Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa Nomaindiya Mfeketo acknowledges the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming after his speech during the first China-Africa Relations Roundtable Conference at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton preceeding FOCAC. 011215. Picture: Chris Collingridge 202

#Focac: Remarks by Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming at the Opening Ceremony of China-Africa Relations Roundtable Conference Johannesburg, December 1, 2015

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends, It is my pleasure to attend the opening ceremony of the China-Africa Relations Roundtable Conference.

On behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, I wish the conference full success and thank Independent Media of South Africa and the China Public Diplomacy Association for their hard work in making it a reality.

With the FOCAC Summit opening this week in Johannesburg, today’s conference couldn’t be held at a better time. It brings together influential experts, scholars, entrepreneurs and journalists who have been following and contributing to China-Africa relations over the years.

I hope you could share your insights on the current status of China-Africa relations and the tasks and challenges we face in taking this relationship forward.

I am sure that your vision and wisdom will be of immense value to a successful FOCAC Summit. The China-Africa relationship is better than it has ever been.

Through the FOCAC mechanism, China and Africa have increased political trust, carried out fruitful practical cooperation, expanded cultural exchanges and enhanced cooperation on peace and security. Africa was the destination of President Xi’s first overseas visit after taking office in 2013.

He put forward the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith in growing relations with Africa and emphasised the need to value friendship and justice as well as shared interests, thus pointing the way forward for China-Africa relations in the new era.

Two and a half years have passed, and President Xi is once again in Africa this time to co-chair with President Zuma the FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg. This testifies to the strong commitment of the Chinese government to growing China-Africa relations and China-South Africa relations.

The international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes. China and Africa are both making enormous strides in their development.

Against such a backdrop, China-Africa cooperation also needs to be updated for greater quality and efficiency and strive for new and bigger progress against all odds.

This is what our cooperation calls for and what both sides aspire to.

This FOCAC Summit is held at a crucial stage of all-round development of China-Africa cooperation. It is a milestone in China-Africa friendship and cooperation, which allows us to build on past achievements and chart the course for future development.

How to understand the significance of the Summit? Here’s what I think:

First, we need to carry forward the tradition of China-Africa friendship and pass it on from generation to generation. More importantly, we should further promote China-Africa friendship to provide a solid popular foundation for China-Africa cooperation.

China-Africa friendship has taken deep root in our people’s hearts. It is an invaluable treasure nurtured by generations of Chinese and African people that should be cherished by both sides.

As members of the developing world, both China and African countries lack the voice and influence matched to their weight in today’s international landscape. In face of the new circumstances and challenges, China and Africa must enhance solidarity and cooperation.

This will not only deepen cooperation between the two sides, but also contribute to South-South cooperation and North-South dialogue, and make the international system more balanced and equitable.

It is therefore incumbent upon us to take China-Africa relations to a new level. Second, we need to keep up the good momentum and explore new ways of cooperation. If we could unite the 2.4 billion Chinese and African people and combine the enormous resources and market advantages of the two sides, the synergy will be greater than the mere sum of our individual strengths.

Rather than staying at the low level, China-Africa cooperation must enhance its quality and efficiency and scale new heights. Only in this way can our cooperation meet the development needs of the two sides and the challenges of globalisation.

Africa is now working vigorously to accelerate industrialisation and modernisation. China, on its part, is deepening reform in an all-round way and relocating its competitive industries and surplus production capacity overseas.

China has not only the capacity but more importantly strong political will to support Africa in realising independent and sustainable development. China-Africa cooperation faces unprecedented historical opportunities. It is crucial that we do not let them slip by.

Third, we need to strengthen coordination and foster a favourable environment. Sharing common views and similar positions on a wide range of regional and international issues, China and Africa always understand and support each other.

It is natural that we form a community of shared future, but we shall not take it for granted. As China-Africa cooperation expands and deepens, some frictions will be inevitable. China-Africa cooperation might also affect the interests of third parties, and there are also some people who tend to see China-Africa relations through coloured lenses.

We need to properly handle differences that emerge in our cooperation in the spirit of sincerity, friendship and equal-footed consultation, so that our overall relations and cooperation will not be affected.

It is more important that we adhere to the “Chinese perspective” and “African perspective”, and give an objective and fair assessment of China-Africa relations and cooperation based on our own perception and judgement. This is particularly important in the age of “information explosion”.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends, during the consultations on the outcome documents of this Summit, both sides stressed the importance of exchanges and cooperation between our media and think tanks.

We all shared the view that the strong support and active participation of our experts, scholars, entrepreneurs and media are essential to ensuring better and faster growth of China-Africa relations. Meanwhile, the smooth progress of friendly and cooperative relations between China and Africa also provides a bigger platform for our cooperation concerning think tanks, media and other fields.

We are pleased to see that in recent years, think tanks and media from the two sides, including the China Public Diplomacy Association and South Africa’s Independent Media, have provided excellent ideas and intellectual support and made unique contribution to China-Africa friendship and cooperation.

Once again, I wish this conference a full success. Thank you all.

This article first appeared in an Independent Media supplement.