Remarks by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China, Thursday, 31 January 2013

Programme Director,
Your Excellency, Mr Tian Xuejun, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Honoured Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed a privilege and honour to be invited to this, the 15th celebration of establishing diplomatic relations between our two countries.  I am told that 15 is the number of days in each of the 24 cycles of the Chinese calendar.  I am also told that, in Chinese numerology, the number 15 is connected with eloquence, music, art and magic.  It is apparently also a number which bodes well for financial matters and obtaining good favour from others.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, if these interpretations of the number 15 are taken as a signal for the relations between China and South Africa, I believe we can indeed look back on the past 15 years as years within which we exploited every opportunity to build on the goodwill between our two countries in a very wide spectrum of activities.  The increasing number of visits of your countrymen and women have widened to the extent that we now welcome your artists, are becoming more familiar with your writers and poets.  In terms of financial and economic relations, we have been developing a comprehensive strategic dialogue which is taken very seriously, both in symbolism and substance, by every stakeholder in this country. 

Allow me therefore to take this opportunity to salute the people of our two countries for their tireless efforts in working together to ensure that the relations between our two friendly countries continue to grow and prosper.  I would like to pay special tribute to the Embassy of China and our Government Departments for their exceptionally hard work to implement our numerous bilateral commitments.  They also deserve credit for their creativity and enthusiasm.

An occasion such as today affords us the opportunity to reflect on past achievements with a sense of pride, whilst also looking into the future with a sense of optimism, purpose and determination.

Occasions of this nature remind us of a long history of association between the Chinese people and the liberation movement in our country.  During the dark days of apartheid, the Government and the people of the PRC rendered invaluable international solidarity with and material assistance to our Movement until we attained our freedom.

When our two countries established formal diplomatic relations 15 years ago, we did so with the full knowledge of the special relationship that exists between our peoples.  We count China among our best friends. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, since formalising relations between our two countries in January 1998, our relations have developed significantly in all areas of cooperation. This is benchmarked by the strategic dialogue partnership agreed to by South Africa and China in 2008 and later followed by the signing of the Beijing Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2010.  During President Zuma’s recent visit to Beijing in July 2012, our President and President Hu Jintao agreed to establish a Joint Inter-Ministerial Working Group on South Africa-China cooperation to give further impetus to our cooperation.

China has become South Africa’s biggest trading partner and a significant investor in the South African economy. In 2012, total trade stood at R201 billion, according to the South African Revenue Service. Both sides have agreed to work towards a more equitable trade balance so that both nations benefit from the trade.  In this regard, a Joint Working Group on Trade Statistics under the Bi-National Commission (BNC) was established to address the trade imbalance. Furthermore, South Africa is actively expanding its market share in China by introducing ten priority products and investment projects in various fields.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As we celebrate the 15 years of diplomatic relations, we also celebrate South Africa’s accession to the BRICS Forum. South Africa will be hosting the 5th BRICS Summit in March this year. I do believe that China’s key role in securing South Africa’s membership of BRICS was the correct initiative to create a nexus between Africa and BRICS. South Africa is deeply grateful for the role that China has played in this regard.

We are also working closely together on the multilateral front.  We regularly exchange views on issues of mutual concern within the multilateral framework, including the reform of global financial and political architecture.

Furthermore, South Africa assumed the Co-Chairship of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing at the 5th FOCAC Ministerial Conference on 20 July 2012. This Forum has proven to be a key instrument in advancing Africa’s development agenda. For the next six years, South Africa and China will collaborate vigorously, yet with sensitivity in order to address the interests of all stakeholders. South Africa will host the 6th FOCAC Ministerial in 2015.

In conclusion, by celebrating 15 years of diplomatic relations, we are determined and committed to working together with China, thereby creating a better life for our peoples. As we move forward, we will be guided by the principles of mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence and support.

As the wise African saying goes:  “The nail supports the shoe, the shoe supports the horse, the horse supports humanity, and humanity supports the world”.

I thank you!

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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