Across China: Chinese doctors win Africa's respect
NANCHANG, May 9 (Xinhua) -- When acupuncturist Xu Jinshui arrived in Tunisia, the thought of becoming famous had never crossed his mind.
On a government mission in 1997, Xu, 51, rose to fame when he cured the president of Tunisia's arthritis with his particular traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) skills.
Xu spent nine years teaching local doctors and treating the sick of Tunisia, more than 10,000 km away from his home in the city of Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province.
"It's been quite a journey, but I always felt great when I was in Africa. I could feel the friendliness of the local people," he said.
In Africa today, acupuncture is no longer a mysterious oriental therapy characterized by needles protruding from people's skin. "It is widely used to treat high blood pressure, obesity, and so forth," Xu said, but the popularity has been years in the making.
In 1994, the Ministry of Health appointed Jiangxi's provincial health department to build an acupuncture center in Tunisia, and Xu Jinshui was named head of the team sent there.
With cold winters and a damp wind off the sea, Tunisia suffers badly with rheumatism. The acupuncturist wasted no time and was soon caring for almost half of rheumatism patients from other hospitals. The Tunisian government went so far as to include acupuncture in the national medical insurance scheme.
Xu cultivated a legion of acupuncturists over the course of nine years, who spread the therapy to the most remote areas of the country.
Xu, however, is only one small player in the grand scheme that is China's overseas medical assistance.
In 1963, the first Chinese medical team was sent to Algeria and more than half a century later, China has sent about 23,000 doctors to a total of 66 countries and regions across the globe, particularly in Africa. Together with local doctors, Chinese medical staff have saved more than 200 million lives in Africa, gaining huge respect in the continent.
"You are truly guardian angels in white," said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when he visited a Chinese medical unit in Ethiopia during his ongoing tour.
And now 26 years into his job, Xu the "guardian angel" is hitting the road again, planning to return to Tunisia at the end of this year, after two years of rest.
"It will always give me a sense of pride," Xu said.