A historic visit heralds a new emerging world

Friday, October 6, 2023

Ambassador Muhammad
Hassanein Khaddam

By Muhammad Hassanein Khaddam
Ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic to China
BEIJING: The visit of the President and the First Lady of the People's Republic to China represented a shift in bilateral relations, especially with the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement and other agreements that consolidated the “Heading East” policy launched by the President when he visited China in 2004.

This policy builds on historical ties between Syria and the Asian countries both economically and culturally. Our experience with the west led to suffering in the area but Asia has no plans that could negatively impact the region.

Syria is the western border of Asia while China represents the eastern border of Asia, and President Assad’s visit will hale a new beginning for Syria and the Asian resurgence.

The President was accompanied by an official delegation that included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Economy and Foreign Trade, the Presidency of the Republic and the Vice President of the Planning and International Cooperation Authority.

The official meetings with the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qian and with Mr. Zhao Lijie, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress illustrated a similarity in views, perceptions and common understanding of the unprecedented international changes as well as in aspirations towards a more just and fair global order based on mutual respect and equal relations in a way that serves the interests of all parties and benefits all nations.

President Assad praised the Chinese initiatives regarding global development and security and stressed that such initiatives reflect the aspirations of all the nations in the world who seek development and peace.

Syria supports these initiatives, especially since they fall within the vision of a human society sharing a joint future and facing together the current and future challenges, whether related to development, technological progress, health and resolving crises through peaceful means. He expressed disappointment toward the mentality that causes some Western capitals to impose unilateral sanctions- sanctions that have caused great financial suffering for the people as supply chains and reduced crops were cut thus leading to power in the hands of a few nations.

President Assad also stressed his country’s desire to switch to the Chinese yuan as a currency for trade exchange, especially since China is Syria's largest trading partner and the Yuan currency benefits both sides instead of the dominating dollar system. He continued by saying the Chinese currency will help facilitate the involvement of Chinese companies in the reconstruction process, while expanding Syria's involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chinese leadership has praised Syria’s steadfastness for more than a decade against Western influence and has affirmed its full support for Syria in international forums in its war on terrorism, in preserving its sovereignty and strategic independence and in its development aspirations as well as its full engagement with the Belt and Road Initiative which is of benefit to both countries. The advantages that Syria enjoys geographically is also of benefit to both nations as it helps increase Chinese imports of Syrian products.

The President and the First Lady visited a Chinese model village in the Khanju countryside, an example of a successful experiment in combating poverty. In February 2021, China announced that with the combined efforts of a number of ministries, the model village system had expanded to all the provinces and more than 800 million people had been lifted out of poverty. The government is now focused on maintaining the success so that the villages are not affected by economic factors.

The President and the First Lady along with other guest leaders also attended the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in the city of Khanju. The President was impressed with the welcome given to the Syrian sports delegation as they entered the stadium

(Photo supplied)

The First Lady also gave a lecture at Beijing Foreign Language University in the presence of a large number of professors, students and diplomatic missions. The lecture focused on relations between nations and the role of language in that. She emphasized the issue of identity and its preservation in light of the progress witnessed by humanity, and the necessity of preserving the societal and human moral values of all civilizations while keeping pace with scientific developments. She praised the historical relations that linked Syria with China throughout history.

One of the most prominent events of the visit in Beijing was the meeting of the President and the First Lady with members of the Syrian community residing in China, business men and women, researchers and students. His Excellency spoke about links, identity, and connection to the homeland regardless of distance and time, but also the importance of engaging in Chinese society and learning everything they could, especially since China has an ancient and friendly civilization. His Excellency listened to each person of the Syrian Community describe their experiences and their suggestions on what could benefit Syria and charged the Syrian embassy with the task of continuing to communicate with individuals in the community and passing on the successes to their home country.

The visit included a number of important events that the Chinese social networking sites are still broadcasting. The number of views has exceeded 1.6 billion views on the Weibo platform.

Despite the geographical distance, our two countries are deeply rooted in history, and our people have brought together trade and cultural exchanges since time immemorial.

The Emperor of the Western Han Dynasty sent the traveler Zhang Qian on a mission to establish relations with other people during the second century BC - his route is known worldwide as the “Silk Road”. And the Eastern Han Dynasty sent Gan Ying as its envoy to Palmyra in the first century AD. The famous Roman poet Horace, spoke about the role of the Syrian merchant in delivering Chinese silk to Rome since the first century BC and the tombs of Palmyra contain more than a hundred pieces of Chinese silk, damasks and gin, all dating back to the second century BC. Chinese historians also say that wheat and its cultivation arrived in China from Syria and West Asia more than 4600 years ago. And, the Syrian Church was the first to arrive in Chang An in the sixth century AD. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the historical relations between the two countries.

The visit of the President and the First Lady of the People's Republic of Syria is a continuation of the friendly history that brought together the two civilizations, and its timing comes at a major turning point of humanity as we witness a burgeoning of multipolarity that allows all countries to contribute to shaping our future.

Consultation and continued communication at the level of senior leaderships are major factors in enhancing solidarity and cooperation between countries. The West has dominated the world for centuries but this has led to wealth for the west and suffering for developing countries as well as a seemingly endless cycle of conflict. Perhaps the West Asia region has suffered the most and why many countries now look to China and its principles-based policies which are increasingly welcomed in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and especially in the Middle East.

China remained the leader and engine of the global economy until the year 1850, when Western countries launched what became known as the Opium Wars as they tried to weaken China and maintain a trade that made them wealthy. China was plundered of its cultural and economic wealth which plunged them into an era of extreme poverty. However, with steadfast perseverance and with love for their country, the Chinese people were able to recover and achieve scientific and economic excellence in many advanced fields. This is a lesson that can be examined in detail as it demonstrates that the will of a nation and its people endures through a belief in themselves and a certainty of belonging. This is what the Syrian people proved during their recent ordeal.

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