Lecture by President Zuma at Tsinghua University on the occasion of the State Visit to the People’s Republic of China, Beijing

Professor Chen Jining, President of the University
Party Secretary
Members of the University Community
Members of the Alumni
Fellow South Africans
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We bring greetings from South Africa, to you the future leaders of China, a true and trusted friend of South Africa, Africa and the developing world.

It is my privilege to address you during this seminal moment in our history, the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s freedom and democracy.

I am truly impressed by the motto of your university, Self-Discipline and Social Commitment, which is embodied in your academic excellence, as well as in your country’s ethic and commitment to global development.

I am also very pleased to learn that our country has some graduates from this institution.

This institution has produced outstanding leaders of China who serve as role models for the future leaders of China who are studying here. This institution is no doubt proud to have produced two presidents, President Xi Jinping and former President Hu Jintao.

You also count other luminaries like the 1957 Nobel Laureate for Physics, Professor Yang Chen Ning, who was honoured for his ground-breaking work in Quantum mechanics and nuclear physics.

It is thus a truly humbling honour that this very institution has awarded me an honorary Professorship. I accept this honour with sincere gratitude, on behalf of the people of South Africa, especially those who sacrificed comfort or their lives for freedom and democracy in our country. This award inspires me to continue promoting education as an instrument of social, political and economic liberation in our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 6 October 1992, our beloved former President Nelson Mandela visited Peking University where he spoke highly of the nationwide revolution led by the May 4th Movement in 1919.

President Mandela stated:

“…visiting China now is a crucial moment for South Africa.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Chinese people because since the founding of China in 1949, you’ve always been fighting against oppression, colonialism and apartheid with us.”

He shared his admiration for China, expressing his hope that South Africa could “draw strength from the country’s achievements and use that power to continue our long march toward Freedom and Democracy.”

We are reminded of these words as today, 5 December, marks a year since the passing of President Mandela. 

The world was shattered and united in grief and also in celebrating the life of a man who was an outstanding global citizen.

We once again thank the international community for the immense support we received during the sad period of President Mandela’s passing last year.

We were strengthened by the support and solidarity.

We will continue to promote President Mandela’s legacy, ideals, humanity, values and his commitment to the notion of a free, united democratic and prosperous South Africa.

It is with the memory of the vision of Nelson Mandela that we wish to also achieve the ideal of a better Africa and to contribute to building a better world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I address you on the anniversary of South Africa’s 20 Years of Freedom and Democracy, sharing our experience and plans, a future which is intertwined with the People’s Republic of China, both our friend and partner.

Twenty years ago a free and democratic society was born in South Africa, based on the principles of non-racialism and equal opportunities.

From the ashes of apartheid grew a new nation full of hope and determination to embrace unity and peace, and the promise of a new era.

Through the guidance of our leaders, such as former President Mandela, and the collective wisdom of our people, we began building democratic institutions, and set the foundation for peace and prosperity.

Just like the collapse of the bipolar world, and almost in its aftermath, it became possible for apartheid walls to crumble and give way to a new season of hope and prosperity.

Twenty years down the line, we have enjoyed the benefits of political transformation and economic growth. Our people lead much better lives than they did before 1994.

We have turned a bankrupt apartheid state into a promising break basket for our region.

We have replaced the pain of imprisonment, torture, detentions and exile with reconciliation, goodwill and determination to bring unity, peace and harmony in the country.

Our economy has created more employment opportunities and government has delivered more basic services. This is our good story that must and will be told, but despite these improvements, much more still needs to be done.

We still have a lot of work to do because the racial apartheid system left behind deep scars, as manifested in the socio-economic inequality and the large gap that we are still working hard to bridge in education, health, housing and other social services.

Most importantly, we have to transform the economy. We are already doing so, in order to ensure that black people who were excluded from the ownership, control and management of the economy because of their race, are able to participate meaningfully now and help to de-racialise and expand the South African economy.

We are also addressing the critical matter of land ownership, to reverse the apartheid legacy of the dispossession that took place more than a century ago.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the most visible achievements of democracy has been our integration and active participation in international affairs.

We have redeemed our country from the pariah it was in international affairs to a meaningful global player and partner.

We are proud to count the People’s Republic of China as among such friends who lent moral, material and political support to achieve a free and just South Africa.

In recent times, China helped us to belong to the BRICS family.
Our twenty years story owes much to our loyal international partners like China as it does to the people of South Africa.

In 1998, in the early years of our Democracy, South Africa fully adopted the One China Policy, privileging and formalising diplomatic relations with Beijing.

This represented a historic break from the apartheid foreign policy which avoided relations with the People’s Republic of China and we have seen China play a very prominent role not only in South Africa but in various African countries as well.

China’s footprint in Africa dates many years ago.

We remember the railway lines that China built in Tanzania and Zambia in the 1960s.

But the story of China in Africa and in South Africa in particular dates far back, something that still needs to be unearthed and put in proper historical context.

We still have to know more about Chu Ssu-pen, a Chinese mapmaker, who in 1320 had already charted Southern Africa on his maps. We have people in Cape Town who claim descent from Chinese 13th century sailors.

