Gulf News ArchivesSheikh Zayed, the Founding President, was shown around historic sites on his 1990 visit to China. Some of the attractions he was shown included the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. Chinese president Yang Shangkun stressed the value China put on the UAE’s development of friendly ties with his country. Photos: National Archive
Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s founding father, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s visit to China in 1990 laid the foundation for a great friendship between the two countries and peoples that has grown into a strategic partnership with the passage of time.
In May 1990, Shaikh Zayed flew to Beijing for a five-day state visit to China — the first by a Gulf Cooperation Council’s leader.
During talks with Shaikh Zayed, then Chinese President Yang stressed the importance of development of friendly relations between the UAE and China and said that the two countries held identical views on major international issues.
During his stay in China, Shaikh Zayed visited the Great Wall of China, one of the most impressive architectural feats in the world, and the Forbidden City, a palace complex that served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government for almost 500 years between 1420 to 1912.
During the visit Shaikh Zayed announced to establish an Arab and Islamic studies centre in Beijing to disseminate the Islamic culture and Arabic language and support scientific and academic research there.
The UAE Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture and the Teaching of the Arabic Language opened in 1994 and was renamed as Shaikh Zayed Centre for Arabic Language and Islamic Studies during a visit by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China in 2012.
Hundreds of students have graduated from the centre since its establishment, and almost all the Chinese ambassadors to Arab countries studied there.
The centre serves as a bridge between Arab and Chinese civilisations and helps deepen the concepts of dialogue, understanding and noble human values. The cultural links between the Arab world and China go back to centuries, from the porcelain and pearl trade that first connected China to the Arab world in the 7th century to the Ming Dynasty explorations of Zheng He, who established the Maritime Silk Road connecting China with Arabia and Africa.
During his 2012 visit, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed planted a tree at the grounds of the centre as symbol of friendship between the people of the UAE and China.
Six years later, the Chinese President Xi Jiping is visiting the UAE and that friendship tree continues to grow and bloom with bilateral relations being an exemplary model of mutual respect, friendship and cooperation.
Following his father’s footsteps, Shaikh Mohammad also visited the Great Wall of China.
Shaikh Mohammad toured different parts of the wall, which was built 2,700 years ago and stretches thousands of kilometres.
He stopped at the turrets and watchtowers dotting the wall and was briefed about its history and its route through different terrains.
“I am pleased today to visit one of the world’s most remarkable landmarks that reflects the values of hard work, perseverance and determination. I would like to express my admiration and appreciation for the people of China and their rich culture,” Shaikh Mohammad wrote in the visitors’ book.
“I wish further progress to our relations, built on strong friendship and deep-rooted links.”
Welcoming the Chinese president’s visit to the UAE this week, Shaikh Mohammad said China and the UAE play a pivotal role in stability and a promising economic future for the region.
“Over 28 years ago, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan visited China, founding the strategic relationship between the two countries that has yielded fruitful trade and investment as well as cultural relations of more than three decades with China — a country that has political and economic impact on a global level,” Shaikh Mohammad said.