Remarks by President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma on the occasion of the official signing ceremony during the State Visit to South Africa by the President of the People’s Republic of China Mr Xi Jinping, at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse, Pretoria, 26 March 2013.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Thank you, Your Excellency for honouring my invitation to undertake a State Visit to South Africa ahead of the BRICS Summit.
Your Excellency, South Africa is among the first countries that you are visiting since becoming President of China. Therefore, your visit will forever bear a special significance for all South Africans.
It means a lot to us indeed given the strong historical relations between our two countries, dating back to the days of the struggle for liberation in our country.
We have had a very productive morning, which took relations between our two countries steps ahead.
Excellency, historians continue to uncover evidence that the contact between Africa and China predates the written record.
It is said that our own Kingdom of Mapungubwe in Limpopo province, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site,had contact with China already nine centuries ago. Regrettably colonialism, imperialism and apartheid disrupted contacts.
I am very proud to say that contact was established in the 1950’s, over 60 years ago between the African National Congress (ANC) and the People’s Republic of China.
It was no less than the late Comrade Walter Sisulu who visited China in 1953 to establish ties and garner support for the struggle against apartheid.
The People’s Republic of China readily obliged and remained steadfast in its opposition to apartheid until the first free and democratic election was held in South Africa in 1994.
Our bilateral relations were formally established in 1998, when President Mandela co-signed the Agreement of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between South Africa and China.
Since then, relations have grown from strength-to-strength, starting from a Partnership to a Strategic Partnership and to the present Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that we now enjoy.
The common challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality that our people, or people of the South in general face, is precisely that which brings us together.
The People’s Republic of China has achieved much success in a short time and it is incumbent on us to learn from that which you have achieved.
We view China’s success as a source of hope and inspiration as we engage with the task of finding our own solutions for bringing about a better future. The rise of China therefore has lessons for us all as we seek to emulate your example.
It is in this spirit that our two countries have signed the Terms of Reference of the Joint Inter-Ministerial Working Group on South Africa-China Cooperation.
This Working Group will monitor the implementation of cooperative projects so that we are able to join hand in meaningful way as we go forward.
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.
It is also worth reminding ourselves that on the front of our people-to-people cooperation, some encouraging developments have been noticed.
To underscore this cooperation is the signing of the China-South Africa People’s Friendship Association. This is one of the building blocks that will further enhance cooperation between our peoples.
We also launched the first SAA flight to Beijing in 2011 resulting in an increase in tourist arrivals from China. Our two countries will also sign an Agreement on Visa Waiver Requirements for Airline Staff in the near future.
Excellency, we discussed many areas of cooperation today.
We acknowledge and appreciate China’s engagement with South Africa in the fields of Science and Technology, Agriculture, Health as well as capacity building and skills transfer in Human Resources and Education.
We are also grateful for the scholarships provided by your Government to South African students.
We believe that the recent addition of another two hundred (200) new scholarships will contribute substantially to alleviate the critical shortage of skills for South Africa’s planned development of infrastructure and rapid industrialisation. Education is an apex priority in our country and we appreciate meaningful cooperation in this regard.
Let me thank the government and people of China for supporting our bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The awarding of this project to South Africa will indeed improve the lives of our people.
China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner and a significant investor in the South African economy.
In 2012, exports from South Africa to China amounted to 89 billion rand, while imports from China to South Africa totalled 112 billion rand. Total trade stood at 201 billion rand, according to figures from the SA Revenue Service.
What we now seek to address jointly is to find the means towards a more equitable balance of trade.
The ongoing cooperation amongst the business sector in both countries is a step in the right direction in this regard.
We have today witnessed the signing of a number of business contracts and undertakings by the Captains of industry aimed at strengthening and deepening our bilateral relations.
Mr President, we will be meeting tomorrow in the context of the BRICS Summit, which we are truly proud to host in Africa for the first time.
I am convinced that our success and progress in BRICS will positively influence the work of the G20 and other multilateral efforts.
I look forward to working with you in further strengthening the bonds of friendship and mutual understanding which our two nations enjoy.
I thank you.