Minister Dlamini Zuma during the Seminar to Celebrate the Occasion of the South Africa-China 10 Year Celebrations of Diplomatic Relations, Peoples Republic of China, Beijin , Wednesday 23 April 2008

Mr Mandisi Mpahlwa, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of South Africa
Your Excellency, Mr Gao Hucheng, Vice Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China
Ms Wu Yin, Vice of the Chinese Academy of Social Science
Your Excellency, Ambassador Liu Guijin, Special Envoy for Africa
Ms Ina Cronjé, MEC of Education of the Republic of South Africa
Mr Wesiwe Thusi, MEC of Arts, Culture and Tourism of the Republic of South Africa
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Captains of Business and Industry from the People’s Republic China and the Republic of South Africa
Members of the academic fraternity
Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


It is both a pleasure and an honour for me to share with this esteemed audience our vision for the 21st century.

South Africa, as you know, is located at the Southern tip of our great continent Africa. Its shores are washed both by the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.  To the north is the rest of the continent.

This is the last country to escape the clutches of colonialism albeit of a special type – apartheid. Apartheid was an evil, brutal and a dehumanizing form of racial discrimination and oppression.  It treated black people as sub-human and whites as superior. Women were treated with contempt. All black peoples rights were trampled especially those of workers.

The South African people led by the ANC together with extra-ordinary human solidarity from across the globe waged a titanic struggle against the evil system of apartheid declared by the United Nations as a crime against humanity.

Therefore, our vision for the 21st century has both its seeds and its roots in that titanic struggle.

Guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter and by our own experience we believe in the equality of people, men and women, and in the equality of nations big and small.

Whereas the Charter declares that the founders were determined to save future generations from the scourge of war after the two world wars, we should endeavor to protect all people (humanity) from all wars – world, civil, religious, etc.

South Africa would like to see the culture of dialogue as a way of reaching consensus, as a way of resolving conflict and as a way of understanding and appreciating the diversity of the human race in all its manifestations. Diversity should be seen providing strength, beauty and wisdom to the world and not a weakness.

The world should move decisively towards ensuring the dignity of human beings irrespective of gender, race, colour and religion, etc.  Understanding that there is no dignity in poverty, in hunger, in homelessness and ignorance.  Equally, there is no real dignity in being rich and a spectator of human misery around you and in any part of this planet. 

As President Nelson Mandela once declared:

“ …. a people centered world of liberty (that) binds us together to the pursuit of the goals of freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation, freedom from ignorance, freedom from suppression and freedom from fear.” 

This will ensure security for all because there can be no security when millions are devastated by hunger, disease, ignorance and fear.

If there was solidarity amongst the peoples of the world no person should be going hungry today in the 21st century, I would fully agree with Susan George when she argues in her publication entitled “How the other half dies: The real reason for world hunger: That

“Today’s world has all the physical resources and technical skills necessary to feed the present population of the planet or a much larger one. Unfortunately for the millions of people who go hungry, the problem is not a technical one – nor was it wholly so in the seventeenth century, for that matter. Whenever and wherever they live, rich people eat first, they eat a disproportionate amount of food there is and poor ones rarely rise in revolt against this most basic of oppressions unless specifically told to eat cake. Hunger is not a scourge but a scandal.”

Why and for how long is this so called modern and civilized world going to tolerate this scandal?

Faced with this challenge the world responded in the year 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Summit was meant to be a clarion call by the leadership of the world: a call to war against poverty and inhumanity and a statement of commitment to the reality of our mutual interdependence.

More important with respect to my continent Africa; it was the recognition by the heads of the state in that millennium Summit that Africa was the most important development challenge of the 21st century- and that the challenge posed by Africa should necessarily be a concern for all of humanity. Although the Millennium Declaration itself in reality constituted an inadequate and minimalist response, we all held the hope that this time around the poor of the world would not once more be betrayed

Regrettably it is now a matter of fact that the resolve so eloquently captured in that declaration would constitute a false promise. Since then what we have seen and heard are more promises but conspicuously inadequate commitment of resources.

On the contrary we continue to see a world of widening inequalities


  • Between regions of the world
  • Within regions and
  • Within states, South Africa and China no exception

This is a ticking time bomb!!!

The marginalisation of women in all forms of human endeavour can only deprive the world of a very important major resource.

The African Union has declared that every country should strive at gender parity in government, parliament, civil service, diplomatic corps, judiciary, academia, business and in all activities of society. The host of the World Conference on Women in 1995 was Beijing and at the Beijing Platform for Action is very comprehensive and has to be implemented.

As if this were not enough, we now see the impact of the overlay of a triad of climate change, escalating energy prices coupled with energy insecurity and the ongoing escalation in food prices.

All these crises have a disproportionate impact on the poor.

With respect to climate change, there is consensus that the brunt of the most devastating effects of climate change will be borne by Africa and the poor. This whilst Africa is responsible for the least emissions of greenhouse gasses that are contributing to climate change.

