international situation, the two countries have understood and supported each other, achieving satisfying results in political, economic and military cooperation, and setting a good example for South-South cooperation.
The foreign ministries of the two countries signed the Agreement on Holding Regular Political Consultations in April 1997. Senior Chinese leaders have said on many occasions that China is willing to work with Algeria to establish a strategic partnership, strengthen consultation and coordination with Algeria and to do every bit to safeguard the lawful rights of various developing countries. Algerian leaders have responded, saying that Algeria and China have deep and friendly relations and that Algeria is willing to continue to consolidate and develop the existing friendly relationship with China and to further enrich the contents of South-South cooperation.
China and Algeria have seen increasingly enhanced trade relations since the two countries signed a trade and payment agreement for the first time in 1964. Particularly in recent years, with the steady development of the Algerian national economy, trade between the two countries has grown rapidly. Trade value stood at US$198.85 million in 2000, and reached US$433.8 million in 2002. From January to November 2003, trade value between the two countries amounted to US$659.97 million of which US$565.08 million were China's exports and US$94.9 million were China's imports. The three figures were up 72.1 percent, 83.1 percent and 26.8 percent respectively from the same period in the previous year. In the years between 2000-03, bilateral trade value between the two countries increased by 2.5 times.
In the meantime, the product mix of trade between China and Algeria has improved. The trade value of industrial products China exported to Algeria during the January-November period in 2003 reached US$295.83 million, accounting for over 50 percent of total export value. According to Algerian Customs statistics, China's exports to Algeria from January to September 2003 totaled US$338 million, becoming Algeria’s No. 7 importer.
China began to contract various engineering projects in Algeria in 1979. By the end of September 2002, China and Algeria signed a total of 198 labor contracts with a contractual value of US$1.898 billion and a business turnover reaching US$902.48 million. A total of 5,067 Chinese workers worked in Algeria. At present 14 Chinese companies including the China State Construction Engineering Corporation have businesses in Algeria, engaging in various fields including construction, water conservancy, petroleum and telecommunication. According to Chinese foreign economic cooperative business statistics, the value of labor contracts China signed with Algeria in 2001 ranked the fifth among the world countries and the first among African countries.
China-Algeria cooperation in the petroleum field has maintained good momentum. Algeria is rich in petroleum and natural gas. By the end of 2003, Algeria had petroleum and gas reserves equivalent to 135 billion barrels. Extractable reserves stand equivalent to 40 billion barrels of which petroleum accounts for 29 percent, natural gas 56 percent, condensate 9 percent and liquefied petroleum 6 percent. In October 2002, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won the tender for the transformation of Algeria's Zarzaitine Oil Field. In July 2003, the group officially signed Algeria's first petroleum joint venture. In October the same year, it again signed two contracts with Algeria for risk petroleum and gas exploration in the Cheliff Basin 201A-112 and 350 blocks in another basin.
Cooperation in health and culture
China began to dispatch medical teams to Algeria in 1963. Facing a raging plague that year, the newly independent Algeria was short of medical workers and medicine. As a result, it appealed to the international community for emergency assistance. The then Chinese leadership immediately made the decision to send a medical team to Algeria, therefore initiating the mode of providing other developing countries with medical technology, service, funds and goods in the form of medical teams. Recent years have witnessed enhanced cooperation in medical fields between the two countries. In August 2002 the two countries signed cooperation agreements including the Protocol on Dispatching Medical Teams to Work in Algeria. There have so far been over 2,200 Chinese medical workers sent to work there.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and Algeria have signed some 20 exchange programs and cooperation agreements on culture, education, sports and the press. In August 2002, the two countries again signed the Implementation Plan of the Cultural Agreement. Currently, over 20 Algerian students are studying in China. In recent few years, China held a number of exhibitions in Algeria that included a photographic art exhibition entitled China, a Beautiful Land (September 2003), China Through a Lens exhibition (November 2002), World Heritages in China photo exhibition (December 2001) and Chinese Peking Opera Art exhibition (September 2001).
In December 2003, Algeria issued a commemorative stamp to mark the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Algeria. The stamp was designed in Algeria and printed in China. It features the national flags of the two countries in the form of two doves of peace flying side by side, implying the friendly relations of the two countries and the sustained effort for peace and development maintained by the two countries.
The author is a researcher with the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
(China.org.cn February 2, 2004)