This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and South Africa. According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, “this relationship has made big strides and demonstrated a strong growth momentum in political trust, economic and trade co-operation, people-to-people exchanges and strategic co-ordination”.
The partnership between the two countries has over the years been strengthened through bilateral mechanisms, FOCAC, the Belt and Road Initiative, BRICS co-operation, and other platforms that deepen co-operation in key areas such as industries, production capacity, resources and energy, infrastructure, finance, tourism, and digital economy and deliver more benefits to the people.
China has been a major investment partner to South Africa, making South Africa the top destination of Chinese investment in Africa. For the past nine years, China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner – at the end of 2017, bilateral trade between the two countries grew by 11.7%. In September 2017, South Africa became the first African country to export beef to China. In the tourism industry too, South Africa has hosted the largest number of Chinese tourists in Africa, which includes students, as well as the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms.
The Chinese government has assured South Africa that they will continue making great efforts to support and assist South Africa in their development strategies that will ensure fast economic development that will allow South Africa to continue to play a leading role in African affairs. This year South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa has stated that China President has committed to investing $14.7 billion into South Africa. More agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed this year by the two countries, these agreements are intended to further deepen relations. Some of the agreements are between big businesses, state-owned entities and even visa regimes.
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The China/South Africa partnership goes beyond economics and politics as over the years there has been several student exchange programs between the two countries. For the past several years the Free State government has sponsored students to go study in China for their undergraduate qualifications, this has not been happening in Free State only, last month eight South African students from False Bay TVET College have left on a year-long internship to China.
Both the President of South Africa and Xi Jinping, President of China have assured each other that the partnership and cooperation between the two countries will continue. President Ramaphosa said reporting back to Parliament after the third bilateral meeting between the two head of state: “We have a strategic relationship with China and we intend to exploit it to good effect because they have offered to assist us and they have not offered to dominate us and that to us is an important part”.
By Ntsikelelo Kuse