Whilst we recognize that saving the planet is an over-arching responsibility for every nation, we believe firmly that responsibility is differentiated. For us the planet needs to be saved together with its people. Therefore it cannot be that the developing world would now be expected to sacrifice their development.

The developed countries have the responsibility of cutting their emissions much faster. They can afford it but it is also morally correct unless they are paying lip service to the question of saving the planet.

The planet has to be saved by us from ourselves. In reality each generation is supposed to bequeath to the next better conditions than it found, in an effort to do just that we seem to have ignored balancing development and preserving a healthy environment.

Speaking at the opening of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which South Africa had the honour to host in 2002, President Mbeki summarised this complexity as follows:

“Understanding the umbilical cord that ties us to the planet earth, we are determined to do everything possible to save the earth from ourselves, to ensure that as it took millions of years for humanity to evolve and emerge, so must humanity survive and develop for millions more years on the basis of a healthy partnership between people and the planet, on the basis of a sustainable relationship between a prosperous world and a healthy environment.”

It is by now an established fact that climate change and global warming impact on weather patterns as witnessed through severe typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes and result in serious drought, desertification and flooding, the effects of which are all too apparent to all of us. It also impacts on agricultural production, health e.g. malaria, biodiversity and results in rising sea levels (melting polar ice caps) which threatens island states and low lying coastal regions. The consequences are quite disastrous for the survival of the human race.

To save the planet and still develop, which we must, energy security is very essential.

Clean and renewable energy needs to progressively become dominant in the energy mix that could include:

  • Nuclear
  • Hydro energy (in Africa is important because it is both renewable and clean and there is great potential for it);
  • Solar – (Africa has sunshine in abundance)
  • Wind and wave energy
  • Cleaner coal technology

All these depend on the technology transfer and bridging the cost gap between coal and these types of energy. 

With respect to Nuclear Energy, South Africa is a signatory to the NPT. We believe that the balance articulated in that treaty between, nuclear disarmament, non proliferation, and technology transfer for the peaceful use of Nuclear Power is the best way forward.

That is why we continue to voice our concern about any inclination to close the space for developing countries to use nuclear energy for the peaceful purposes under appropriate safeguards implemented through the IAEA.

Biofuels and biodiesel –are also to be explored provided that due regard is taken not to compromise food security.

The World Bank estimates that food prices have risen by an average of 83% in the past three years, and warns that at least 100 million people could be tipped into poverty as a result. A range of factors have been blamed, including poor harvests, partly due to climate change, rising oil prices, steep growth in demand and the dash to produce biofuels for motoring at the expense of food crops.

This creates a vicious cycle whereby our need for accelerated development could be contributing to climate change and global warming, which in turn affects food production and prices. The irony though is that these negative consequences tend to affect the developing and developed countries disproportionately. While we currently talk of a global food crisis, in reality it is a food crisis affecting the majority of people in developing countries and the poor in developed societies.

Therefore the need for food security has taken a different dimension.  Clearly it is going to be difficult for developing countries to concentrate on climate change and environmental issues if they are threatened by a huge increase in poverty and food riots because of high prices.

For the poor, food and energy security are the first steps towards saving the planet. If the rich ignore this reality there will be little progress.

The UN High Level Panel report in 2006 carefully pointed to the interconnections between development, security and advancement of Human Rights. We subscribe to this articulation.

We also subscribe to the view that the threats confronting us require the collective attention of the international community working in unity.

This informs our view that a central task for the 21st Century is the strengthening of our system of multilateral governance at the centre of which is the United Nations.

Whatever the weaknesses of the UN, it is the best that we have and it needs to be protected, nurtured and developed. We need to work tirelessly for the enhancement of its credibility and authority.

That is why we believe that its reform including that of the membership and working methods of the Security Council is not a choice but a necessity.

The Africans have resolved to make the 21st Century an African Century. Key to the success of this vision is the existence of a durable peace and the unleashing of the potential of every individual particularly through the emancipation of women.

The continent is awakening after the periods of slavery, colonial domination and the Cold War.  The launch of the African Union in 2002 was a response to both the challenges and the opportunities of this period.

Africa is aiming for a peaceful, secure and stable future. A future characterized by democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and a relentless struggle against poverty and underdevelopment.

The majority of countries in Africa are peaceful and democratic but we do still have challenges in some countries. Where there are still conflicts the continent is hard at work resolving them.

It has established its own security architecture at the centre of which is the Peace and Security Council.  It is striving to forge strong links and co-operation with the United Nations Security Council as reflected in Resolution 1809 adopted under South Africa’s Presidency. This Resolution talks to the strengthening of co-operation between the UN Security Council and regional organizations, especially the African Union, in security matters.

This emanates from our strong desire for a continent at peace with itself and contributing to a peaceful world in the 21st century.

