It was a celebratory atmosphere at the Chinese embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday as South Africa and China celebrated their 25-year anniversary of a pact into what both countries described as a “common goal”.
The two countries in January 1998 established a pact of cordial diplomatic relations that has developed into a “momentous landmark” in the People’s Republic of China-South Africa relations.
A wave of activities, including performances by the students of the SA National School of the Arts, were prepared for the invited dignitaries, who former South Africa president Kgalema Motlanthe, International Relations and Co-operation Minister Dr Naledi Pandor, and ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula.
Also in attendance were a handful of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet ministers.
Outstanding during the event activities was when the South African national anthem, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”, was presented by children and spouses of the Chinese diplomats working in South Africa.
Giving his keynote address, Chinese ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong said the pact between the two countries has seen remarkable historic achievements in the last 25 years.
“The heads of states of our two countries enjoy frequent exchanges such as strategic dialogue… the Chinese Communist Party, the ANC and the SACP enjoy ever-deeper co-operation and comrades boast a special bond between the two political parties.
“Even though South Africa and China are geographically far apart, our two countries enjoy a long history of friendly relationship and exchanges,” Chen said.
The ambassador added that in the 25 years, the two countries’ bilateral trade volume grew 35 times.
“SA is importing more and more quality products to China. Citrus, SA beef, oysters, rooibos tea and many many other products which are now very popular among the Chinese communities… The number of people travelling between our two countries has increased by about tenfold since 1998…Chinese culture and language has become more and more popular in SA. At the same time we are happy to see thousands of South Africans teaching English in China…Thousands of SA citizens are also studying in China,” he said.
He said China was ready to expand trade, investment, energy, minerals, infrastructure, new energy and agriculture and to share the markets of the 1.4 billion Chinese people with South Africa.
“More, SA’s high-quality products are welcome to enter the Chinese market. We are ready to accelerate the delivery of emergency electricity equipment,” he said.
Speaking after the ambassador, Pandor mirrored his sentiments, saying South Africa and China had deep co-operation in a range of sectors including, political, multilaterals, economic and people-to-people exchange.
“All these pillars underpin our very close relationship. The relation between our two countries is one that is underlined by a common vision of mutually beneficial socio-economic growth and a commitment to the development of our people.
“We have a substantial contrast for today’s celebration. This partnership has shown that our strong bonds of friendship and solidarity has resulted in constant expansion in our areas of co-operation as well as our commitment into supporting our joint development and growth… Both of our countries share similar objectives of promoting an international system that is free and fair and that has the interests of developing countries at heart,” she said.
Pandor called out the war in Gaza, taking a swipe at Israel to loud cheers from the crowd of about 300 people.
“We recall the slaughter under way in Gaza and we cry for the people of Palestine and we call on China and SA to fight hard for cessation of hostilities, for creation of peace and security between the people of Palestine and the people of Israel,” she said.
Young Communist League spokesperson Ramatolo Tlotleng said: “We are here to interact with the Chinese embassy on the strengthened relations they have had with SA… The two countries have inclusivity in terms of economic growth, modalities used in their economy and how they assist us to grow our economy in terms of entrepreneurship, hi-tech, transport, commodities and locomotives. The Chinese play a central role in us building our economy as a country.”