FRIENDSHIP: Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan meets SA’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Supplied  

As South Africa this year takes over the chair of BRICS, President Cyril Ramaphosa – thanking President Xi Jinping and his government for extending a helping hand to the country during the height of the Covid pandemic –  has lauded the People’s Republic of China for maintaining “a profound friendship with SA”.

BRICS is grouping of the world’s emerging leading economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Speaking after a meeting this week in Cape Town with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, Ramaphosa described the South Africa-China relationship as being “of special and strategic significance”.

He implored both countries to:

  • Work to enrich the content of bilateral relations.
  • Consolidate political mutual trust.
  • Expand trade and investment.
  • Promote people-to-people exchanges and deepen cooperation within the framework of mechanisms such as the BRICS “to enable more ordinary people from both countries to engage in bilateral relations”.

Ramaphosa said the Chinese assistance during the height of Covid “fully demonstrated the profound friendship between the peoples of the two countries”.

He said both countries should work to enrich the content of bilateral relations and consolidate political mutual trust.

Conveying President Xi’s greetings and well wishes to Ramaphosa, Sun said China and South Africa shared “a special friendship of comradeship plus brotherhood”.

With the two presidents keeping close communication and enhancing bilateral relations, Sun said the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership enjoyed a strong momentum of development.

The relations, she said, were based on deepening political mutual trust, fruitful practical cooperation, productive people-to-people exchanges, sound communication and cooperation at multilateral level.

Sun said China always viewed its relations with South Africa “from a strategic and long-term perspective – ready to work with South Africa to follow the important guidance of consensus reached by the two heads of state, continuing to firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns”.

Deepening experience-sharing on governance and development, was key.

The Chinese government has been optimising epidemic prevention and control measures – actively creating conditions for facilitating people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries.

China was ready to take the opportunity of celebrating the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties with South Africa, to expand face-to-face exchanges in various fields and at various levels – strengthening cooperation with SA in education, science, technology, health, culture, tourism and sports.

Fully endorsing SA’s BRICS chair and “ready to further enhance cultural exchanges and mutual learning among BRICS countries, so as to consolidate popular support for BRICS cooperation”, Sun said China was “ready to take the opportunity of celebrating the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties with South Africa”.

Areas of cooperation to be strengthened, included face-to-face exchanges in various the fields of education, science and technology, health, culture, tourism and sports.

Against the background of China hard at work to revitalise human interaction with other countries, the Chinese government has been optimising epidemic prevention and control measures – actively creating conditions for facilitating people-to-people exchanges.

To deepen cultural exchange and mutual learning, Sun has met Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, to sign a Joint China-South Africa three cooperation agreements in the fields of education, science, technology and health.

Mthethwa co-chaired the third meeting of the China-South Africa High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM).

The third PPEM, hosted in collaboration with the Chinese embassy in South Africa, was aimed at deepening mutual understanding between South Africa and China – enhancing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in the areas of culture, education, international relations, communication, health, Science and technology, sport, tourism, women affairs, and youth.

It followed two state visits in 2018, when Ramaphosa and Xi strengthened bilateral ties between the two countries – with a particular focus on people-to-people exchanges.

China’s strengthening of people-to-people exchanges, also come in the wake of the Asian economic giant’s ramping up its outbound tourism – allowing travel agencies to provide group tour service for Chinese tourists to visit 20 countries, including South Africa, a significant step in boosting global tourism recovery.

An estimated 100 000 Chinese tourists contributed about $140 million to the South African economy.