Congratulatory Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the honourable Ms Sue van der Merwe on the Occasion of the China National Day Celebrations, Pretoria, 23 September 2004

Your Excellency, Ambassador Liu
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to be here today on behalf of the South African government, to congratulate our Chinese friends on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese people are known for their cultural resilience and historic unity. We South Africans admire that deeply.

The ties that bind us as people of the world are both a sense of our history and also the future that is still to come. What is important is how we act in the present, what we do now so that we leave a legacy for our youth, for our children and for future generations to come.

This is a particularly difficult context in which we find ourselves as China, as South Africa, as countries of the developing world since the current processes of globalisation do not favour our economic and social progress. Clearly China is where it is today, against all odds. South Africa has accomplished what has in the last ten years through a long and protracted struggle against colonialism and apartheid.

At a crucial moment in its history, China, under charismatic leadership had the courage to stand up tall and to shake off the last shackles of colonialism and second class citizenship. The South African people will not forget the firm support that Chinese governments gave us, and other African liberation movements during our struggles for freedom.

Today, our present successes are not only as a result of the visionary leadership of our countries, but it is also because we are inspired by earlier epochs in our histories, when Asia and when Africa did play a more central role in the world. I am recalling the period in history, more than a thousand years ago, when China ruled the seas, when trade between China and Africa flourished, and these encounters and contacts were peaceful and productive for our peoples. Ancient trade patterns were established by captains of sailing ships who knew how to use the monsoon winds to their advantage. Over time, some of these old relationships were forgotten.

One of our tasks today should surely be to retrace these journeys to renew contacts that are characterised by dialogues, cultural exchange and of mutual benefit to all. Now we need to use these strengths to assert ourselves more favourably in the world.

Our presence here today, is also of significant symbolic importance because it reflects on the substantive interaction between our two countries. Since the normalisation of our bilateral relations six years ago, we have explored many issues of mutual interest and concern. We share a basic commonality in that we both believe that there will be no stability or prosperity in the world in this century unless the problematic development challenges of the South are addressed meaningfully.

Through resolute effort, hard work and personal sacrifice, China has steadily repositioned itself both domestically and in the international arena, to emerge, by 2003, as one of the largest economies in the world. Furthermore, China is also an influential member of the Security Council of the United Nations, and as the largest developing country in the world, China continues to champion the interests of the South.

Building on the solid foundation of a shared global political vision and the need for accelerating economic interaction, China and South Africa continue to work together to consolidate and intensify our relations.

For the sake of the Chinese people, for the sake of the South African people we have an obligation to cement South-South co-operation in bringing about a new world. Let us focus on building a better life in such a way that rural and urban poor of our vast continents are empowered to lead productive and prosperous lives. Our continued co-operation and interaction augurs well for a continued warm friendship and for a long-term partnership between our two countries.

I congratulate you on the celebration of your national day.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa