Foreign Affairs
Xi sets out vision for China-S. Africa ties
Last Updated:2013-03-27 08:19 | China Daily
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President stresses role of partnership in future relations

President Xi Jinping meets with his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Tuesday. Xi stressed the importance of cooperation with South Africa during the meeting. Huang Jingwen / Xinhua

China would like to forge relations with South Africa based on the model of cooperation between major developing economies, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday during a state visit to a country that accounts for one-third of Beijing's trade with Africa.

He was accompanied by a large trade delegation as deals between the countries are expected to reach several billion dollars. Africa's high role in Beijing's diplomatic agenda - as seen by being a venue for Xi's first overseas trip since being elected earlier this month - has drawn global attention. Also grabbing the world headlines was Xi's call for the world to assist Africa in its development.

The United States said on Monday that it had a "positive agenda" for African development. The statement followed Xi saying in a keynote speech that China plans to "intensify, not weaken" its relationship with the continent.

After talks, Xi and South African President Jacob Zuma witnessed the signing ceremony of cooperation documents in areas ranging from trade and investment to energy and education.

According to a news release from the Foreign Ministry, Xi told Zuma that China will encourage investment and financial cooperation in South African industries including infrastructure construction, mining, energy and vehicle manufacturing.

Bilateral trade reached $59.9 billion in 2012, almost a 40-fold increase on 1997 levels. China has been South Africa's largest trading partner for many years while South Africa is China's largest trading partner in Africa. The two governments later said in a joint statement that "both leaders agreed to make the bilateral relationship a strategic focus and priority in their respective foreign policies".

They designated 2014 as the "Year of South Africa" in China and 2015 as the "Year of China" in South Africa.

They also agreed to strengthen cooperation in international affairs, as well as in the UN, G20, BRICS and the BASIC Group, and to work for a fairer international system.

Both countries called on the international community to provide greater support to Africa, respect African countries' efforts to solve regional issues on their own and help African countries enhance self-generated development.

"South Africa is among the first countries that you are visiting since becoming president of China. Therefore, your visit will forever bear a special significance for all South Africans," Zuma said at the signing ceremony.

"China has achieved much success in a short time, and it is incumbent on us to learn from that which you have achieved.

"We view China's success as a source of hope and inspiration as we engage with the task of finding our own solutions for bringing about a better future," Zuma said.

Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, received a 21-gun salute at the seat of government in Pretoria. The president arrived in Pretoria from Tanzania on Monday night.

Zhong Jianhua, former Chinese ambassador to South Africa, told China Daily that South Africa, the largest economy in Africa, has a "perfect" economic structure. It can play a major role in the continent's growth, Zhong said.

Yang Lihua, an expert on African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said cooperation between China and South Africa has seen rapid progress even though they only established diplomatic ties 15 years ago.

Xi flew on Tuesday night to the port city of Durban for the fifth summit of BRICS, an emerging-economy group made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

He said in a speech upon arrival at Pretoria that it is of great significance for the BRICS Leaders Meeting to be held for the first time on the African continent. "I believe that with concerted efforts of all participants, the meeting will be a successful one and take the solidarity and cooperation of developing countries to a new high," he said.

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