Moving China-South Africa ties toward deeper level with higher quality, broader scope
This year marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Yang Yi, People's Daily
Over the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, our relationship has achieved leapfrog development－from a partnership to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Political mutual trust between the two countries has been enhanced continuously, practical cooperation has been advanced steadily, people-to-people exchanges have remained vibrant, and strategic coordination has been deepened constantly. These have brought tangible benefits to the two peoples and the African people at large.
South Africa was the first African country to sign the Belt and Road cooperation document with China. A series of bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms have smoothed trade between the two sides and elevated the quality of China-South Africa economic and trade cooperation, including a South Africa-China joint economic and trade committee, the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, the China Import and Export Fair and the China International Import Expo.
China has been South Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, while South Africa has maintained China's biggest trading partner in Africa for 13 years in a row. In the first half of this year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $28.25 billion, up 11.7 percent year-on-year.
In May this year, the first shipment of 53,000 tons of feed corn from South Africa arrived at a Chinese port. After strict inspection and quarantine, the feed corn was supplied to Chinese feed companies.
Following South African wines and citrus fruits, the shipment marked another successful attempt in China-South Africa agricultural trade. It provided diversified feed options for Chinese clients and boosted South African agriculture and increase local farmers' income.
South Africa is one of the largest investment destinations for Chinese enterprises in Africa. In recent years, bilateral investment and cooperation has expanded steadily.
Statistics show that by the end of June 2023, China's investment stock in South Africa stood at around $10 billion. In April this year, China actively responded to South Africa's "new investment initiative" and organized over 60 companies to participate in the 5th South Africa Investment Conference, announcing new investment intentions of nearly 15 billion rand (about $800 million).
At a business meeting held this August in Johannesburg, enterprises from both countries signed trade agreements totaling nearly $2.2 billion.
Stavros Nicolaou, of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council, said this business meeting brought new opportunities for enterprises in both South Africa and China. South Africa will increase exports of minerals and agricultural products to China while deepening extensive cooperation in areas such as the automotive industry and agricultural product processing, he added.
South African Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel said Chinese companies have played a positive role in South Africa's economic and social development, and South Africa sees China as the most important economic and trade partner.
According to Patel, South Africa will continue optimizing its business environment, and encourage more Chinese firms to leverage opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area for more trade and investment cooperation in South Africa.
South Africa hopes to expand cooperation with China in the industrial chain of the new energy vehicle sector, the minister added.
At the end of 2022, construction began on the South African site of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope in the small town of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape. The SKA, the world's largest radio telescope, is a key technology cooperation project between China and South Africa involving scientists from China and other nations.
South African Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande said China's participation is very important for the SKA project, and South Africa wants to further strengthen cooperation with China in science, technology and innovation.
In July this year, Chinese tech giant Huawei officially launched an innovation center in South Africa, which will continue supporting its South African partners, app developers and small- and medium-sized enterprises for innovation in areas like 5G, cloud computing and AI.
At the launching ceremony, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the establishment of the innovation center aligns very well with the South African government's governance priority of using digital technologies to propel economic development.
China has collaborated with South Africa and other African countries to build science and technology innovation cooperation platforms, expanding new areas of mutually beneficial cooperation and promoting sustainable economic and social development.
China has supported the building of Africa's first 5G commercial network and 5G lab in South Africa, promoted South Africa's internet industry by laying fiber optic cables in the country and investing in multiple submarine cables, and partnered with major South African telecom carriers to provide fast and stable communication services to over 30 million South African people.
China has also established a science park in South Africa and the China-South Africa Joint Research Center for Mineral Resources, hosted an innovation and entrepreneurship forum for youth in the two countries, and implemented a joint China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation in Africa.
South Africa has more Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms than any other countries in Africa. It has incorporated the Chinese language into its national education system.
The Confucius Institute at Durban University of Technology and the Confucius Classroom at the Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Center in South Africa have rolled out a slew of Chinese language-related programs in Juncao technology, e-commerce, innovation, entrepreneurship and tourism in collaboration with Chinese enterprises and industrial associations.
Thanks to these programs, many South African youths have entered Chinese enterprises and have new choices of employment.
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