Chinese ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian. Picture: Supplied
Johannesburg - Chinese ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian was born into a country beset by poverty in 1960, but has lived to see it surge towards prosperity, becoming the world’s second largest economy, largest manufacturer and largest holder of foreign reserves.

As the largest trading partner of more than 100 major countries, importing more than $2 trillion (R30 trillion) annually, China has also become the major driver and stabiliser for world economic growth.

“In 70 years we have witnessed earth-shattering development where per capita GDP grew from $35 in 1949, to $156 in 1978, and $10000 this year,” Lin told the media at celebrations marking 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Leading South African political figures converged on the Chinese embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday for the celebrations, with Minister for Higher Education Blade Nzimande delivering the keynote address.

“Our relations with China started in 1998, and ever since we have had strong co-operation in multilateral fora. South Africa would like to express our gratitude to China for supporting Africa’s Agenda 2063 for the economic transformation over the next 50 years,” Nzimande said.

The Chinese nation boasts more than 5000 years of history and civilisation, and created the Four Great Inventions - gunpowder, the compass, printing, and paper making.

But perhaps China’s greatest contribution has been the upliftment of 850million people out of poverty, contributing more than 70% of global poverty alleviation. By the end of next year, China insists its 1.4 billion people will be lifted out of poverty with no one left behind.

The ambassador emphasised the fact that China and Africa have fought side by side against imperialism and colonialism. “Now we are joining hands to fight against poverty for common prosperity. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 10 years in a row, and 30% of the infrastructure in Africa has been financed and built by China.”

China has become a major source of investment and tourists for South Africa, with two-way trade reaching $43.55bn last year.

Lin has spent much of this year visiting all South Africa’s special economic zones to market opportunities to prospective Chinese investors. He plans to prioritise bringing Chinese tourists to the country, given that 160million travel abroad every year.

The embassy used the occasion to announce the launch of the ambassador’s new Twitter account, inviting guests and public to follow him.