This is Xi’s third visit to South Africa, having visited the country for the 2013 BRICS Summit, and the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Co-operation. Xi made State visits to Senegal and Rwanda before arriving in South Africa.
“The state visit by President Xi Jinping presents a golden opportunity for South Africa to further deepen strategic relations with the world’s second-largest economy,” said Dr David Monyae, co-director at the University of Johannesburg's Confucius Institute.
“While the global economy has shown some recovery, three of the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia and South Africa - are still battling to sustain an upward trajectory despite earlier projections of higher than average growth a decade ago.
South Africa and China should strengthen relations by closing the trade imbalance in favour of China. More importantly, South Africa should learn in the arena of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where China is one of the lead countries, through close collaboration between institutions of higher learning,” he said.
In a specially penned article by President Xi published in the Sunday Independent, he spoke of the comprehensive partnership between China and South Africa based on respect, justness and fairness. The common theme was that both countries are working towards a “shared future for humankind”. The state visit takes place within the context of strengthening strategic and historic political, economic, social and international co-operation partnership between South Africa and China.
The two presidents will engage in bilateral talks today, and evaluate progress achieved by the two countries on the Strategic Programme with specific reference to the six priority areas identified in 2015. Those areas include the Alignment of industries to accelerate South Africa’s industrialisation process; Enhancement of co-operation in Special Economic Zones; Enhancement of marine co-operation; Infrastructure development; Human resources co-operation; as well as Financial co-operation.
China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for nine years in a row, and South Africa is China’s largest trading partner in Africa. Two-way trade has reached a historic $39billion - 20 times the volume of that at the onset of official diplomatic relations. Direct Chinese investment in the South African economy has also grown eight fold, reaching $10bn.
While there is a trade imbalance between China and South Africa, both countries have implemented mechanisms to address these discrepancies.
Yazini April of the Human Sciences Research Council said: “The state visit is significant as both countries need to determine how best to further each other’s economic growth to realise win-win co-operation for common development, particularly in the current global context of ‘Trumpism’ versus multilateralism. Both South Africa and China have multilateral approaches in their foreign policy.” President Cyril Ramaphosa will pay a state visit to China before the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation Summit, which he will co-chair with Xi in Beijing in September.