The One-China Principle and the Future of China-South Africa Relations

Li Zhigang, Chargé D'affaires and acting Ambassador, of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in South Africa

Li Zhigang, Chargé D'affaires and acting Ambassador, of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in South Africa

Published May 17, 2024


Li Zhigang, Chargé D'affaires and acting Ambassador, of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in South Africa

China-South Africa Relations Are Entering a Golden Era of Cooperation

As we reflect upon the journey we have traversed over the past decades, we could not forget those who dug well so that we could drink water without fear of thirst.

Back in 1953, when the late Walter Sisulu visited Beijing, he was received by Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai.

Twenty six years ago, with strategic vision and political responsibility, China and South Africa made the strategic decision to establish diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa. 26 years on, with the joint efforts of both sides, our relations have witnessed leapfrog development, far exceeding the bilateral scope with ever-growing global influence.

Especially in recent years, under the guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, China-South Africa relations have entered a “Golden Era” and embarked on a new journey of jointly building a high-level China-South Africa community with a shared future.

We have witnessed:

First, deepening political mutual trust. The Heads of State of our two countries enjoy frequent exchanges. The two sides also built multiple bilateral mechanisms that are working very well, including the Bi- National Commission, the High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism, the Joint Economic and Trade Commission and the Strategic Dialogue. The CPC, the ANC and the SACP enjoy ever deeper friendly exchanges and cooperation and the Comrades-plus-Brothers special bond between our political parties continues to strengthen.

Second, high-level mutually beneficial cooperation. China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for 15 years in a row, and South Africa participated in the China International Import Expo for 6 years. South African beef, citrus, wine, oysters, rooibos tea and many other products are now very popular among Chinese consumers. China takes an active part in South Africa's Investment Conferences, organized two Chinese-invested Enterprises’ Job Fairs for the South African people, and held a China-South Africa New Energy Investment and Cooperation Conference. We also provided various assistance to South Africa, including emergency electricity equipment, to help boost South Africa’s economic growth and employment. And we are also appreciative of the support we have received from the South African side.

Third, flourishing people-to-people friendship. In recent years, South Africa has attracted more Chinese tourists than any other Sub-Saharan country. According to South Africa’s statistics, 11,017 Chinese tourists visited South Africa in the first three months this year, up by 82% year on year. Last year, the third meeting of the High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism was successfully held in Cape Town. The Chinese language and culture have become increasingly popular in South Africa. The 7th Confucius Institute in South Africa has been unveiled at the Venda University.

Fourth, closer strategic coordination. China and South Africa are both major developing countries and emerging markets. We jointly practice true multilateralism and safeguard the common interests and development space for developing countries. Together, we contributed to the great success of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg last year and worked to see the historic expansion of BRICS membership. We made active mediation efforts for the political settlement of the Ukraine Crisis and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and we are committed to maintaining global peace and stability.

One-China Principle Will Guarantee Peace, Development and International Cooperation

As humanity entered the third decade of the 21st century, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19, countries face the arduous task of revitalizing the economy and promoting development. However, the world today is still fraught with turbulence. The global economy is weighed down by protectionism and the abuse of the security concept, and the international system is impaired by unilateralism and bloc politics.

The Ukraine crisis continues unabated. Conflicts are still raging in the Middle East. Artificial intelligence, climate change, among others, are posing a whole new set of challenges.

There have been enough troubles in the world. However, “While the tree prefers calm, the wind will not subside.” The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities have stubbornly stuck to the separatist position of "Taiwan independence", refused to recognize the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, made provocations to seek “Taiwan independence” with the collusion, if not coercion, of the external force, and flagrantly sabotaged cross-Strait relations and peaceful development.

Some external forces hostile to China’s development have blatantly challenged the red line of the one-China principle in an attempt to create “permanent division” across the Strait and use Taiwan as a pawn in their “grand strategy” to contain China. These provocative acts intensify the confrontation across the Strait, undermine peace in the Asia-Pacific region and disrupt the stability of global industrial and supply chains.

They run counter to the trend of the times featuring peace, development and win-win cooperation, and go against the expectation of the international community and the wish of people around the world.

Taiwan has been a part of China since ancient times. This is both a historical fact and an international consensus. It is clearly stipulated in the 1943 Cairo Declaration and the 1945 Potsdam Proclamation that “Taiwan, a Chinese territory stolen by Japan, shall be restored to China.”

