Sailing the Giant Ship of China-South Africa
Friendship and Cooperation Toward Greater Success
President of the People’s Republic of China
At the invitation of President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, I will soon make a state visit to the Republic of South Africa and attend the 15th BRICS Summit. It will be my sixth visit to the promising land of the “rainbow nation”. South Africa is home to the great statesman Nelson Mandela, and it boasts the richest tourist resources, the longest road network, the biggest securities exchange, and the busiest airports and harbors in Africa. The country exudes unique charm with the perfect amalgam of the ancient and the modern, and of nature and culture.
Each of my visits to South Africa gave me new impressions. But the deepest is invariably the brotherly sentiments we have toward each other. Our friendship has traversed a long span of time. As early as in the mid-20th century, the newly founded People’s Republic of China lent firm support to the South African people in fighting apartheid, and stood with the African National Congress as comrades and friends. Our friendship has defied the obstacles of mountains and oceans. Facing the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, China was among the first to provide anti-pandemic supplies to South Africa, reaffirming our special brotherhood. More recently, China also provided to the country emergency power equipment. Over the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, our relationship has achieved leapfrog development–from a partnership to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership. It is one of the most vibrant bilateral relations in the developing world. Our relationship has entered a “golden era”, enjoying broad prospects and a promising future.
In recent years, President Ramaphosa and I have maintained close communication through visits, meetings, phone calls and letters. We jointly explore cooperation opportunities, pursue development, and stand up to common challenges. Our strategic mutual trust has been deepening steadily. We give each other firm support on issues involving our respective core interests and major concerns, and maintain coordination on major international and regional issues. We work together to practice true multilateralism and push for the building of a more just and equitable international order.
South Africa was the first African country to sign the Belt and Road cooperation document with China. It has been China’s biggest trading partner in Africa for 13 years in a row, as well as one of the African countries with the largest stock of Chinese investment. The pie of bilateral cooperation is getting bigger. South Africa’s wines, rooibos tea, and aloe vera gels are trending products in China. Many Chinese companies are expanding their operation and at the same time taking more social responsibilities in South Africa. Automobiles and home appliances with Chinese brands yet made in South Africa are very popular among local consumers, and are now owned by numerous South African households. South African companies are also racing to invest in the Chinese market to seize the abundant business opportunities, and they have made important contribution to China’s economic growth.
South Africa’s Ubuntu philosophy advocates compassion and sharing. It resonates well with the values of Confucianism–“love the people and all beings and seek harmony among all nations”. In 2015, I participated in the Year of China activities in South Africa, and witnessed the gratifying achievements of our Year of China/South Africa programs. Last April, the faculty and students of the Confucius Institute at Durban University of Technology wrote me a letter in Chinese, expressing their fondness for the Chinese culture and thanking China for the valuable opportunities provided to young Africans chasing their dreams. I find it very heart-warming. Indeed, these vibrant people-to-people exchanges enhance the empathy between our peoples, and enable our friendship to be passed down from generation to generation.
The China-South Africa relationship is standing at a new historical starting point. It has gone beyond the bilateral scope and carries increasingly important global influence. During my forthcoming visit, I look forward to working with President Ramaphosa to chart the plan for a new chapter of our comprehensive strategic partnership.
China and South Africa should be fellow companions sharing the same ideals. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “A partnership forged with the right approach defies distance; it is thicker than glue and stronger than metal and rock.” We need to increase our experience sharing on governance, and firmly support each other in independently exploring a path to modernization that suits our respective national conditions. We should fear no hegemony, and work with each other as real partners to push forward our relations amid the changing international landscape.
China and South Africa should be pacesetters for solidarity and cooperation. We will succeed because of our biggest strengths in high economic complementarity and the solid foundation for cooperation. We need to further synergize development strategies, promote stronger cooperation in infrastructure, digital economy, scientific and technological innovation and energy transition, and ensure that more people of our two countries will benefit from the development outcomes. China welcomes more South African products to its market, and encourages more Chinese companies to invest and do business in South Africa as an effort of support for South Africa’s target to double its inbound investment over the next five-year period.
China and South Africa should be inheritors of China-Africa friendship. We need to leverage the all-round, multi-tiered and institutionalized mechanisms for people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, and continue to advance exchanges and cooperation in culture, tourism, education, sports, media, universities, sub-national governments and the youth. We must keep the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation as alive and strong as ever across the vast lands of China and Africa.
China and South Africa should be champions of our common interests. What the world needs today is peace, not conflict; what the world wants is coordination, not confrontation. China and South Africa, as natural members of the Global South, should all the more work together to appeal for greater voice and influence of developing countries in international affairs, promote accelerated reform of international financial institutions, and oppose unilateral sanctions and the “small yard, high fence” approach. We should jointly safeguard our common interests.
The BRICS Summit is another important agenda during my visit to South Africa. This is the third time for the Summit to take place on this continent brimming with vibrancy and hope. I still have vivid memories of the Summit in the picturesque Sanya, China’s Hainan Province, when South Africa made the formal debut as a member of the BRICS family. Over the past 12 years, South Africa has made important contributions to the development of BRICS cooperation mechanism, further substantiating BRICS cooperation and extending its influence. Now more and more countries are knocking on the door of BRICS, aspiring to join our cooperation. This is a testament to the vitality and influence of the BRICS cooperation mechanism. China is ready to work with fellow BRICS partners to act on the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, build consensus on important issues, carry forward our tradition of independent diplomacy, and resolutely uphold international equity and justice. We will urge the international community to refocus on development issues, promote a greater role by the BRICS cooperation mechanism in global governance, and make the voice of BRICS stronger.
It has been ten years since I put forth “sincerity, real results, amity and good faith” as the principles for China to develop its relations with Africa. The past decade has witnessed our joint pursuit of a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and the completion and handover of a host of projects including the Africa CDC Headquarters, the Foundiougne Bridge in Senegal, the Nairobi Expressway and the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, renewing China-Africa friendship across the vast lands of China and Africa.
In face of the profound changes unseen in a century, a strong China-Africa relationship and productive China-Africa cooperation will provide more fresh impetus to global development and ensure greater stability of the world. This is an international responsibility and historical mission entrusted to the 2.8 billion Chinese and African peoples. We will convene a China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue. I will work with African leaders to bring more active, effective and sustainable development initiatives to Africa, expand cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, new energy and digital economy, and facilitate Africa’s economic integration, industrialization and agricultural modernization. China will continue to work for substantive progress in African Union’s joining of the G20 this year, and looks forward to a greater role by African countries and the AU in international and regional affairs.
As an ancient Chinese poem goes, “With high tide and tailwind, it is time to sail a smooth ride.” Looking ahead into the next 25 years, the giant ship of China-South Africa friendship and cooperation will sail forward, and we will make even greater progress in the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era as well as the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. Enditem