Tunisia: Collaborative Firsts with China, Russia as Tensions with West Simmer

by | Nov 11, 2023 | Diplomacy, Economic, Social, Tunisia


In recent weeks, both Russia and China have steadily implemented cultural exchange efforts in Tunisia, in an attempt to fill the cooperative diplomatic space left vacant as tensions grow between Carthage and Western partners over economic and migration policies, and the war in Israel/Palestine. 

On 11 November 2023, a group of Russian language professors completed a visit to Tunisia to launch a Russian language program. Representatives from the Russian Cultural Center indicated that Tunisia became the first country in North Africa to officially offer Russian language in the secondary education system. 

Meanwhile, a joint Tunisia-Chinese archaeological team conducted excavations in Ben Arous throughout early November. A Tunisian member called the joint work a breakthrough and a first of its kind advancement in cultural cooperation between the two countries. 

The Ben Arous area is thought to have once housed Phoenician settlements that likely sat near ancient Carthage.


These breakthroughs in cultural cooperation with Russia and China come at a time when tensions are heightened with Tunisia’s traditional Western partners, including the EU, the US, and France. 

Anger amongst Tunisians has risen toward the US and France as the war in Israel/Palestine continued into its second month, leaving thousands dead. Many view the US and France as complicit in Israeli aggression and violence in Gaza. 

Relations with the EU have grown cold as the irregular migration issue remains prominent in the minds of EU leaders, with few easy solutions in sight. A large assistance package agreed to in July was meant to become a blueprint for EU assistance, but public disagreements over implementation have left many doubting. 

As frustration grows with Tunisia’s Western partners, diplomatic space may, in turn, grow for countries like Russia and China to engage in soft power and cultural diplomacy. Our team will continue to watch for shifts in the complex web of Tunisia’s diplomatic relationships. 


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