President Jacob Zuma addresses a special media briefing on the economy, especially on developments in the mining sector at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. 30 May 2013.

Johannesburg - The Chinese community adds to the rich diversity that makes South Africa unique, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

“We are also pleased to have the Chinese community in our country, given the strong and long-standing relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China,” Zuma said a speech prepared for delivery at the opening of the Chinese Arch in Cyrildene, Johannesburg.

The arch's opening was an opportunity to reflect on relations between the two countries, which counted among the strongest bilateral linkages South Africa had with any country, he said.

“The two countries also belong to the Brics [Brazil Russia India China South Africa] grouping, which has changed the economic landscape by introducing a significant new power bloc in world economic relations.”

More importantly, the relationship between South Africa and China was grounded in the consistent support the African National Congress had received during apartheid.

The relationship between the two countries had grown exponentially in breadth and depth at all levels since the establishment of diplomatic links.

“Also, over the past 20 years, the Chinese population of South Africa has also increased dramatically, and so has your contribution to the South African economy,” Zuma said.

“It is against this background that we meet here with great joy to open this arch, which is a symbol of the presence, diligence and importance of our Chinese community to the building of this country.”

The growth in tourism between the two countries was also encouraging, with China South Africa's fourth biggest tourism market, attracting 122 482 tourists between January and November 2012.

This represented growth of 58.3 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

“We want to continue building on this relationship and on the potential that our relationship with China brings at a bilateral level and also within the Brics forum,” Zuma said.

“The Chinese community in South Africa is thus an important link and catalyst for some of our interactions with China.”

Over the next few months, South Africa and China would convene two important meetings in Beijing to strengthen and consolidate their relationship, he said.