By Chen Xiaodong
Today marks the 71st anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Several days ago, the Chinese Embassy in South Africa held a virtual reception and online Open Day in celebration of this important occasion. This is my first virtual meeting with friends from South Africa as the new Chinese Ambassador.
The reception has impressed on me the profound friendship between the Chinese and the South Africans and the shared aspiration of all sectors of our societies to deepen bilateral exchanges and co-operation.
Our world is changing in profound ways, compounded by a pandemic unseen in a century. Mankind faces severe challenges and difficult choices in 2020. As the country first affected by the virus, China, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping, lost no time in waging an all-round, people’s war to control the virus. Thanks to China’s solid national strength built in the past 71 years, especially since reform and opening up, we achieved major strategic results in our battle against the pandemic.
Despite the pressure at home, China, as a responsible major country, has done its best to help the international community, showing its commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind and an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
The Chinese government has made co-ordinated progress in pandemic response and the reopening of its economy, becoming the first major economy to restore growth since the outbreak, leading in both pandemic control and economic reopening.
This shows China’s great resilience and vitality. In the face of the evolving international landscape, China has tapped into its huge market and the big potential of domestic demand.
We are now fostering a new economic dynamic with free flowing domestic circulation as the mainstay and mutually reinforced by international circulation. China remains committed to win-win opening up and joining hands with other countries to build an open world economy.
As an emerging market with a population of 1.4 billion and the largest middle-income group in the world, China’s economic growth will provide huge opportunities for the economic recovery and development of South Africa and countries around the world.
Over the past 22 years of our diplomatic ties, China-South Africa relations have made great leaps, from partnership, to strategic partnership and to comprehensive strategic partnership.
President Xi Jinping made three state visits to South Africa, and co-chaired the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The two leaders successfully exchanged visits in 2018. The two presidents met many times on bilateral and multilateral occasions and mapped out a blueprint for China-South Africa and China-Africa relations.
Under the guidance of the two leaders, the political trust between our two countries has been deepening. The co-operation between our countries has yielded fruitful outcomes.
Cultural and people-to-people exchanges are getting closer. And our co-ordination and co-operation in multilateral organisations have been strengthened.
During the pandemic, China and South Africa have joined hands in fighting the disease. We showed solidarity and firm resolve to overcome the difficulties, injecting positive energy into China-Africa and global anti-pandemic co-operation.
President Xi and President Ramaphosa have exchanged letters, messages and phone calls on many occasions.
The two leaders jointly hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against Covid-19 to discuss ways for China and Africa to defeat the virus together.
Chinese and South African governments have provided strong support to each other. All these reflect the profound friendship between our countries in trying times.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in South Africa, President Ramaphosa immediately set up and led the National Command Council response.
The ANC government has taken a series of pandemic prevention and control measures such as the national lockdown and the closure of borders to prevent the import and spread of coronavirus, saving thousands of South Africans’ precious lives.
Now the pandemic situation in South Africa is getting much better and the economic and social development is getting back on track. All those decisive measures have demonstrated the remarkable leadership of President Ramaphosa. Please accept our congratulations.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Focac. It is a momentous year in the history of China-Africa relations. Over the past two decades, especially since the Johannesburg and Beijing summits, the win-win co-operation between China and Africa has covered almost all African countries and delivered real benefits to our peoples.
China is ready to work with Africa to chart the course for post-pandemic co-operation, and follow through on the outcomes of the Focac Beijing Summit and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit. China will continue to support Africa’s fight against the pandemic, and advance the high quality and high standard Belt and Road co-operation with African countries. Hopefully this will facilitate Africa’s economic recovery in the post-Covid-19 era.
The year 2020 also marks the 75th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and the founding of the UN. During the summits commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the UN, President Xi delivered important speeches, proposing that the UN must stand firm for justice, uphold the rule of law, promote co-operation and focus on real action.
At such a critical juncture, it is more important than ever to strengthen solidarity and co-ordination and advocate win-win co-operation. As President Ramaphosa said at the UN summits: “As the international community, let us choose co-operation above unilateralism. Let us choose solidarity above isolation. Let us choose unity of purpose above narrow self-interest.”
China will continue to uphold multilateralism, safeguard the UN-centred international system and the WTO-centred multilateral trading regime, and take an active part in the reform of global governance system.
China will remain a promoter of world peace, a contributor to global development, a defender of international order and a provider of public goods.
I am looking forward to working with friends from all sectors in South Africa to implement the important consensus reached by the two presidents, deepen friendship and mutual trust, expand co-operation in such areas as pandemic response, trade and economy, and strengthen people-to-people exchanges to raise our comprehensive strategic partnership to a new high.
* Chen is the Chinese ambassador-designate to South Africa.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.