•Now more and more countries are knocking on the door of BRICS, aspiring to join our cooperation.
•The past decade has witnessed the joint pursuit of a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and the completion and handover of a host of projects
On August 21, Chinese President Xi Jinping published an article on South African media titled, "Sailing the Giant Ship of China-South Africa Friendship and Cooperation Toward Greater Success". The piece was a curtain raiser as he traveled to attend the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. This is Xi’s sixth visit to the "rainbow nation".
He noted that South Africa is home to the great statesman Nelson Mandela, boasts the richest tourist resources, the longest road network, the biggest securities exchange, and the busiest airports and harbours in Africa.
Xi said that although each of his visits to South Africa has given him new impressions, the deepest is invariably the brotherly sentiments towards the two countries. China lent firm support to South African in fighting apartheid, and stood with the African National Congress. Facing the sudden onslaught of Covid-19, China was among the first to provide anti-pandemic supplies to South Africa.
More recently, China also provided to the country emergency power equipment. Over the past 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the relationship has achieved leapfrog development - from a partnership to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership. It is one of the most vibrant bilateral relations in the developing world.
Xi stated that the relationship between the two countries has entered a "golden era", enjoying broad prospects and a promising future. South Africa was the first African country to sign the Belt and Road cooperation document with China. It has been China's biggest trading partner in Africa for 13 years in a row, as well as one of the African countries with the largest stock of Chinese investment.
South Africa's wines, rooibos tea, and aloe vera gels are trending products in China. Many Chinese companies are expanding their operation and at the same time taking more social responsibilities in South Africa. Automobiles and home appliances with Chinese brands yet made in South Africa are very popular among local consumers, and are now owned by numerous South African households. South African companies are also racing to invest in the Chinese market to seize the abundant business opportunities, and they have made important contribution to China's economic growth.
South Africa's Ubuntu philosophy advocates compassion and sharing. It resonates well with the values of Confucianism - "love the people and all beings and seek harmony among all nations". The China-South Africa relationship is standing at a new historical starting point. It has gone beyond the bilateral scope and carries increasingly important global influence.
As an ancient Chinese saying goes, "A partnership forged with the right approach defies distance; it is thicker than glue and stronger than metal and rock." Xi said that China and South Africa should be pacesetters for solidarity and cooperation. The partnership will succeed because of the two countries’ biggest strengths in high economic complementarity and the solid foundation for cooperation.
China and South Africa need to further synergise their development strategies, promote stronger cooperation in infrastructure, digital economy, scientific and technological innovation and energy transition, and ensure that more people of the two countries benefit from the development outcomes. China welcomes more South African products to its market, and encourages more Chinese companies to invest and do business in South Africa.
China and South Africa need to leverage the all-round, multi-tiered and institutionalised mechanisms for people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, and continue to advance exchanges and cooperation in culture, tourism, education, sports, media, universities, sub-national governments and the youth.
China and South Africa should be champions of their common interests. What the world needs today is peace, not conflict; what the world wants is coordination, not confrontation. As natural members of the Global South, the two countries should work closely together to appeal for greater voice and influence of developing countries in international affairs, promote accelerated reform of international financial institutions, and oppose unilateral sanctions and the "small yard, high fence" approach.
Over the past 12 years, South Africa has made important contributions to the development of BRICS cooperation mechanism, further substantiating BRICS cooperation and extending its influence. Now more and more countries are knocking on the door of BRICS, aspiring to join our cooperation. This is a testament to the vitality and influence of the BRICS cooperation mechanism.
It is now ten years since Xi proposed "sincerity, real results, amity and good faith" as the principles for China to develop its relations with Africa. The past decade has witnessed the joint pursuit of a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and the completion and handover of a host of projects including the Africa CDC Headquarters, the Foundiougne Bridge in Senegal, the Nairobi Expressway and the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, renewing the China-Africa friendship.
Xi promised to convene a China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue and work with African leaders to bring more active, effective and sustainable development initiatives to Africa, expand cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, new energy and digital economy, and facilitate Africa's economic integration, industrialisation and agricultural modernisation. Further, China will continue to work for substantive progress in African Union's joining of the G20 this year, and looks forward to a greater role by African countries and the AU in international and regional affairs.
Stephen Ndegwa is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank.