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China-SA friendly cooperation - full sail ahead
From Cape Times on Wednesday, November 23,2016


It’s a great pleasure to pay an official visit to South Africa at the invitation of Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa and co-chair with him the 6th plenary session of the China-South Africa Bi-National Commission.

During his visit to South Africa at the end of last year, President Xi Jinping pointed out that the friendly co-operation between the two countries had grown from a small boat into a giant ocean liner.

The purpose of my visit is, together with the South African government, to implement the important consensus reached by the two leaders, so that the great ocean liner of co-operation will sail ahead with full steam in the direction of win-win co-operation and joint development.

I have a special connection to the “Rainbow Nation” of South Africa.

In January 2012, I led a delegation to attend the centenary celebrations of the ANC.

In December 2013, at the sad moment of the passing of Nelson Mandela, the great son of South Africa, I, as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, attended the funeral of Mandela.

Back in South Africa again, I feel the warmth and affinity that one can only find in visiting an old friend.

While China and South Africa are oceans apart, there is strong empathy between our two peoples. Whether in the fight against apartheid, or in the journey of achieving prosperity, our two peoples always stood together through trials and tribulations and formed deep brotherly friendship in that process.

Over the past 18 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the relationship between our two countries leapfrogged from “partnership”, through “strategic partnership” to “comprehensive strategic partnership.” The first state visit paid by President Xi Jinping after assuming office was to South Africa, fully demonstrating the high level of our comprehensive strategic partnership.

First, the foundation of our political and strategic mutual trust has become stronger. Over the past few years, our two presidents met frequently, witnessing the signing of the “China-South Africa 5-10 Year Framework on Co-operation between China and South Africa,” agreeing to set China-South Africa relations as the strategic fulcrum and priority of their respective countries, and thus setting a path for, and injecting strong dynamism into, China-South Africa relations.

Second, the momentum for pragmatic win-win co-operation is building.

Last year, two-way trade between China and South Africa totalled US$46billion, and China’s investment stock in South Africa reached $13bn.

Co-operation in production capacity is growing at an accelerated pace, making remarkable achievements in industrialisation, special economic zones, maritime economy, infrastructure and information technology. Hisense of China has become a well-known brand for household appliances in South Africa. Chinese companies such as China First Automotive Works, BAIC Motor Corporation, and Yangtze Optical Fibre and Cable have made investments and started businesses in South Africa, not only facilitating the process of reindustrialisation of local areas, but also creating a large number of jobs.

Huawei has also built an Innovation Experience Centre here, the first of its kind set up by Huawei in Africa.

Third, local and people-to-people exchanges have become more dynamic. Of all African countries, South Africa boasts the largest number of provinces and cities paired with Chinese ones, and Confucius Institutes and Confucius classrooms.

The years 2014 and 2015 were respectively the Year of South Africa in China, and the Year of China in South Africa, which have written a new chapter of people-to-people exchanges and co-operation in the history of China-South Africa relations. The South African Government has also created an enabling environment for expanding people-to-people exchanges by including Chinese language teaching to its national curriculum. The two governments have reached consensus on building a high-level mechanism of people-to-people exchanges, whose launch will be a highlight of China-South Africa and China-Africa civilisation dialogues.

Fourth, our co-ordination in regional and international affairs has become closer. At the end of last year, the Focac (Forum on China-Africa Co-operation) Johannesburg Summit, co-chaired by the two leaders, produced fruitful results and drew up a new blueprint for the win-win co-operation and joint development of China and South Africa. As co-chairs, China and South Africa led the way in implementing recommendations from the summit.

In less than a year, over 240 co-operation agreements were signed between China and African countries, with a total value of nearly $50bn. Last month, the 753km Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway started its operation, which represents a new milestone in China-Africa friendship.

In multilateral platforms such as the UN, the G20, and the Brics, China and South Africa maintained close communication, co-ordination and co-operation in an effort to further advance the common interests of developing countries and to make the existing global governance and the global order more just and equitable.

President Xi Jinping pointed out in his first state visit to Africa that China and Africa had always shared the same future. China needs Africa, and Africa needs China too. The Chinese people are striving to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects to realise the dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, while South Africa is at a momentous stage of economic and social transition. As a result, the area of strategic alignment between the two countries is widening, bringing about brighter prospects for co-operation.

China will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development and win-win co-operation, together with South Africa, to grasp the opportunities and enable the great ocean liner of friendly co-operation to sail rapidly and stably.

The development strategies of our two countries highly complement each other. Therefore, we need to identify areas of co-operation and overlapping interests, initiate pilot programmes in key areas such as maritime economy, industrial production capacity, infrastructure, energy, human resources and finance, from which early achievements may be generated and concrete benefits to our two peoples derived.

As a proverb in South Africa goes, “a chatting bird builds no nest”, the key to unleash the potential of China-South Africa co-operation is action. “When brothers are of the same mind, their edge can cut through metal.” The old Chinese saying applies to us. As long as we are of the same mind and meet each other half way, good wishes will become reality.

Equality, mutual benefits and joint development are the guarantee for sustained development and productive outcomes. That is the essence of the new philosophies and measures proposed by President Xi Jinping. China and South Africa should strive to complement each other’s development and actively build a community of shared interests and future.

We should, with courage and determination address any challenges that come our way, and in the spirit of friendly consultation, address any possible issues in a timely manner and push China-South Africa co-operation to greater heights.

Mandela once said: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

It is becoming even more significant to accelerate the formation of a community of shared future between China and South Africa, and between China and Africa in the current international context, in which the China-South Africa Bi-National Commission can play a critical role.

I believe, with the concerted efforts of the two governments and the two peoples, China-South Africa co-operation will embrace an even brighter future.

(The speech is delivered by Li Yuanchao, Vice-President of the Peoples' Republic of China)


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