Relations between Somalia and China long predate the Middle Ages. Through trade, the peoples of both areas established good relations. Giraffes, zebras and incense were exported to the Ming Empire of China, which established Somali merchants as leaders in the commerce between Asia and Africa, and in the process influenced the Chinese language with the Somali language and vice versa. The Chinese exported celadon wares, spices and muskets in return for horses, exotic animals and ivory. The prominent Hui-Chinese explorer, mariner, diplomat and fleet admiral, Zheng He, arrived in his fourth and fifth voyage to the Somali cities of Mogadishu, Zeila, Merca and Berbera. Sa'id of Mogadishu a Somali explorer travelled to China in the 14th century, when China was ruled by the Yuan Dynasty, and noted the trading communities of the Chinese ports and cities.
Cold war era
During the Cold War period, the Somali government maintained active relations with its Chinese counterpart. The Somali authorities campaigned for an end to China's diplomatic isolation and supported instead its entry into the United Nations.
The Sino-Soviet split had a large influence on China's relations with countries in Africa. As early as 1964, Somalia was described as the first major center of Sino-Soviet rivalry on the continent. When the Somali side expelled Soviet representatives in late 1977, China agreed to take over many of the development projects started by them.
In January 1991, the Chinese embassy in Mogadishu closed down operations due to the start of the civil war in Somalia. Despite the departure of most Chinese officials, the two countries maintained a small trading relationship in the ensuing years. Total trade volume in 2002 was US$3.39 million, with Somalia exporting US$1.56 million of goods to China and importing $1.83 million.
From 2000 to 2011, approximately seven Chinese development projects were launched in Somalia. These initiatives included $6 million in economic assistance, donation of anti-malaria drugs, and $3 million in debt relief.
Following the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia in mid-2012, the Chinese authorities reaffirmed their support for the Somali government and called on the international community to strengthen its commitment to the Somali peace process. China's Permanent Representative to the UN, Li Baodong, also emphasized his administration's support for the Somali federal government's stabilization plan, including the latter's efforts at "implementing an interim Constitution, carrying out its six-point plan, strengthening institutional capacity, exercising government functions and extending effective authority over all its national territory."
In August 2013, follow a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, Somalia's Foreign Minister Fowziya Yusuf Haji Adan announced that the Somali authorities looked forward to cooperation with the Chinese government in the energy, infrastructure, national security and agriculture sectors, among others. Wang also praised the traditional friendship between both nations and re-affirmed China's commitment to the Somali peace process.
In June 2014, during the Arab-China Summit in Beijing, Somali Foreign Minister Abdirahman Duale Beyle met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss bilateral cooperation between Somalia and China. The meeting was held at the Chinese foreign ministry center and focused on trade, security and reconstruction. Among the issues discussed were the various Chinese development projects that were in the process of being implemented in Somalia. Beyle also indicated that the Chinese authorities were slated to broaden their support for Somalia, which would serve to create new employment opportunities. Additionally, Wang commended the Somali federal government on its peace-building efforts. He likewise reaffirmed the historically close diplomatic ties between both territories, recalling China's recognition of the nascent Somali Republic in 1960 and Somalia's subsequent campaigning which helped China obtain a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
On 30 June 2014, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei announced that China would dispatch a diplomatic team on 1 July to reopen the Chinese embassy in Mogadishu. He described the move as both recognition that the Somali authorities were making progress in their national reconstruction efforts and a symbol of the importance that the Chinese government attaches to its bilateral relations with Somalia. On 3 July 2014, Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China Wei Hongtian presented his credentials to Foreign Minister of Somalia Abdirahman Duale Beyle at an event in the Somali capital. Beyle similarly hailed the appointment as a sign of the nation's strengthening security and foreign diplomatic relations. On 12 October 2014, the new Chinese embassy officially opened in Mogadishu.
On 15 December 2014, Wei Hongtian presented his credentials to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the newly appointed Chinese Ambassador to Somalia. He is the first such envoy after the reopening of the Chinese embassy in Mogadishu. Foreign Minister of Somalia Beyle and Ambassador Wei subsequently held a joint press conference, wherein the officials pledged to further strengthen bilateral ties. As part of the local reconstruction process, Wei also indicated that the Chinese authorities were slated to implement various development projects in Somalia.
In July 2007, the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC also signed an oil exploration agreement with the Somali government over the north-central Mudug province, situated in the autonomous Puntland region.
In September 2013, both governments signed an official cooperation agreement in Mogadishu as part of a five-year national recovery plan in Somalia. The pact will see the Chinese authorities reconstruct several major infrastructural landmarks in the Somali capital and elsewhere, including the National Theatre, a hospital, and the Mogadishu Stadium, as well as the road between Galkayo and Burao in northern Somalia. Additionally, Chinese ambassador Liu Guangyoun indicated that China would re-open its embassy in Mogadishu on land that had been donated for the purpose by the Somali government.
In April 2015, Foreign Minister of Somalia Abdisalam Omer met in Mogadishu with Ambassador of China to Somalia Wei Hongtian to discuss ties between both nations. The meeting concluded with a signed bilateral agreement, which strengthens diplomatic relations and collaboration. As part of the treaty's stipulations, $13 million in Chinese funds will be earmarked for reconstruction and development initiatives in the economy, health, education and infrastructure sectors in Somalia. According to Ambassador Wei, the Chinese authorities are slated to continue their support for the Somali government's stabilizations efforts. Omer in turn commended the Chinese government for its sustained cooperation.
List of Somali Ambassadors to China
|Ahmed Mohamed Darman||?||1975?|||
|Mohamed Hassan Said||1988||2006[A]|||
|Mohamed Ahmed Awil||2006||2010|||
|Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim||2010||-|||
|A Mohamed Hassan Said was appointed by the Siad Barre government and was stranded in Beijing when his government collapsed in 1991. The Chinese government continued to recognize him as the Somali ambassador until the Transitional Federal Government appointed a replacement in 2006.|
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