South Africans from different political formations, government officials, members of the academia, activists, local and international media gathered in Johannesburg at a prestigious farewell event held in honour of outgoing Consul-General of China in Joburg, Tang Zhongdong.
Tang has represented in China in South Africa over the last seven years, starting off at the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, before he was promoted to lead the Consulate General in Joburg.
The Chinese Consulate in Joburg is responsible for facilitating and elevating relations with Gauteng and Free State provinces. China has other consulates situated in Cape Town and in Durban.
Addressing the farewell reception at Sandton, Premier of Free State Mxolisi Dukwana said Tang has had “an illustrious tenure in South Africa in service of the noble people of the People’s Republic of China” as the Consul-General in Joburg.
“For our purposes as the Free State, we have been inspired and buoyed by the meticulous attention you pay to detail, in growing virtually every sector and sub-sector of your economy. We too, share in your dream to make this our world, a better place to live in,” said Dukwana.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we mark 74 years of People’s Republic of China and bid farewell to an astute ambassador, Mr Tang Zhongdong, may 100 schools of thought contend and a 100 flowers bloom. Above all let us embrace the spirit of the People’s Government of Shanghai and pursue excellence, be open-minded and wise; embracive and modest.”
Earlier this month, a Free State delegation to China led by Dukwana met with executives of the Tuniu company to share ideas about, and collaborate on growing the tourism sector in the Free State beyond what the current over 12,000 annual Chinese tourists.
Tuniu has an online platform for organised and self-guided tours and travel-related services, such as hotel bookings. The company also has built hotels in China to scale its business operations and the same collaboration is being explored the picturesque Free State province.
Free State is aiming to increase inward Chinese visitations into the province by 40 percent within the next 36 months in a partnership where the Free State Destination-Marketing Agency (DMA), the Free State Gambling, Liquor, and Tourism Authority (FSGLTA) work closely with the Tuniu company.
“We intend to exploit our newly-forged relations with Tuniu Company, to further broaden and deepen our foothold in the tourism sector in the Free State by leveraging Tuniu’s vast network of leisure travel packages such as organized tours and self-guided tours,” said Dukwana.
“The Free State has a lot to offer in that regard, in as far as offering ideal facilities, enhancing and expanding the current state of the existing infrastructure, and building the new one.”
The event at Sandton was also attended by delegates including Acting Premier of Gauteng, Tasneem Motara; Yujiang Zhou, Chinese Deputy Consul General in Joburg; Longjian Chen, president of South Africa-China Economy and Trade Association; XinZhu Li, director-general of South Africa Chinese Community and Police Co-operation Center; and Zimbabwe’s Consul-General in Joburg, Eria Phiri.
The National Assembly was represented by House Chairperson, Cedric Frolick.
In his farewell speech, Tang said South Africa has carved an indelible mark on his diplomatic career, and when he resettles back in China, he would work on promoting the brand South Africa.
“My diplomat term as the consul general is coming to an end by this month and will fly back to China soon. I have been working in South Africa for almost seven years, a fairly long period for a diplomat career. Before becoming a diplomat, I was a senior executive in a State-owned enterprise, and in 2015 I had the great honour to be selected by the government to join the diplomat line,” said Tang.
“All of my diplomat career up to now is in South Africa. I arrived in Pretoria in November 2016, and served as the political counsellor in the Chinese Embassy (in Pretoria) until July 2019. From October 2019, I took the position of Consul General in Johannesburg until today.”
Approximately 80 percent of local Chinese people live in Gauteng and Free State province, areas which are serviced by the Chinese Consulate General in Joburg.
“While we celebrate the development of our two relations, we should never forget the support and contribution by the Chinese communities in these two provinces. They made great inputs to the success of president Xi’s visit to South Africa and this BRICS summit,” he said.
China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for 14 years in a row, and South Africa has been China’s biggest trading partner in Africa for 13 years in a row.
There are more than 200 Chinese companies operating in South Africa.