On 1 January 1998, the national flag of China was raised in South Africa, marking the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Time flies. After 20 years of joint efforts, China-South Africa relations has entered its best historical period with unprecedented political mutual trust, mutually beneficial business cooperation, and people-to-people friendship, becoming a model for China-Africa and South-South cooperation.
The high degree of political mutual trust has been the anchor of our relations. Over the past 20 years, China-SA relations have achieved leapfrog development. Both countries regard each other as the strategic priority in its foreign affairs. President Xi Jinping and President Jacob Zuma have held nine bilateral meetings in recent years, reaching a host of important agreement on comprehensively deepening political mutual trust, mutually beneficial business cooperation, people-to-people exchange, and cooperation in regional and international affairs, lifting our comprehensive strategic partnership to a new height.
The mutually beneficial economic cooperation has been the engine of our ties. China has for eight consecutive years remained South Africa’s largest trading partner. China is also South Africa’s largest source of foreign investment. South Africa is China’s biggest trading partner and the most important destination for Chinese investment in Africa. In 2016, bilateral trade between the two countries reached 35.3 billion US dollars, equivalent to over 20 times of growth from the 1998 level at the beginning of our diplomatic ties. Chinese investment in South Africa has grown from zero to an accumulative total of over 20 billion US dollars of direct investment, reaching thousands of businesses in South Africa. China-SA mutually beneficial business cooperation has demonstrated robust momentum of extensive, multi-tiered, and all-directional rapid development, bringing concrete and tangible benefits to the two peoples.
People-to-people exchange has helped foster sound public support for our friendship. Together, China and South Africa have achieved many firsts in China-South Africa and China-Africa exchange, including the Year of China in South Africa, the Year of South Africa in China, and the launch of the China-SA High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism. Today, South Africa stands as the largest host in Africa for Chinese tourists, students, overseas Chinese, as well as the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms. The Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and China’s experience on governance has also won high praises and wide recognition across the South African society.
Our cooperation on regional and international affairs has helped safeguard our shared interests. China and South Africa have maintained close cooperation on regional and international affairs. The two countries have maintained close coordination under multilateral mechanisms such as BRICS, G20, and the United Nations, jointly upholding the shared interests of both China, South Africa, and the rest of the developing countries. The joint successful organization of the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit and our concrete efforts to implement the outcomes of the Summit have greatly promoted China-Africa win-win cooperation for common development. South Africa has already become the bridgehead connecting Africa to the Belt and Road cooperation.
2018 marks the opening year for China’s comprehensive implementation of the outcomes of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and also coincides with our celebration of the 20th anniversary of China-SA diplomatic ties, presenting new historical opportunities for our mutually beneficial cooperation. China is ready to join efforts with South Africa to ensure great success of the BRICS Summit and the FOCAC Summit. China will make greater efforts to synergize development strategies with South Africa, and fully connect with South Africa on the Belt and Road initiative. We will strengthen exchange and sharing on governance, deepen cooperation across the board, and support South Africa to realize fast economic development, so that South Africa will continue to play a leading role in African affairs, and that China-SA relations will become a locomotive for China-Africa relations. We will continue to enhance cooperation in regional and international affairs. We will continue to offer each other mutual understanding and support on issues of core interests and major concerns, and work together to promote a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation and promote a community with shared future for mankind, bringing about a more beautiful world.
Marching forward and embracing the future in unity through thick and thin, I strongly believe that China and South Africa will build on our great past and open up a new exciting chapter for our relations. Let’s join hands and embark on a new journey towards a brighter future.
Article written by the H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian of China to South Africa