Chinese President Hu Jintao (R), and Xi Jinping, newly-elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), also chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, shake hands as they meet with delegate.

Pretoria - The “smooth transition” of China’s leadership at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), that ended yesterday, will ensure that China continues to strengthen relations with Africa and South Africa, says Tian Xuejun, Chinese ambassador to South Africa.

President Hu Jintao stepped aside as ruling party leader at the once-in-a-decade congress to clear the way for Vice-President Xi Jinping to take China’s helm as part of only the second orderly transfer of power in 63 years of Communist rule.

Hu and other senior leaders mostly in their late 60s are handing over power to leader-in-waiting Xi and other colleagues in their late 50s.

The new leadership faces daunting challenges, including slowing growth in the world’s No 2 economy, rising unrest among increasingly assertive citizens and delicate relations with neighbouring countries.

Tian said under its new leadership, China would continue to strengthen its relations with South Africa and the rest of Africa, scaling up inputs into Africa’s political, economic and cultural endeavours and enhancing Africa’s ability to develop on its own.

He said there had been unprecedented world attention on the congress, with much speculation about what direction it would set for China.

“The 18th CPC National Congress has given a resounding answer: China will follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.”

Tian said Africa was important to China’s efforts to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development. “A China in progress will offer important opportunity and broad space for developing Africa, including South Africa. It is the Chinese government’s foreign policy to strengthen the new type of strategic partnership with Africa.

“No matter how the international landscape may change, China will forever be a good friend, good partner and good brother of African people.

“With our joint effort, the China-Africa relationship will enter a new stage of all-round and fast development, and China-Africa co-operation will bear more fruit.

“South Africa is now the African Chair of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation. Next year, the two countries will celebrate 15 years of diplomatic relationship and South Africa will host the fifth Brics meeting.

“China is willing and ready to join hands with South Africa to seize the opportunities, strengthen co-operation, and set clear targets to open a new chapter for China-SA and China-Africa friendship and co-operation.”

Foreign Editor and Sapa-AP