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BRICS Summit: Chinese ambassador Chen Xiaodong highlights significance and expectations

Two men in black suits and a woman

China’s Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong and his wife his wife, Zhang Bin with President Cyril Ramaphosa at a credentials ceremony at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. File Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Published Aug 18, 2023

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Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong will on Friday shed light on the forthcoming summit of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies, comprising of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In a media advisory earlier this week, the Chinese Embassy in South Africa said the ambassador will address members of the media regarding envisaged outcomes from the summit.

“Ahead of the landmark 15th BRICS summit to be hosted in South Africa this month, the Embassy of China in South Africa will this week hold a press briefing on the momentous summit,” the embassy stated.

“His Excellency, Ambassador Chen Xiaodong will give a briefing to journalists, delving on the summit, highlighting its significance and the expected outcomes.

China’s ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong, with a copy of Volume III of the writings of Chinese President Xi Jinping on the Governance of China. File Picture: Supplied

“He will further review the results of the all-round cooperation between our two countries under the leadership of the two heads of State, His Excellency President Xi Jinping, and His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa,” the embassy added.

It added that the press briefing to be held on Friday morning will also provide perspective on the elevation of ties and a shared future in the China-South Africa cooperation.

The BRICS bloc is in the limelight ahead of the 15th summit to be hosted at Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg from Tuesday to Thursday next week, under the theme: “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development, and inclusive multilateralism”.

Chen, a seasoned diplomat and former assistant foreign minister of China arrived in Pretoria in 2020 to take the reins at the embassy as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to South Africa.

China’s Chen Xiaodong with President Cyril Ramaphosa at the credentials ceremony at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

The position became vacant when former ambassador of China to South Africa Lin Songtian was recalled to Beijing in March 2020, before international travel was globally put on hold amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will host Chinese President Xi Jinping on a State Visit at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

President Cyril Ramaphosa with President of China Xi Jinping at the Union Buildings during a previous State Visit. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

China has for more than decade become South Africa’s biggest trading partner, with trade volumes gauged at a staggering US$56 billion.

Coincidentally, the year 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the buoyant bilateral ties between China and South Africa.

At a prestigious event celebrating the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations earlier this year, Chinese Consul General in Joburg, Tang Zhongdong said the trade volume is at $56 billion (more than R1-trillion), a considerable rise from the US$1 billion in 1998.

Chinese Consul General in Johannesburg Tang Zhongdong. File Photo: Supplied/Chinese Consulate Johannesburg

“In 2022, China-South Africa trade volume grew up to 56.7 billion, 40 times more than that $1.56 billion in 1998. China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner since 2009, and South Africa has been China’s largest trading partner in Africa since 2010 with massive surplus,” Tang told his guests.

“As announced previously, over the next three years China will import $100 billion of goods from South Africa which is also one of largest investment destinations for Chinese enterprises in Africa. Total Chinese investment on South Africa exceeded $25 billion by the end of 2021.

“There are more than 200 Chinese companies operating here. Last year, the Job Fair in Johannesburg organised by Chinese Embassy attracted thousands of South African graduates, and hundreds of Chinese companies promised to employ 20 000 local people in three years,” he said.

Looking back, Tang said over the past 25 years, China-South Africa relations have made a significant leap from an ordinary partnership to a strategic partnership, then to comprehensive strategic partnership.

At the time, Tang highlighted that Chinese presidents have paid five State visits to South Africa, while South African presidents have paid six state visits to China.

Last week, IOL reported that Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel concluded talks with the signing of several business deals with a Chinese delegation led to South Africa by Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao.

Trade, Industry and Commerce Minister Ebrahim Patel and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao presided at a trade deals signing ceremony, supported by Chinese Ambassador to SA, Chen Xiaodong and South Africa's Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cwele. Photo: Supplied

Patel said the Chinese delegation’s visit led to significant outcomes to boost trade, investment and job creation between the two nations.

Patel, who was supported by South Africa’s Ambassador to China, Siyabonga Cwele, made the remarks at Sandton, Joburg, following engagements on Wednesday and Thursday with Wang, who was supported by Chen.

About 20 Chinese enterprises, including China Poly Group, China Chengtong, China National Agricultural Development Group, BYD and CATL, participated in the event.

IOL