15 Years of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and South Africa is a milestone to reflect upon and to plot the way forward. The current evolution in the order of the world has created a dynamic space for these relations to take that quantum leap.
“The ball is firmly in South Africa’s court,” said Ambassador Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General at the Department of International Relations (DIRCO) South Africa. He explained the multi-level cooperation and collaboration with China pointing out that after 15 years the foundation has been laid to craft a relation of mutual trust with the emphasis on the quality of the relationship.
Ambassador Sooklal was speaking at the Ambassadorial Forum to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of South Africa – China Diplomatic Relations at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria hosted by the Embassy of China in South Africa and the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA).
Conveying well wishes on the Mid-Autumn Festival in China known as the Moon-Cake Festival, Ambassador Tian Xuejun of China to South Africa pointed out the auspicious and symbolic nature of the gathering. In his remarks Ambassador Tian used the occasion to assess the development of the relationship in the past 15 years. Vision, velocity and vitality, said the Ambassador, describes the relationship referring to the high level reciprocal visits between the two countries and the highly successful visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Africa, his first overseas visit after taking office to attend the BRICS Summit in Durban.
The dramatic increase in trade, tourism, and investment was an indication of the velocity at which the relationship has grown. “The vitality of this relationship is reflected in the rich content and diversified forms of our exchange mechanism,” said the Ambassador. He pointed out that both countries, as developing, emerging countries, face similar opportunities and challenges.
Deputy Minister Marius Fransman said, “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.”
He went on to quote acclaimed South African academic who has written extensively on South Africa China relations academic Garth Shelton when he wrote ““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”.
South African Communist Party member Essop Pahad who participated as a panellist further expounded on the history of this relationship and the cooperation between the parties many decades previously.
Ambassador Liu Guijin, former Ambassador of China to South Africa and Dean of China-Africa International Business School, Zhejiang Normal University referred to The Pretoria Declaration between China and South Africa in 2000 which stated - Sincere Friendship, Equality and Sovereignty, Common Development on the Basis of Mutual Benefit, Increased Consultation and Cooperation in International Affairs, Cooperation in the Establishment of a New International Political and Economic Order. He described the progress made in this declaration of regular political consultation, the people to people exchanges and the harmony at the multi-lateral level between the two countries.
He, however, went on to say that China believes that South Africa needs to tackle the issues of low growth, unemployment and poverty to create a partnership of equals.
Speaker after speaker tackled the subject of China South Africa relations from different angles and perspectives, raising issues of skills, requesting China to employ and train the local population instead of bringing people in from China to do the work. Praise was also heaped on China for the value of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country.
The forum raised many questions regarding the PRC SA relationship, many of which South Africans have to account for. The persistent violent crime, the innumerable protest actions, uncompetitive business behaviour, low growth, high unemployment and poverty suggests that the majority of South Africans have yet to take ownership of their freedom and democracy… if that is indeed what they want.
What will it take for the people of this miracle rainbow nation of Nelson Mandela to believe in themselevs as China and many other nations believe, as they look forward to marking 20 years of Democracy? - K. Bhana