|Red Carpet for Chinese leader|
THE red carpet was laid out in Cape Town yesterday for Vice-President Li Yuanchao of the People's Republic of China, who is visiting South Africa at the invitation of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Jacob Zuma welcomes Vice-President Li Yuanchao of the People's Republic of China,
who is leading a Chinese delegation at the 6th South Africa-China Bi-National Commission
The two leaders co-chaired the 6th South Africa-China Bi-National Commission in Parliament, followed by a courtesy call on President Jacob Zuma at his residence, Genadendal, and then a formal dinner hosted by Ramaphosa.
This is the most high-level visit by a Chinese leader since the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping almost a year ago during a state visit and to participate in the much-celebrated Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) held in Sandton.
The essence of this week's visit were the discussions which took place during the Bi-National Commission, where the two leaders heard reports from sub-committees on foreign relations, economy and trade, science and technology, mining, energy and education.
It was agreed by both sides that remarkable progress had been made in relations between the two countries over the past three years, which can be characterised as a comprehensive strategic partnership.
The highlights of the discussions centred around the need to continue concerted co-operation on infrastructure building, special economic zone and industrial park development, equipment manufacturing, production capacity, blue economy, energy and resources development, finance, investment and trade facilitation.
It was agreed that there would be enriched and expanded people-to-people and cultural exchanges, as well as strengthened co-operation in the fields of human resource development, education, tourism, media and youth.
Such exchanges would be greatly facilitated by the new Air China Beijing-Johannesburg route, which has already drastically increased the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Africa.
The goal of enhanced collaboration on international and regional affairs is to be realised not only between the two countries but within the context of Brics. China and South Africa have agreed to support each other in hosting the Brics summits in 2017 and 2018.
Li used the opportunity of being in South Africa to visit Chinese car manufacturing plants in the Eastern Cape earlier in the week that are set to create tens of thousands of South African jobs.
The Beijing Automobile Group is going to invest R11 billion to open a modern plant in the Coega Industrial Development Zone with an annual production of 100 000 vehicles.
This would consolidate South Africa's position as the No 1 motor vehicle manufacturing country in Africa.
Examples of other strategic development projects that have been undertaken between the two countries include locomotives jointly produced by China CRRC and Transnet.
Through technology transfer and local production, the joint venture – which is expected to become a major production base for the African railway network – has helped Transnet upgrade products and technologies.
Chinese businesses in South Africa have also taken an active part in the planning and development of the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone, which is building an energy and metallurgical complex.
Li and Ramaphosa not only have a great deal to showcase in terms of South Africa-China bilateral co-operation, but in the notable accomplishments since the Focac summit last year. Following the Focac summit, it only took eight months to sign 243 agreements which were related to business and investment, totalling over $50 billion.
There is also the 753km-long Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway which started operation just last month. There are now 3 100 Chinese enterprises in Africa which represent an investment of over $100 billion.
South Africa's close communication with China in the future on critical issues such as the global economy, financial governance, climate change, cybersecurity, counter-terrorism and human rights is recognised as critical in an era where global politics is increasingly being realigned.