Free State Premier Mxolisi has welcomed newly-appointed Consul General of China in Joburg, Pan Qingjiang, following the departure of former Consul General Tang Zhongdong.
A glitzy welcoming ceremony was hosted at Hilton Sandton on Friday night, which attracted several government officials, local and international media, members of the academia and members of the Chinese community in South Africa.
The Chinese Consulate General in Joburg serves communities in Gauteng and Free State provinces.
Addressing the gathering, Dukwana said Chinese companies have also invested heavily in his province.
“In my province, we now have more than 10,000 Chinese citizens working and living in our province. This Chinese community, contributes to the social and economic development of our province,” said Dukwana.
“We have Chinese companies who have invested in our province. Of course, the number of Chinese people and Chinese companies who have invested in my province, is relatively small, compared to those that operate in the Gauteng province and help grow the GDP there,” he said.
“While the Gauteng province indeed has a budget of its own, it stands to reason that investment in the Free State, or Gauteng province, is an investment into the broader, national economy of South Africa.”
Dukwana said provinces in South Africa and the national economy continues to reap benefits “through tourism that is generated by the Chinese people”.
The premier said the province’s and South Africa’s co-operation with China continues to enhance the nation broadly in areas of trade, investment, science, technology and innovation, education, energy, the blue economy, and agricultural products.
“This will further add value in our efforts, that are aimed at developing our special economic zones and industrial parks,” he said.
The event at Sandton also marked Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year - the most important traditional and cultural festival for all the Chinese people in China, in South Africa and in the rest of the world.
“I take this also, as an opportunity to welcome you as the Consul General to South Africa with the responsibility for the Free State and Gauteng provinces. My province, the Free State province, enjoys a very high level of co-operation with a number of provinces in the People’s Republic of China, this arising from the good bilateral relations between our two countries,” said Dukwana.
The premier highlighted that China is South Africa’s largest global trading partner, with South Africa being China’s biggest trading partner in the continent.
“We shall use our co-operation with the provinces in China to contribute towards generation of wealth and the creation of jobs. We shall continue to strive to promote warm and fraternal relations between and among our peoples, and invest in each other’s economy for our shared and common prosperity.
“I am pleased to take this opportunity to welcome you, Mr Consul General, on your assumption of your duties in South Africa on this the 26th year since our two countries established diplomatic relations between each other,” said Dukwana.
“I reiterate here South Africa’s commitment to the One China Policy, which we all respect as provinces of South Africa. I also wish to reiterate South Africa deep appreciation for China’s support in addressing our current energy challenges, through the donation of emergency power equipment and grants as development assistance to South Africa.”
Dukwana added that during his recent visit to China, Chinese companies responded with “enthusiasm” to his delegation’s investment drive, establishing co-operation with at least one company from the Free State, which is in the energy space.
Bilateral trade between South Africa and China has grown exponentially, from under R1 billion when the bilateral ties were established in 1998 to over R614 billion by the end of 2023.
“As the Free State province and South Africa, we look forward to another 26 years of friendship and cooperation with China, and well beyond,” said Dukwana.
The prestigious ceremony was also attended by Speaker of Gauteng Legislature, Ntombi Mekgwe, several members of provincial executive committees and mayoral committees, Minister of the Embassy of China in South Africa, Zheng Bingkai.
Other delegates included chairman of South Africa-China Economic and Trade Association, Chen Longjian, chief executives of Chinese enterprises with footprint in South Africa; Director of South Africa-Chinese Community and Police Cooperation Centre, Li Xinzhu; Economic Freedom Fighters deputy president Floyd Shivambu; heads of local Chinese community and associations; and other consular corps, including Zimbabwe’s Consul General in Joburg, Eria Phiri.
The year, 2024, in traditional Chinese lunar calendar has been dedicated as the Year of the Dragon. In Chinese culture, the dragon represents good fortune, majesty and vigour.