Acutely aware that the challenge of the 21st century is Africa’s underdevelopment, the leadership has developed a development strategy, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). For us NEPAD is central in bringing about people-centred development. In NEPAD, Africa has identified a set of priorities. These include human resource development, agriculture, infrastructure and institutional capacity building. NEPAD is also a framework through which Africa engages the international community in various formations such as the Forum on Africa-China Co-operation (FOCAC), EU-Africa, India-Africa etc. The underlying philosophy of NEPAD is the custodianship of Africans over their own destiny.

Africa currently presents a number of challenges and opportunities. These include a young and growing population but also ever growing needs for food, shelter, education, health, etc.; social and economic infrastructure; and industrialization.

It is projected that by 2050 Africa will have a population larger than China or India. This population will certainly put more pressure on our already limited resources.

At the same time our demographic structure with a young population creates an opportunity for the development of a young and skilled population that can become an engine for rapid economic growth both in the continent and globally given the demographical challenges of an aging population in other regions, such as Europe.

Given the reality of globalization and interconnectedness of economies, the impact of a skilled young population and an industrialized Africa presents opportunities not only for the continent but for the world in the long term. It is therefore in the interest of all of us within both South-South and North-South formations to support efforts towards Africa’s development.

Recognizing these opportunities, there is an encouraging engagement with the continent by a variety of global players including key and emerging economies of the South. This opens up possibilities for the continent to diversify its patterns of economic activity away from the over-dependence on relations dictated by its colonial past.

We believe that there is a real basis for a mutually beneficial engagement between our continent and other regions of the world which will support Africa’s development whilst at the same time benefiting from Africa’s huge market and her endowment with natural resources.

In the current context of the growing importance of food security Africa presents yet another opportunity. The continent has both arable land and water resources that can be used to contribute to ensuring food security. In order to achieve this we need to correct current existing distortions and create a global dispensation that encourages agricultural production in the continent bearing in mind that in many countries of the continent this is an area of relative comparative advantage and will facilitate their entry into the global trading system. This is why we attach such importance to the developmental content of the DOHA Round especially as it relates to the issue of agriculture.

There is now a growing recognition that Africa can only strengthen its economic performance through considerable investment and use and development of technology and innovation.  We are seeing encouraging signs that many African countries where subsistence farming is predominant are starting to employ indigenous technologies and innovation resulting in improved agricultural techniques and moving up the value chain in terms of the quality and certification of such products as coffee and tea, aquaculture, organic farming even sharing technology within enterprise clusters that produce cut flowers, auto parts, handicrafts, and other industrial products.

The other areas where Africa has excelled are:-

The first successful heart transplant was performed in Africa
Coal to liquid technology is in Africa
Gas to liquid technology
Stellenbosch University is the first teaching institute to develop and launch a satellite

Africa has a very vibrant arts and culture heritage, it is a continent with diverse and breathtaking beauty and it has rich diverse flora and fauna and excellent for film making.

Culture is the soul of the continent. It has given North America, the Caribbean, South America and some parts of Western Europe the distinctive culture and music from the slave era or in the recent wave of migration.

Sports- This is another area that can be developed further into a vibrant industry.

The opportunities that exist on our continent and our response to them give us reason to be hopeful of the future but the road ahead is going to be difficult. We need genuine partnerships for development.  We view China as a rising global power that could serve as a meaningful partner in contributing to finding solutions to the challenges of our times. China stands by its status as a developing country and has reiterated that it alone cannot develop without the important assistance of the rest of the world.  This acknowledgement further serves to give credence to our view of China as a strategic partner not only to South Africa, but to Africa and the developing world. For this reason China’s active participation in global fora needs to be closely supported and monitored to determine its impact.  Similarly, we believe that the world needs to acknowledge the increasingly important role of China.

The end of the 21st Century will show the clear outlines of a multipolar world, with the strengthening of the EU, the BRIC countries etc.

Reflecting on our bilateral relationship, I think we have come a long way since the days of the struggle against apartheid during which the Chinese people and government offered their support. The party-to-party relationship that developed during the years of struggle, enhanced the state-to-state relations in the post-apartheid period leading to the realisation of our long-term vision to de-recognise Taiwan and officially establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on 1 January 1998, in support of the “One China Policy”.

Soon thereafter, President Jiang Zhemin visited South Africa in April 2000 during which the Pretoria Declaration was signed. The Declaration confirmed the five principles of Sino-Africa relations namely:

  • Sincere friendship;
  • Equality and Sovereignty;
  • Common development on the basis of mutual benefit;
  • Increased consultation and co-operation in international affairs;
  • Co-operation on the establishment of a new international and political
  • order.

Over the years we have steadily built on this bilateral political relationship and this year marks the 10th Anniversary of these Diplomatic Relations, which we are celebrating this month through various activities across China.

We therefore wish to express our appreciation to the Government of the People’s Republic of China for their commitment to the Strategic Partnership which exists between our two countries. We are also encouraged by the good progress we are making since the signing of the Programme of Co-operation on Deepening the Strategic Partnership signed by President Mbeki and Premier Wen Jiabao in 2006.

I wish you well in your deliberations and look forward to the report of the outcomes of this seminar.

I thank you.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

23 April 2008

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