A “renewal’’ of The China-Tanzania Treaty of Friendship (1965)

April 28, 2013 7:56 pm2 comments by:

Tanzania’s strategic decision to promote stronger ties with China is entirely understandable but sometimes it makes the Western capitals nervous. Relations between Tanzania and China date back to the Cooperation Agreement signed 48 years ago. This treaty can be traced back when the late President Nyerere visited China in 1965, where the Sino- Tanzanian Treaty of Friendship (1965) was signed in Perking on February 20, 1965. This “Treaty of Friendship” brought about a new era of cooperation between the People republic of China and United Republic of Tanzania, and it was very instrumental in moving the new country forwards.

Tanzania has clearly benefited from this relation, where China’s contribution to Tanzania’s development can be clearly observed from the amount of financing extended to Tanzania in the early years after Independence.  According to the report which was given to the national assembly in May 10, 1968 in a reply to the question about how much in loans Tanzania received since Independence, China was ranked second to Great Britain, where it extended a total of $40 million as of 31 December 1967. These loans were extended at the time which was most needed to equip Tanzanian people with the skills and knowledge which transformed the country from a country with 85% of its adult population illiterate and a country with only two trained engineers and 12 doctors to a country which is going to the right direction in the fulfilment of bettering the life of its people.

In this modern era when China is projected to be the largest economy in the world by 2016, it is unnecessary to point out the great importance of Tanzania forging stronger ties with China, as this is proved by the way in which all the great nations of the world are so eagerly competing to forge close ties with China and attract more FDI to their countries.

On the other hand, as China expands its presence in Africa, Beijing Geostrategists understand the importance of Tanzania in implementing their foreign policy, such considerations underscore the fact that, Tanzania is better positioned to advance the Economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa. This can be observed with the current active role of China in Tanzania which signals the commitment of China investing in long-term strategic partnership with Tanzania.

Equally important, while there is no doubt that this is a renewal of our friendship, but as we embark in the new era of Tanzania-China relations, it poses two important questions; firstly, what kind of strategic relationship should Tanzania have with China? And secondly what kind of strategic relationship can Tanzania have with China? These are vital questions and we cannot turn blind eyes on them. Tanzania policymakers must be realistic about our role in the new China- Tanzania relation and we have to be realistic about our own strategic priorities and limitations.

Looking ahead, as we plan for the future, there’s no doubt that China is a lucrative market for the global agriculture exports, therefore if we are thinking strategically in a country where 80% of its populace depends in agriculture as a main economic activity then our focus should be on how we can tap into China’s demands for agricultural produce.

I know in the  presence of mining , oil and Gas  and other thriving  extractive industries, this might sound silly, but  let’s be clear and let’s be simple, strategy is about “choices”, and at the root of all strategy lies the ability to make good choices. For that reason in a country where rural incomes are linked either directly or indirectly to agriculture, if we have to think strategically and if we want to give our people a fair share from the China-Tanzania relation, then our choice should be Agriculture development for export to China and we shouldn’t concentrate our energy in extractive Industries, which is a simple choice to take. Agricultural growth will make a direct contribution to the welfare of rural populations by raising the incomes of 80%  of Tanzanian farmers and their families and that would be a very smart foreign policy choice.

Lastly, our good friendship with China should not go silence on the fact that; there may be an exceptional case where some Industry in Tanzania should be entitled to special protection from cheap China imports. Borrowing from Mwalimu Nyerere’s speech when he visited China in 1968, he was noted saying “The friendship between Tanzania and People’s Republic of China is a friendship between most unequal equals”. From that perspective, formulating a win to win trade policy in a relationship between unequal equals requires the ability to convey uncomfortable truth. Therefore while we are giving China open access to our market, we shouldn’t be shy to highlight areas which we need to protect our local infant industries which is essential in improving the well being of our people and making us a more valuable partner to International Trade.

Emmanuel Tayari is an International Trade and Foreign Affairs Research expert based in Newcastle, United Kingdom. You can follow him on twitter @mtanzania or email him e.tayari@tanzaniawealth.com


  • Mimi Mtanzania

    This is a fair and Balanced Analysis.

  • Norman Chipakupaku

    Totally agree that Tanzania and other countries like Zambia should not be shy to ride the success of China as a world economic power.

    As one of the thousands who was trained in China in the 1970s, I told agree at Tanzania and Zambia should utilise the rich land to produce for the huge Chinese market. As we export to China, we should also learn from the Chinese culture of hard work.

    Well done Emmanuel- now is the time to mobilise our farmers to take advantage on the huge Chinese market- it will not be there for ever !! Other continents are also eyeing this huge opportunity.

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