China-Malta Friendship – From Strength to Strength Over 50 Years
The Chinese Ambassador to Malta Yu Dunhai Published a Signed Article
31 January 2022
50 years ago today, China and Malta established diplomatic ties, which was a landmark decision that opened a brand-new chapter in China-Malta relations.
Recently, I read a book of the former Maltese Ambassador to China Mr Clifford Borg-Marks. He wrote that China made an enormous effort to help Malta’s economic transition after the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1972, by helping Malta build a dry dock with a capacity of 300,000 tons, which provided essential and timely support for Malta.
What’s more, he later found out that back then, China was in fact building this large and technically demanding dry dock for Malta even before building one in China itself. The dry dock has since become widely known in Malta and been fondly referred to as “Red China Dock”.
It stands as a testimony to the friendship between the two and to a long-standing tradition of China’s diplomacy-China would always be there when a friend needs help, without reservation, self-interest or strings attached.
Following the establishment of diplomatic ties, Malta was also able to build a breakwater and factories for glass, textile, etc. with Chinese assistance, which helped grow the economy and generate jobs. Back in those days, despite difficulties in long-distance travel and communication, over a thousand Chinese engineers and technicians set out on a journey for a foreign land thousands of miles away to help it thrive. How commendable was their devotion and selflessness! Two Chinese engineers, Xu Huizhong and Gu Yanzhao, gave their lives to the construction of the dry dock and were laid to rest in Malta. To this day, their touching story continues to inspire people who are committed to China-Malta friendship.
Over half a century, this friendship has gone from strength to strength and continues to renew its vigor.
On 10 January, Chinese President Xi Jinping said to President George Vella over their phone conversation that China and Malta are close and time-tested friends. Fifty years on, the bilateral relationship has moved steadily forward no matter how the international landscape changed and served as a shining example of relations between countries different in size, social system, history and culture.
Indeed, China and Malta have always respected and trusted each other politically. Our two countries respect each other’s development paths and have given each other understanding and support on issues concerning our respective core interests and major concerns.
Economically, both countries are committed to mutually beneficial cooperation. Malta is one of the first European countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative. Bilateral trade last year rose by 56.9 percent despite the impact of Covid-19.
Culturally, our two countries have long engaged in close exchanges and mutual learning. China Cultural Centre is the first of its kind established by China in Europe. The Mediterranean Regional Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine has provided treatment service more than 200,000 times.
Malta, meanwhile, has become increasingly familiar to the Chinese people, whose fondness for this lovely country is growing by the day. A Chinese tourist wrote in the travel log that “Malta is such a fascinating country that has so much to offer. The City of Valletta mesmerizes you anywhere you look.”
Many Chinese have caught a glimpse of Malta’s enchanting scenery and time-honored history in films and drama series such as Games of Thrones and have since made it one of their top tourist destinations.
In a world undergoing profound changes, China and Malta are partners on the international stage sharing common goals. Both countries are committed to true multilateralism and the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law. China and Malta have supported each other in playing an even greater role in international affairs and worked together to fight Covid, tackle climate change, pursue economic recovery and deal with other global challenges. Both are committed to a sound and stable China-EU relationship.
The past serves as a source of guidance for the future. For the next 50 years, both China and Malta will need to respond to the trend of the times and keep bilateral relations on the right course. It is important to continue to deepen political mutual trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation and grow people-to-people friendship to open up broad prospects for China-Malta relations.
Tomorrow will begin the Chinese lunar Year of the Tiger. Tiger is a symbol of courage and strength in Chinese culture. As we look ahead to the next 50 years, I am convinced that with the concerted efforts of all sides, China-Malta relations will – as Chinese idioms put it – further thrive like “a tiger with two wings”, and bring more benefits to the people of both countries, and contribute to building a community with a shared future for mankind.