Beijing - President Xi Jinping led China’s tributes to Nelson Mandela on Friday, praising his “historic contribution” to South Africa and the world.
“Mr Mandela was a world renowned statesman,” Xi said in a message of condolence to President Jacob Zuma, according to a report on the central government’s website.
“With arduous and extraordinary efforts, he led the people of South Africa to success in the struggle against apartheid, making a historic contribution to the birth and development of a new South Africa,” it said.
Mandela, who visited China twice, “actively promoted friendly co-operation between China and South Africa in various areas”.
“The Chinese people will forever keep in memory the outstanding contributions he made to… the development of humankind.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese leaders would attend “relevant activities” concerning Mandela’s funeral.
“He is not only admired by South African people but also respected by people from China and all the other countries around the world.”
In an earlier statement, he described Mandela as an “old friend of the Chinese people”.
During the struggle, the Chinese Communist Party supported the Pan Africanist Congress, a rival to the Moscow-backed ANC, and it was not until 1998 that diplomatic ties were established.
His death led Chinese web portals and was a top topic on the weibo microblog site.
One poster wrote: “Mandela is great because he persisted with fighting in a non-violent way despite facing an unfair world, promoted reconciliation... He was a man with real sense of mission – the kind of person China is currently lacking.” – Sapa-AFP