This month marks sixty-seven years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China – a country that would rise to become an important member of the international community and a beacon of hope for many other countries and people globally in a way that nobody could have imagined.
Whilst we speak of the incredible rise to the top of China, in so doing lifting millions of its people out of poverty, we should remember that the country has also in the process, contributed to a better world that we live in today.
When we cite statistics of how much progress the world has made to reduce poverty; to increase the levels of literacy and access to education; to increase life expectancy; and many other positive developments, we would probably not have a very good story to tell if we did not take into account the contribution made by China.
The People’s Republic of China and The Republic of South Africa’s relations are firmly premised on the strong historical ties between the African National Congress (ANC) and Chinese Communist Party which, dates back to the days of our liberation struggle. This foundation is important for our democracies, especially to strengthen our relations at all levels.
The People’s Republic of China is rich in culture and heritage and it is admirable that so much of it has been preserved over millennia.
Together, China and South Africa boast a total of 58 World Heritage Sites, as designated by UNESCO, which serve as tourist attractions to people across the globe.
On 24 September 2016 South Africa celebrated its National Heritage Day. We recognize, just as the Chinese do, the importance of preserving a nation’s culture and heritage for the benefit of its future generations and the entire global citizens.
Tourism between South Africa and China is on the rise.
Last year, it was recorded that 84 691 Chinese tourists visited South Africa. In addition to them experiencing the beauty of our country, these tourists contribute to our economy in a significant way.
These tourism flows strengthen the bonds that exist between our two countries. We know that we have excellent political and economic relations between our Governments and it is important that we expand it even further to include vibrant and strong people-to-people links.
South Africa and China are on the same page regarding this vision, as confirmed by the decision of Presidents Jacob Zuma and Xi Jinping to establish a High-Level People-to-People Mechanism Exchange between our two countries.
People-to-people diplomacy will deepen mutual understanding between the peoples of South Africa and China and create opportunities that would otherwise not have existed.
We know that although China has had remarkable success in addressing its pressing social and economic challenges, the work is not yet done.
China’s rise to the top of the global community is in many ways attributable to the importance it placed on educating its citizens.
As the Chinese saying goes, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people”. A lesson South Africa has taken to heart.
At the heart of the Sino-South African relations is the agreement between our two countries to cooperate on issues regarded as crucial to our own developmental needs and related to the National Development Plan (NDP).
In our quest for economic growth, China has demonstrated its commitment to assist South Africa in this regard through various large-scale investments. Trade between South Africa and China stood at R294 billion at the end of 2015.
During the forthcoming Bi-National Commission (BNC) in November this year to be hosted in South Africa, we wish to further enhance the political and economic relations between our countries.
We also wish to work towards operationalizing critical areas that have been identified in achieving South Africa’s economic objectives such as Operation Phakisa and the Re-Industrialisation programme.
During President Xi Jinping’s State Visit in December 2015, our two countries signed bilateral Agreements worth R94 billion. The subsequent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit also produced an incredible outcome, with President Xi announcing that US$60 billion would be made available to fund developmental projects in Africa. This would go a long way in addressing the challenges faced by African countries.
The announcement by President Xi was a genuine commitment which was backed up by follow-up actions such as the FOCAC Coordinators Meeting in Beijing in July this year which brought together relevant Chinese and African Ministers to assess progress thus far with regard to that commitment by President Xi.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane represented South Africa and co-chaired that meeting. South Africa has since taken strides to finalise the identified FOCAC projects to meet the funding criteria of China.
As a result, progress on projects such as the Umzimvubu Water Project and the Moloto Rail Corridor, among others, has been made. These projects are very important to us and we appreciate the Chinese’ eagerness to partner with us in order to bring these projects to life.
China has recognized that its growth should not only benefit itself, but the entire world, particularly the developing countries.
China has swiftly increased its foreign aid, but more importantly has intensified its trade relations with developing countries, including the rest of our African continent.
South Africa as well as many other countries in our continent now have China as their number one trading partner.
The Chinese government should be congratulated on the successful hosting of the G20 Summit earlier this month in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.
The Summit showcased China’s ability to steer the G20 Summit Agenda to focus on the world’s systemic economic and financial crises. President Zuma remarked at the 2nd Investing in Africa Forum that was held in Guangzhou, immediately after the G20 Summit that “Africa’s development was prioritized by the Chinese Presidency and this approach was adopted by the G20 Summit as reflected in the Hangzhou Consensus. Industrialization in the continent and least developed nations was put on the global agenda”.
China’s leadership role in the world can only produce positive outcomes and lead us to a path of prosperity. South Africa is, therefore, pleased to be associated with China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, which has the potential to bring about much needed development across the globe through closer economic co-operation and enhanced trade flows among the countries on the Belt and Road routes.
President Zuma also announced during his attendance of the 2nd Investing in Africa Seminar that South Africa is in the process of establishing a Consulate-General in Guangdong Province. This development will further enhance the already strong ties between our countries, especially in the area of economic diplomacy.
President Xi remarked at the G20 Summit that the “The Silk Road Economic Belt is progressing rapidly and the Maritime Silk Road is well under way. But this is not China creating a sphere of influence, but rather a means of supporting the development of all countries. We are not building China’s backyard garden, but we are building a garden to be shared by all countries”.
This ‘garden’ that President Xi refers to needs to be watered and South Africa stands ready at all times to work with China, our valued Comprehensive Strategic Partner, to ensure that the garden produces the desired fruit.
CDE LINDIWE ZULU IS A MEMBER OF THE ANC NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (NEC) AND MINISTER OF SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT