Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Marius Fransman, on the occasion of an Ambassadorial Forum to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of South Africa – China Diplomatic Relations, DIRCO Conference Centre, 19 September 2013.

Programme Director;
Honourable Ambassador TIAN, Ambassador of the PRC to RSA;
Professor Phindile Lukhele–Olorunju (CEO: AISA);
Acting Mayor of the City of Tshwane, Cllr Terence Mashego;
Ambassador Sooklal, DDG Asia and Middle East;
Dr Essop Pahad;
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corpse;
Panel Members;
Distinguished Guests; and
Ladies and Gentlemen

Chairman Mao once said “let a hundred flowers bloom” but today we celebrate the thousands of gardens that have sprung forth over the past 15 years born of the valuable relationship and the seeds of those hundred flowers that have taken root in so many facets of the relationship between our two countries.

It is for this reason that I feel honoured to speak at this august gathering marking an important milestone in the history of relations between the Republic of South Africa and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Today we celebrate 15 years of Diplomatic Relations between the two countries. It is the rich, and shared common history between the two countries that brings all of us here today. This day, therefore, presents a very special opportunity for us to pause, look back and reflect on the journey we as a country have travelled with the government and people of the PRC.

We are encouraged that this gathering can bring us much closer as stakeholders in the field of Diplomacy, working together to navigate challenges facing our countries, and bringing into the fold innovative ideas on how to advance our relations with like-minded states such as China.  We value our relations with academics because they continue to add value, and enrich the work we do in our international engagements. Together, we are able to create a solid balance between government policy, and views or opinions in the public discourse. We are indeed a great team.

Programme Director;

Present amongst us today is one of South Africa’s celebrated academics, Prof Garth Shelton. Prof Shelton has written extensively on South Africa – China relations. In one of his publications aptly titled, “China, South Africa and Africa’, he observes that:

(I quote)

“the Party-to-Party relations have led to a deeper friendship and closer understanding between South Africa and China, enhancing the official State-to-State interaction”.

(Unquote)

This is particularly true because already in 1963, the then President of the ANC Comrade O.R. Tambo (after whom this building is named), visited Beijing to give more impetus to the idea of strengthening Party-to-Party relations. What this tells us is that our relations with China extend well beyond the 15 years that we celebrate today.

In fact, our own South African Communist Party has throughout the years, even during the dark days of apartheid, maintained close contact with the Chinese Communist Party. As a result, these relations were taken into greater heights, and witnessed the creation of what was to be known as a consultation mechanism between the CCP and the SACP, in 1998. I must also place it on record that this was the first time the CCP established a consultation structure with a foreign political party.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

As you may be aware by now, our country will celebrate heritage day on 24 September 2013. This is an important day in the calendar of our significant historical events.  It is a day dedicated to celebrating our cultural diversity, and appreciation of our rich culture and heritage. This day continues to inspire us to embrace our unity in diversity, working together with all sectors of society to encourage tolerance, and build national unity. 

Today, 19 years on, we continue to embrace the concept of a rainbow nation, and we are proud of this new dawn that has brought many nationalities in South Africa together. It signifies the tapestry of cultures we have embraced in the new South Africa.

Programme Director;

Talking about this cultural exchange brings into sharp focus President Jacob Zuma’s remarks during the State Visit to South Africa by President Xi Jinping’s in March this year:

(I quote)

“historians continue to uncover evidence that contact between Africa and China predates the written record. It is said that our own Kingdom of Mapungubwe had contact with China nine centuries ago. Regrettably colonialism, imperialism and apartheid interrupted contact between our countries”.

(Unquote)

As we celebrate our milestones today, we must do so mindful of what binds us together. Our shared common history that continues to be a shining light in all we do in advancing our own issues of development must be central to our engagements. It is this historical linkage that must reverberate in the course of our journey.

Programme Director;

In the past 15 years, a lot has been achieved between the two countries. The most notable period marking some of our milestones was the celebration of our 10th Anniversary in 2008, where we took stock of our great achievements, and reflected on what had to be done to achieve the goals we have set ourselves to attain. Since then, China has become South Africa’s largest trading partner in the world. In turn, South Africa has become China’s largest trading partner in Africa. This can only be a remarkable story of two nations of the south working together side by side to advance issues of common interest and mutual benefit.

We have come a long way since China’s seat in the UN was restored in 1971, for among the 76 countries that voted in its favour, 26 were from Africa, accounting for more than one third of the total. It was for this that later, when expressing his appreciation, Chairman Mao Zedong said it was the African friends who carried China back to the UN.” China has more than returned the favour and today, we build on these early blooms in deepening our mutual goal in transforming institutions of global governance.

A few years ago, when South Africa was lobbying for membership of the then BRIC, it was China in the forefront of this campaign. When we became a non permanent member of the UNSC, it was because of the role played by China in championing its support for our membership.  For all this support, we cannot overlook the influence that our historical bond played in advancing our interest in the multilateral and other foras of note. As we move towards celebrating our 20 years of Democracy in 2014, we do so with China in mind for its great support throughout our journey. .

Programme Director;

Today, we are proud to be associated with a country that has become the 2nd biggest economy in the world and expected to become the biggest economy in the world by 2030.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Since the establishment of our Diplomatic relations in 1998, our partnership has progressively developed through three phases; namely:

  • a partnership in 2000;
  • a strategic partnership in 2008;
  • a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2010.

It was under the Presidency of former president Nelson Mandela when South Africa recognized Beijing as the sole legitimate government of the whole of China, when we adopted the `One China Policy’ in 1998. Today, i reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to adhere to this policy.

Former President Mandela had the foresight to steer the South African foreign policy towards an economy that would in future be the biggest in the world. He undertook the first State Visit by a South African Head of State to the PRC.

This legacy was continued by President Mbeki when he visited China in 2001 and President Zuma in 2010 and their respective counterparts reciprocated accordingly, in between these State Visits, there were other visits by the Heads of States to and from China, such as President Zuma’s visit in July 2012 to attend the FOCAC Summit. The regular high level exchanges signaled the importance of the SA-China partnership.

This dynamic relationship has grown over the past 15 years, to reflect a comprehensive strategic partnership built on political trust, a commitment to economic interaction in a more balanced manner that would deliver sustainable mutual benefits; and cooperation in the multi lateral fora.  

Ladies and gentlemen;

In the year 2000, then Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited South Africa. This visit witnessed the signing of what was to be known as the Pretoria Declaration on the Partnership between RSA and the PRC. This Declaration was a mid-wife of the SA-China Bi-National Commission (BNC). By December 2001, subsequent to signing of this agreement, South Africa and China had signed 32 Agreements.

In 2008 the partnership was elevated to a strategic partnership and then to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2010.

The latest state visit to China by a South African Head of State was by President Zuma in 2010, during which the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was signed. Discussions were held to establish a mechanism that would monitor and unblock any challenges that impeded the implementation of bilateral agreements and major projects between the two countries.

This year, on 26 March, we were honoured to receive President Xi Jinping on a State Visit to South Africa. The visit coincided with the 5th BRICS Summit hosted by us in the same month in Durban. One of the key outcomes of this visit was the signing of the Terms of Reference of the Joint Inter-Ministerial Working Group (JWG); this meant that the JWG could now begin its work.

It was during this particular visit that President Zuma placed on record that:

(I quote)

“Mr President, your visit today takes place within the context of the fifteen years of formal diplomatic relations between our countries. This important milestone will be observed in many ways throughout the year in both countries. It has been proposed that next year be heralded as the ‘Year of South Africa in China’ and that 2015 be declared the ‘Year of China in South Africa’. We can therefore look forward to many activities that will bring our countries and peoples even closer”.

This is why we are gathered here today to fulfil part of this undertaking by our principals.

Programme Director;

The Joint Inter Ministerial Working Group, which will meet next month in Beijing will add to the existing mechanisms and coordinate implementation of bilateral Agreements and major projects. The BNC is also scheduled to take place in close proximity to the JWG next month.

