Strategic partnership between South Africa and China will be boosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to South Africa early next week, representatives from both countries have said.
They said South Africa and China, both key members of the developing world, are determined to strengthen economic and trade ties and were increasing political dialogue and coordination in key regional and global affairs.
"President Hu's visit will enhance the China-South Africa practical cooperation in all fields and promote the comprehensive and in-depth growth of our strategic partnership featuring equality, mutual benefit and common development," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said on the eve of the visit scheduled for Feb. 6-8.
Li said the visit, which comes merely three months after South African President Thabo Mbeki's visit to China, would inaugurate the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of China-South Africa diplomatic relations.
He said China supported the struggle of the South African people against apartheid and that the two countries share a profound traditional friendship.
"China-South Africa relations have enjoyed all-round and fast growth since the forging of diplomatic ties in 1998," he said.
The bilateral ties were in 2004 termed a "strategic partnership" in 2004, which gave greater impetus to mutual exchanges and cooperation in all fields.
Aziz Pahad, Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa, said "It is very important to declare that our relations should be strategic, .. it means many things."
Pahad said strategic relations required the two countries to maintain more dynamic high-level contact and coordinate on key global issues, such as the reform of the United Nations (UN), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks that "do not go anywhere at the moment."
Pahad said both countries had to work together because China was as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an emerging economic power in the world and South Africa was a two-year member of the Security Council and part of Africa's strong economy.
Li Zhaoxing agreed, saying the two countries have maintained "close communication and cooperation" on the platforms of the UN,WTO, outreach sessions of the Group of Eight (G8) rich industrialized countries and Group of 20 nations and had worked "together for the interests of developing countries and for greater democracy in international relations."
Hu's visit to South Africa is the sixth stop of his eight-nation trip to Africa, his second visit to Africa within a year and three months after Beijing hosted a China-Africa summit, at which Chinese and more than 40 African leaders including South African President Thabo Mbeki pledged to intensify cooperation on mutual development.
During the summit, China announced a multi-billion-dollar pledge to help fast-track Africa's development, which included China's increasing aid to the continent, skill training, and greater expansion in two-way trade and investment.
Liu Guijin, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa said President Hu will talk with President Mbeki about how to move forward the decisions made during the Beijing summit."
He said that during Hu's visit the two countries would sign a number of documents on cooperation, particularly in agriculture, and China would take new initiatives to support Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (AsgiSA), a key economic development project launched by South African government aiming at faster and more balanced growth.
"South Africa has a lot to learn from China," said Pahad, "We are beginning to discuss to learn more Chinese experience on how to bring about changes in economic systems."
He believed it was a lot of potential for the two countries to expand economic and trade ties.
Currently, South Africa is China's second largest trade partner in Africa and China is South Africa's fifth biggest trade partner. The two-way trade volume reached a record US$9.856 billion in 2006, up 35.6 percent over the previous year. This was almost one fifth of China's total trade with Africa.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said last year that he hoped Sino-African trade would reach US$100 billion by 2010.
China and South Africa's trade relationship were once tainted by accusations from South Africa's textile industry and trade unions that low-price Chinese products flocking into South African market had suffocated local industry.
During his visit to South Africa in June last year, Wen said that China would limit its textile exports to South Africa for two years to help local industry promote its competitiveness.
"I think that is a good political indication that China is willing to listen to, even they don't necessarily agree, to see where they can help developing countries," Pahad said.
"Chinese leadership has made it clear that they see the relations with Africa as mutually beneficial and we are quite happy with that," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2007)