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South Africa and China celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relations

By Ndumiso Mlilo | | Updated: 2018-03-04 17:29

JOHANNESBURG - South African and Chinese government officials, businesses and the general public celebrated 20 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries through speeches, songs and dance in Johannesburg on Saturday.

China and South Africa established diplomatic relations on Jan 1, 1998. South Africans and Chinese sang and danced during the event. Chinese and South African food was on sale during the celebrations.

The chief director for East Africa and Oceania in South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Ambassador Manelisi Genge, told China Daily that relations between the two countries took a giant leap.

Genge said Sino-South African diplomatic ties have enabled his country to address its challenges, such as improving its poor infrastructure.

"China is our number one trading partner. China has made huge investment in the country in the past 20 years. They have helped our government to improve our infrastructure and change the lives of our people. Chinese relations are helping us to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. This relationship is based on mutual respect and win-win," Genge said.

China and South Africa are both members of BRICS, an acronym for an association of emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Genge said relations have enabled the two countries to have a united voice in international matters. BRICS have on several occasions issued a statement on international developments. They have also come up with a united voice to reform multilateral organizations, like the UN Security Council.

Genge said South Africa has had diplomatic relations with US and UK for a long time but relations with China for just 20 years have been more fruitful than the West.

"We always shared skills with China to address our skills deficiency. Every year the Chinese government offers scholarships to our students to learn in China. These students return with skills to develop our country and improve our economy," Genge said.

He said relations have grown and continue to grow. People to people relations, government to government, labor, students and academia also have increased well. Genge said relations will continue to grow with China, which is technologically advanced and is assisting the country to fight poverty.

Chinese ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian also attended the celebrations.

Councilor and member of the Mayoral Committee for Public Safety in the City of Johannesburg, Michael Sun, said that relations between China and South Africa are increasing. Sun, a South African of Chinese descent, said the past 20 years saw both countries coming closer and improving ties for their mutual benefit.

"The ties have helped our country's economic development, and created jobs and stability in our community. South Africa has improved its skills because of ties with China. The future of this relationship is bright. The sky is the limit. Relations will continue to grow and benefit both countries," he said.

Trade between South Africa and China grew to $25 billion in 2017. China and South Africa announced a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2010.

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