Thus far, South Africa and the PRC agreed on the need to work towards establishing a more equitable trade structure. A Joint Working Group on Trade Statistics was established during the BNC in 2010 to look at trade patterns and statistics. It is encouraging to note that Hon Minister Davies of Trade and Industry, at the opening of the South African National Pavilion at the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) held from the 8th to 11th of this month, in Xiamen China, announced that, “China has committed to encourage its enterprises to increase investment in South Africa’s manufacturing industry.

This is aimed at promoting the creation of value-adding activities in close proximity to the source of raw materials. It will not only contribute towards beneficiation and value addition of the South African primary commodities, but will also assist in job creation. We are also honoured that China bestowed South Africa with the status of “Guest of Honour Country” at CIFIT, in celebration of 15 years of diplomatic relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Amongst a number of tangible products of our economic cooperation with China is the recent launch of the Hisense Plant in June this year, in Atlantis, in the Western Cape Province. We believe that this new investment will not only create the 1200 jobs stated, but also stimulate other related businesses around it, particularly SMMEs and self-employment of the youth.

While we experience the decline in tourists from our traditional European markets, mostly due to the recession and the financial meltdown the world has recently experienced, figures from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), reflect that between 2010 and 2011, the number of tourists from India and China increased. In 2012, we have seen the number of Chinese tourists to South Africa increasing to 132, 334, from 84,883 in 2011. In the first quarter of 2013, the numbers amounted to 54,494 as compared to the 41.161 for first quarter of 2012. The upward positive trend in this regard should be leveraged upon and encouraged, as tourism greatly contributes to GDP and at the same time boosts the small businesses and informal trading.

Programme Director;

China continues to count itself amongst countries that provide the necessary support in the education system of this country. The government of China has been offering scholarships to South African students to study in China. From this year onward, the number of scholarships awarded to our students has increased to 200, spreading over a five year period translated into 40 scholarships per year in various fields. These scholarships are coordinated by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

This year an additional 15 scholarships in Jewellery Design through the Vaal Diamond Company were offered, and we are hopeful that this will be an ongoing project, with a possible increase in the number of this particular scholarship.

Programme Director;

We trust that this partnership will continue to strengthen beyond the next 15 years. It is our understanding that the two countries will continue to work towards bridging the trade deficit and advancing industrial development and beneficiation through foreign direct investment, throughout Africa.

Advancing South-South Cooperation and the African Agenda through the multilateral structures such as the G77+ China, BRICS and FOCAC, as well as the UN will remain some of the fronts at which China’s support will always be appreciated and cherished.

We recognise that more still needs to be done, but overall, we are happy with progress made thus far.  Ours is a vision of two nations bound by history to realise their common goals and aspirations. We are inspired by our common developmental challenges to work more, together, much closer to realise our developmental aspirations. This is a challenge we must place before us. To ensure that these relations, inspired by our shared common history, can work towards creating better living conditions and dignified livelihoods for our people.

Allow me to conclude as I started with some wisdom from Re-ascending Jinguang Mountain by Chairman Mao as a celebration of the 15 years that have passed by with ‘a mere snap of the fingers’ for over the next 15 years many more flowers shall bloom in our relationship and together we shall scale many more mountains:

I have long aspired to reach for the clouds
And I again ascend Jinguang Mountain.
Coming from afar to view our old haunt,
I find new scenes replacing the old.
Everywhere orioles sing, swallow dart,
Streams babble
And the road mounts skyward.
Once Huangyanggai is passed
No other perilous place calls for a glance.

Wind and thunder are stirring.
Flags and banners are flying
Wherever men live.
Thirty-eight years are fled
With a mere snap of the fingers.
We can clasp the moon in the Ninth heaven
And seize turtles deep down in the Five Seas:
Nothing is hard in this world
If you dare to scale the heights.

-- Chairman Mao Ze Dong

I thank you.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 082 884 5974.

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