China-S. Africa ties at all-time high

Updated: 2015-12-03 06:41

By By ZHAO HUANXIN and HOU LIQIANG in Pretoria, South Africa and LUCIE MORANGI in Johannesburg, South Africa(China Daily USA)

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China-S. Africa ties at all-time high

President Xi Jinping walks with South African President Jacob Zuma on arrival at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday. Pang Xinglei / Xinhua 

President Xi Jinping and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday that relations between their two countries are “at their best level” and they vowed to take the bilateral partnership to new heights.

“With joint efforts of both countries, the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership has seen good momentum with enhanced political trust and increasing pragmatic cooperation in various fields, which has brought about substantial benefits to the two peoples,” Xi said.

Xi, who is on his second visit to the “rainbow nation” as Chinese president, said Beijing values the special “comrade and brother” relationship with Pretoria.

The two sides should become strategic partners that seek to advance the relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective and continuously cement and enhance political mutual trust, Xi said while meeting with Zuma on Wednesday afternoon.

During their talks, the two heads of state agreed to lift bilateral ties to a new level by fully implementing the 5-10 Year Strategic Plan on Cooperation between the two nations and co-chairing the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

The two presidents are expected to use the state visit to finalize the strategic plan, which was signed in December 2014.

‘Leverage strengths’

“The two countries should leverage strengths in political mutual trust and economic complementarities, step up cooperation in such key areas as marine economy, production capacity, energy, infrastructure, human resources and finance, and promote balanced and sustainable development of trade,” Xi said.

“China and South Africa relations are at a new historical level. We want to build it into a model for relationships between China and other emerging economies,” Xi said at a media conference following the talks.

The Chinese president arrived in South Africa on Wednesday afternoon after wrapping up a visit to Zimbabwe. He will leave for Johannesburg on Thursday for the FOCAC summit.

Prior to their talks, Zuma welcomed Xi with a 21-gun salute ceremony at the Union Buildings, the official seat of South Africa’s government that houses the presidency.

After their talks, Xi and Zuma witnessed the signing of documents on cooperation in such fields as economy, trade, culture, science and technology. A South African presidential statement said a total of 26 agreements were signed with a value of 94 billion rand ($6.5 billion).

“Relations between China and South Africa are currently at their best level ever. We are truly pleased to host President Xi and his delegation,” Zuma said at their joint press conference.

He said the number of agreements indicated the amount of work that has been done in the past few months, and added, “We agreed that more could and should be done to increase our trade and investment figures.”

Zuma said he had discussed with the Chinese side expanding tourism and business interaction.

“We therefore welcome the introduction of direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing by Air China,” Zuma said. “South Africa has opened two new visa processing centers in Chengdu and Guangzhou, which will further promote travel between the two countries.”

Optimism on Paris

South Africa encourages people-to-people exchanges, and will strengthen coordination and cooperation with China within the multilateral mechanisms like the United Nations and Group of Twenty (G20), and on major global issues like climate change, Zuma said.

With the United Nations climate change conference now going on in Paris, Zuma said he and Xi had expressed their views regarding the crucial meeting.

“We urge all parties in Paris to put the interests of the world first and not allow national interests to make it difficult to reach an agreement,” Zuma said. “We remain optimistic that a legally binding agreement will be reached, as we have no other choice.”

More than 100 overseas Chinese in South Africa gathered in front of the Sheraton Hotel where the Chinese delegation is staying to give Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan a warm welcome on Wednesday. Many came early in the morning and waited for about five hours in the hot sun.

They held Chinese and South African national flags and some also held signs that read: “Welcome President Xi and Mama Peng”.

He Qi, who has been in South Africa for four years, last month heard the news about Xi’s visit.

“I felt very excited and I came early in the morning. No matter whether I can see him or not, I want to show him my enthusiasm. I feel South Africa is like my home. I welcome him to come as if he is my guest,” she said.

Song Jielei came around 9 am and waited more than four hours to see the president. “I don’t know when he will come. But no matter how long it takes, I will wait,” he said.