There is also the link between China and Mapungubwe our World Heritage site.

We have to know more about the great Chinese navigator, diplomat and Admiral, Xeng He who traversed Africa in the 15th century, and the Chinese workers who were brought to South Africa to work in the mines about 100 years ago.

Ours is therefore a long and historically matured bond, which needs to be captured.

Ladies and gentlemen

China, particularly through the Communist Party, influenced the thinking on the struggle in many ways and left lasting impressions on our leaders such as Walter Sisulu who travelled to China.

Walter Sisulu reported his observations in an article entitled “I saw China” in February 1954 as the ANC was preparing for the Congress of the People in 1955, where the Freedom Charter was adopted.

He wrote and I quote;

“My visit to the new China has been a remarkable and unforgettable experience. . . From these experiences, it is clear to me that tremendous changes are being brought in this vast country by the Mao Tse-Tung Government, and that when China’s six hundred million speak of their liberation, they mean something very real".
(I Saw China, Liberation, no. 7, February 1954).

Ladies and Gentlemen

China sets us a good example in our second phase of transition by its economic growth, technological advancement and levels of entrepreneurship and industrialisation which have drastically reduced underdevelopment.

We count on this formidable friendship, including within the south and BRICS framework, as we deepen our relations and forge ahead with our developmental agenda.

Our country has adopted a National Development Plan, which provides a platform for collaboration and partnership across society to promote  further growth, job creation and reduction in inequality and building a more cohesive and inclusive society.

The plan recognises that to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality, the economy must grow faster and in ways that benefit all South Africans.

The key elements of this plan have now been captured in Government’s Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), for all state institutions and society to implement.

By 2030 we must be able to declare that no South African lives below a poverty line.

Esteemed guests

China is a leading nation in creating opportunities through innovation, education and industrialisation. 

It has thankfully become a leading provider of scholarships and training opportunities for South Africans.

As the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius rightly observed “education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”

We have all benefitted from the timeless wisdom of Confucius who rightly drew a link between education, peace and development.

This is precisely the vision of our National Development Plan, which seeks to advance economic development through investment in skills, industrialisation and rural development.

When the Communist Party of China concluded its congress in 2012, we all looked with excitement to study the outcomes of the deliberations.

Indeed we pleasantly learned that our challenges, objectives and approaches to development are very similar, and that we can work together sharing our natural strengths.

Democracy, growth and development are not easy, but we have committed ourselves to building a capable, democratic developmental state.

My discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang yesterday affirmed that indeed our strategic partnership will yield tangible results for our people in various areas of cooperation.

China’s Blue Economy development exercise aimed at extracting maximum benefit from the economic potential offered by the oceans inspires us.

We also believe that our oceans have enormous economic potential and we have started to embark on our own Blue economy strategy through our new Operation Phakisa delivery programme.

Our Government launched Operation Phakisa, as a fast track delivery mechanism to accelerate service delivery and economic development. 

We want to unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans or our Blue Economy in the areas of: 

  • Marine transport,

  • Offshore oil and gas exploration

  • Aquaculture to address global demand for fish and

  • Marine protection services and ocean governance 

China’s expertise, scientific research and development of technology in tapping the economic potential of the oceans offers South Africa the opportunity to engage it more intensely on future, project based cooperation.

Ladies and Gentleman

South Africa also presents opportunities for Chinese companies in the infrastructure programme, which has enormous potential, through its opportunities, to improve the lives of the people.

We have launched Industrial Development Zones (IDZs), such as the Coega Industrial Development Zone in the Eastern Cape, the Dube Trade Port in KwaZulu-Natal province in our country.

We have launched Special Economic Zones (SEZs) such as the platinum hub SEZ in North West province, and the solar corridor in the Northern Cape.

These and other IDZs and SEZs, focus on specific regions with high economic growth potential, where development and investment must now follow.

We plan to invest more in IDZs and SEZs. As we pursue these ambitions, we look to China’s experience and partnership. 

Esteemed guests, dear academic staff and students,

In the last 20 years South Africa has prioritised values based governance and grown the economy.

In the last 20 years we hosted major international multilateral and regional meetings, as well as sporting events, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

We have contributed to peace and stability, not only in Africa, but in other parts of the world, sharing our experiences in peace, reconciliation and nation building. 

We joined the BRICS collective, and we continue to play a leading role on issues of Global Governance together with our like-minded partners at a time where we in Africa look to our Vision 2063 with hope, and renewed inspiration.

We have built durable partnership with nations of the South, and in particular with China with whom we enjoy mutual strategic priorities in our foreign policies.

These relations should enable us to face all challenges such as food security, climate change and conflicts.

The future looks bright for our country and for Africa in all respects. There is work to be done, to build a good positive African story.

South Africa is a pivotal part of that African story, and China remains a good and trusted friend.

We look forward to hosting the Forum on China-African Cooperation next year, and also to be host to the Year of China in South Africa celebrations and programme.

The strategic partnership between South Africa and China is durable and meaningful, and will continue to provide a long lasting partnership for development and progress.

I thank you.

Issued by Department of Communication on behalf of
The Presidency

05 December 2014





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