Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma to the Opening of the South Africa-People's Republic of China Binational Commission, Pretoria, 29 June 2004

Your Excellency, Mr Vice President,
Honorable Ministers from the People's Republic of China and from South Africa,
Government officials from South Africa and China,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the 1st of January 1998, South Africa and the People's Republic of China entered a new phase in their historic relationship with the establishment of formal diplomatic relations.

That day was historic and significant because it also underscored the long history of friendship and solidarity that has characterized our interaction, since the days of our struggle for freedom.

Today, our two countries enjoy a dynamic and vibrant bilateral relationship. This Binational Commission is an excellent example of these deepening relations.

You will recall Mr Vice President that President Thabo Mbeki, accompanied by eight Cabinet Ministers, paid a very successful State Visit to China in December 2001, during which the framework for the BNC was formalized, and the inaugural meeting was held.

We are therefore pleased to be hosting you and your delegation in this second meeting of the BNC.

The BNC has provided an opportunity for us to focus our co-operation in a number of areas. We will today receive feedback from the work that has been done over the last few days in the Political, Education and Trade and Industry Sectoral Committees through which the BNC does its work.

We are pleased at the progress made so far in social, economic and political areas of co-operation. At the economic level, we enjoy a very brisk and rapidly growing relationship. Our bilateral trade is showing a very healthy annual increase, from R 9.3 billion in 1990 to R 23, 3 billion in 2003.

We are also pleased with the growing numbers of tourists that we receive from China, which is good for enhanced people to people cooperation and understanding.

In addition, leading South African companies and industrial giants are capitalising on the power of China's economic growth by playing an active role in the Chinese economy, as evidenced by the South African investments in China which amount to about R 4 billion.

On the other hand, some of China's leading companies have found a stable for themselves in South Africa from which they engage many other parts of the world.

Our cooperation, however, is not limited to these spheres. We have very active interaction on a wide variety of disciplines - ranging from the peaceful utilisation of nuclear energy, mining, water and natural resources, to culture and human resource development.

And our relationship is not really a new phenomenon. Since its establishment in 1949, China maintained a high profile role in supporting decolonization and liberation struggles in Africa, including our own struggle for freedom.

Given the nature of our historical relationship, it is not surprising that we share a common perspective on various global issues.

On the multilateral front, South Africa and China share many objectives and common positions. We are of one mind on issues such as the restructuring of the United Nations system, the reform of the Global trading System and enhanced South-South Cooperation.

Moreover, the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, young as it may be as an institution, has already provided us with a platform to further develop the relationship.

One of the most important outcomes of the dialogue that underpins the Forum is our agreement on China's strong support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development and for the noble objectives of the African Union.

The December meeting of the Forum in Ethiopia provided a further impetus to taking African-Chinese relations a step further. The political framework of the Addis Ababa Action Plan provides for continued high-level exchanges and enhanced political dialogue.

Given the challenge we face of working for peace and stability on the continent, we welcome the renewed commitment from Beijing to participate actively in African peacekeeping operations, and to co-operate on a range of security related issues.

On social development, through the Addis Ababa Action Plan, we were encouraged by China's commitment to expand its African Human Resources Development Fund to train up to 10, 000 African technicians over the next three years.

This was to be complemented by the agreement to assist in the areas of medical care and public health, cultural exchanges and people-to-people exchanges.

Such co-operation between Africa and China should not be surprising, Mr Vice President. In re-examining history, we learn that as early as 1320, the Chinese cartographer Zhu Siben produced a map accurately showing the southern tip of Africa.

That is more than 150 years before the Europeans rounded the Cape, which they called a discovery of Africa!

The Chinese map of 1402 accurately depicts the African sub-continent with its inland waters. It even shows the Gariep River, formerly called the Orange River, flowing westward. A copy of this map hangs in the South African Parliament's Millennium Project, by courtesy of the Chinese Second Historical Archives.

Evidence also exists of an even older interaction between the peoples of South Africa and China. At the site of Mapungubwe, in our Limpopo Province in the north, pottery fragments of the Sung Dynasty which dated from the years 960 to 1279, have been excavated.

As such then, our ties run deep, and this BNC should serve to further strengthen this enduring relationship.

It should not only cast a glance on the ancient ties that bind us. I am pleased therefore that the committees have been looking firmly ahead at the bright future and the possibilities that exist for us to achieve mutual benefit from our relationship.

Your Excellency, I am certain that as Co-Chair, your guidance and leadership during the BNC will take us further in realizing our common objectives.

I thank you

The Presidency: Republic of South Africa

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 29 June, 2004 12:33 PM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa