The grand celebrations marking the 74th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China were held at a prestigious event at the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria were attended by senior Cabinet ministers, diplomats representing numerous embassies and high commissions and local and international media.
Chargé d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, Li Zhigang presided over the event which was graced by Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille; Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; and first deputy secretary-general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) Nomvula Mokonyane.
In his keynote address, Li told delegates at the gathering that the National Day celebrations this year were of critical importance as they happened shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to South Africa and the 15th BRICS Summit last month.
“The BRICS cooperation has started a new journey. In 2011, in China’s tropical Hainan province, South Africa made the formal debut as a member of the BRICS family. Twelve years later, six developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America knock open the BRICS door together in South Africa. Congratulations to South Africa for making history, again,” said Li.
While global development faces mounting challenges, Li said the BRICS expansion is the biggest highlight of this year’s BRICS Summit and a historic moment in the development of the BRICS 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 the tradition of independence, and resolutely uphold international equity and justice,” said Li.
“We will urge the international community to refocus on development issues, promote a greater role by the BRICS mechanism in global governance, and make the voice of BRICS stronger.”
Li said China-Africa cooperation has taken new steps.
“This year marks the 10th anniversary since President Xi proposed the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith for China’s Africa policy. Over the past decade, China has stayed committed to this principle.
“We have taken part in the construction of over 6,000 kilometres of rail-roads, over 6,000 kilometres of highways and over 80 large-scale power facilities on the continent.”
Li said China firmly supports the African Union’s accession to the G20, and “warmly” congratulates the AU on becoming a full member of the G20 at the recent New Delhi Summit.
Next year, China will host the 9th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting, and Li said it will be another opportunity to plan together, for the future development of China and Africa.
Regarding the China-South Africa relations, Li said the bilateral ties have reached new heights.
“Over the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, our relationship has achieved leapfrog development, with increasing political mutual trust, continuous expansion of pragmatic cooperation and closer international collaboration. Our relationship has gone beyond the bilateral scope and has increasingly carried global connotations and strategic influence,” he said.
“China is ready to work with South Africa as strategic partners with a high degree of mutual trust, development partners making progress together, friendly partners enjoying mutual understanding, and global partners with a commitment to justice. Together, we will build a high-level China-South Africa community with a shared future.”
This year also marks the 10th anniversary since Xi put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. South Africa was the first African country to sign the Belt and Road cooperation document with China.
“It (South Africa) 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. South Africa’s wines, rooibos tea, and aloe vera gels are trending products in China.
“Over 200 Chinese-funded enterprises have created more than 400,000 jobs in South Africa, and automobiles and home appliances with Chinese brands made in South Africa are now owned by numerous Southern African households.
“President Xi has pointed out that China-South Africa relations have entered a “golden era”. This cannot have been possible without a solid public and social foundation. In recent years, China and South Africa have witnessed booming exchanges and cooperation in culture, tourism, education, sports, media, universities, provinces, women and youth,” said Li.
South Africa has become the sub-Saharan African country that attracts the most Chinese tourists, owns the most sister provinces and cities with China, and has set up the most Confucius Institutes.
“Looking ahead into the next 25 years, China is ready to work with South Africa to implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of State (President Xi and President Cyril Ramaphosa).
“Our two countries will continue to be fellow companions sharing the same ideals, pacesetters for solidarity and cooperation, inheritors of China-Africa friendship, and champions of our common interests, and indeed the common interests of the global south and the whole world,” said Li.
In her congratulatory remarks on behalf of the South African government, Minister De Lille said the event carries “special significance” as it coincides with the celebrations of 25 years of diplomatic relations between South Africa and China.
“What has been significant about our partnership, as has been said on many occasions, is how the bilateral trade between South Africa and China has grown exponentially over the years, increasing from less than R1 billion in 1998, when we embarked upon this relationship, to R614 billion in 2022, making China South Africa’s largest global trade partner. South Africa is also China’s biggest trade partner on the African continent,” she said.
“I am glad that our two leaders agreed to deepen economic bilateral relations by broadening market access and promoting mutually beneficial trade. They also reflected on achieving sustainable foreign direct investment through supporting manufacturing, infrastructure development, beneficiation and encouraging close private sector engagement from both countries.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my remarks would not be complete without mentioning South Africa’s close partnership and cooperation with China as the current BRICS Chair, China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac),” said De Lille.
While these initiatives have been geared towards assisting the African continent with investments towards infrastructure development and rapid industrialisation, they also support socio-economic development at the grassroots level.
“In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, South Africa deeply appreciates China’s support in addressing our current challenges within the energy sector, notably the generous donation of emergency power-generating equipment and grant funding for mutually agreed projects. As indicated by President Ramaphosa to President Xi Jinping during the State Visit – a friend in need is a friend indeed, and this is what China continues to be to South Africa,” she said.
“I sincerely congratulate the government and the People of China on this auspicious occasion and in this Year of the Rabbit, while we commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations. Thank you for inviting us to share in these celebrations.”