These legally binding international instruments constitute part of the post-WWII international order and provide the legal basis for the fact that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. From then on, due to the civil war in China and the interference of foreign forces, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait fell into a special state of protracted political confrontation.

However, China's sovereignty and territory have not been split and Taiwan's status as part of China’s territory has never changed.

In 1971, the 26th session of the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758 with an overwhelming majority. It states that the General Assembly "decides to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it."

UNGA Resolution 2758 resolved once and for all politically, legally and procedurally the issue of the representation of the whole of China, including Taiwan, at the UN. It made clear that there is only one China in the world and that Taiwan is a part of China, and precluded the possibility of"two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan."

Thereafter, Taiwan-related issues have been handled in accordance with the one-China principle throughout the UN system. Taiwan has no basis, reason or right to participate in the UN or any other international organizations where membership is exclusive to sovereign countries. The international community overwhelmingly abides by Resolution 2758, fully and faithfully acts on the one-China principle. The one-China principle is also the fundamental prerequisite and political foundation for China to establish and develop relations with all countries. The 183 countries that established diplomatic relations with China have all made political commitment to adhering to the one-China principle.

Among the countries, those that once had so-called "diplomatic“ relations with Taiwan, have all severed the relations. This fully shows that the one-China principle is a universally recognized principle. It is where global opinion trends and where the arc of history bends.

Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is indispensable to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems are basic principles of the Chinese government for resolving the Taiwan question and the best approach to realizing national reunification.

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait can, on the basis of the one-China principle, resolve political differences through consultation and negotiation, and jointly discuss the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, integrated development of the two sides, and the peaceful reunification of China.

We will continue to work with the greatest sincerity and exert utmost efforts to achieve peaceful reunification but we will definitely not leave any room for separatist activities aimed at “Taiwan independence” in any form. We do not renounce the use of force. This is to guard against external interference and a tiny number of separatists and their separatist activities for “Taiwan independence”.

It does in no way target our compatriots in Taiwan. Use of force would be the last resort taken under compelling circumstances.

The Taiwan question bears on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is at the very core of China’s core interests. There is no room for compromise or concession. Seeking foreign support to gain independence is a dead end. The scheme to use Taiwan to contain China is doomed to fail. Peaceful cross-Strait reunification under the one-China principle will bring huge opportunities for the economic and social development in the Taiwan region and tangible benefits to our compatriots there.

It serves the interests of not only the Chinese nation and people, but also the international community and all people around the world.

China and South Africa Will Build a Shared Future Together

No matter how the international landscape evolves, China, as a responsible major country, always keeps its major principles and policies consistent and stable, injecting much-needed confidence and strength into a world of change and disorder.

China calls for an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization. We advance the Belt and Road Initiative with the philosophy of extensive consultation and joint contribution for shared benefit, and fully implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, in a joint effort with the international community to pursue development, security and vibrant civilizations, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.

With a similar destiny in the past, South Africa deeply understands and firmly supports Chinese people’s just cause of opposing the separatist activities of “Taiwan Independence” and achieving national reunification.

The South African government has long adhered to the one-China principle which is reiterated many times in our joint communiqués on the establishment of diplomatic relations, and in our joint statements. The ruling party ANC stands firm against “Taiwan Independence” separatist activities. It has written the one-China principle into its highest resolution and asked governments at all levels to strictly abide by it. South Africa has also reaffirmed the one-China principle multiple times on such occasions as the UN Human Rights Council sessions and the World Health Assembly, which China deeply appreciates.

Young people are the most vibrant force in society, and the future of China-South Africa relations will be created by them. Today we have with us here many Chinese and South African young people. I hope that young people from both countries will fully understand and continue to carry forward our special bond of “Comrades plus Brothers”, resolutely uphold the one-China principle, have closer exchanges, strengthen mutual learning, and contribute positive energy and new impetus to the sustained steady growth of our bilateral relations.

As we together stand at the starting point of China-South Africa relations, China will work with South Africa to strengthen dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, create new golden highlights and golden fruits in this Golden Era of our bilateral relations, and build a high-level China-South Africa community with a shared future to deliver more benefits to our two countries and peoples.