Xi to visit South Africa for BRICS summit, outreach to African countries

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 19, 2023
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In March 2013, as part of his maiden foreign tour as China's head of state, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa and attended the 5th BRICS Summit held in South Africa, where he put forward the guiding principles of China's Africa policy, and expounded on his visions for enhancing the BRICS mechanism.

Ten years later, the BRICS Summit will be held on the African continent again. Xi will attend the 15th BRICS Summit to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa and pay a state visit to South Africa from Aug. 21 to 24. While in the country, Xi will co-chair with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa the China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue.

During the ten years between the two summits in South Africa, BRICS, which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has grown into an all-round and multi-level framework that plays a vital role in the global arena. Meanwhile, the China-Africa friendship has been enriched with their cooperation flourishing in all aspects.

As the world is facing numerous uncertainties and living through accelerating changes unseen in a century, observers hope that Xi's upcoming visit and the meetings in South Africa will further energize the BRICS mechanism and usher in a new phase of China-Africa and South-South cooperation.


Noting that BRICS has provided developing countries with an opportunity to enhance their influence and amplify their voices in global governance, Cavince Adhere, a Kenya-based international relations scholar, said that "joining BRICS allows countries to align themselves with a group that seeks to promote multipolarity and a more equitable international system."

In fact, 22 years ago, when British economist Jim O'Neill coined the term "BRIC" -- an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, he might not have imagined how the rise of those emerging economies would reshape the world economy and global governance.

With South Africa officially becoming a member in 2011, BRIC was enlarged to BRICS, which now represents about a quarter of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and some 40 percent of the world population.

It has grown into the most influential South-South cooperation platform and a crucial driver for global growth, with three main pillars consolidating its mechanism, namely, political and security cooperation, economic and finance cooperation as well as cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

A key milestone of BRICS cooperation is the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) in 2015. The Shanghai-based bank is aimed at mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies.

Figures released by the bank earlier this year showed that it has approved nearly a hundred projects with a total value of 33.2 billion U.S. dollars, greatly contributing to the economic and social development of its member countries. It has also strengthened its green and sustainable credentials, as around 40 percent of the bank's projects focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

"NDB is one of the youngest multilateral development banks in the world. Within a short span of eight years, NDB has established itself as a major global, multilateral development bank," said Anil Kishora, vice president and chief risk officer of NDB.

Meanwhile, BRICS members have advocated a partnership on the new industrial revolution to deepen cooperation in digitalization, industrialization and innovation.

During the development of BRICS, China has never hesitated to contribute. In March 2013, Xi, as the Chinese president, attended the BRICS Summit for the first time in Durban, South Africa. In the following ten years, Xi has joined forces with leaders of other BRICS members to push the BRICS Summits to produce a series of pioneering, leading and institutional outcomes.

"China has set an example of practicing mutually beneficial and equal cooperation, and played the role of a great nation in BRICS to balance and stabilize international relations," said Irina Kokushkina, an associate professor of the Department of World Economy at St. Petersburg State University.


"President Xi's attendance at the BRICS leaders' meeting and his state visit to South Africa are of great significance. This visit will strengthen the relationship between the two countries," Kenneth Creamer, a senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, told Xinhua.

As Creamer noted, China-South Africa relations have developed comprehensively and rapidly over the years. The leaders of the two countries have frequently communicated with each other on bilateral and multilateral occasions or during online events, bringing bilateral cooperation to higher levels.

In a phone conversation with Ramaphosa on June 9, Xi said China and South Africa are both important major developing countries and the two enjoy special friendly relations like brothers.

Data released by China showed that in the first half of the year, bilateral trade reached 28.25 billion U.S. dollars, up 11.7 percent year-on-year.

China has maintained its position as South Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, while South Africa has been China's largest trading partner in Africa for 13 consecutive years.

China-South Africa ties have served as a model for China-Africa relations, South-South cooperation, and unity and cooperation among emerging market countries, offering valuable experience for building an even stronger community with a shared future between China and Africa.

During his Africa trip in 2013, Xi proposed the concept of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and the right approach to justice and interests, the guiding principles of China's Africa policy. Over the past decade, under those principles, China-Africa relations have been propelled into the fast lane of development.

According to the Ministry of Commerce of China, China has remained Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. The two sides have together constructed and commissioned over 10,000 km of railway, nearly 100,000 km of highway, and an array of important infrastructure projects, including airports, docks, bridges and power plants.

In recent years, China-Africa cooperation has expanded from agriculture, infrastructure and manufacturing to new industries such as green economy, health, finance and digital innovation.

Costantinos Berhutesfa Costantinos, a professor of public policy at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, said that it is political justice, mutual economic benefit, win-win cooperation and common development that laid the basis for a shared future of Africa and China.


The theme of this year's summit is BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism, highlighting how these emerging economies can strengthen ties with a continent home to a large number of countries also belonging to the Global South.

There are high expectations among experts and observers about the outcomes of the summit. One major focus is the membership expansion of the group.

Attracted by the openness and inclusiveness of BRICS, more countries have decided to apply to join the group, which reflects the shared aspiration of developing countries to focus on their own development, seek unity and cooperation, and oppose external interference.

"Twenty-two countries have formally approached BRICS countries to become full members. There's an equal number of countries that have been informally asking about becoming BRICS members," said South Africa's BRICS Sherpa Anil Sooklal.

As an ex-officio member of the Global South, China has always focused on the most urgent needs of developing countries. It has proposed the "BRICS Plus" cooperation model, and voiced its support for the membership expansion process of BRICS.

"BRICS countries gather not in a closed club or an exclusive circle, but a big family of mutual support and a partnership for win-win cooperation," Xi said while hosting the 14th BRICS Summit in Beijing via video link last year.

"Bringing in fresh blood will inject new vitality into BRICS cooperation and increase the representativeness and influence of BRICS," Xi said, stressing that "it is important to advance this process to allow like-minded partners to become part of the BRICS family at an early date."

Meanwhile, with unilateralism and protectionism soaring, criticism is mounting against the West-dominated global economic rules. Experts have speculated that BRICS would take further measures to promote a fairer economic order, including introducing a BRICS common currency.

"I would like to hear more details about the proposed BRICS currency. The change of trade between South Africa and China from being conducted in U.S. dollars to a BRICS currency would be a major move in global politics," said Dominic Preuss, an independent economic writer and engineering technologist in South Africa.

To create a global market that is not dominated by hegemony would be welcome, Preuss added.

"Many countries in the Global South have sought to come together in order to work towards a more just and inclusive world order ... BRICS inspires many countries to come together again in order to advance this vision," said Creamer.

Charles Onunaiju, director of the Abuja-based Center for China Studies, said BRICS is in line with the trend of multilateralism. "It is obvious that this trend has a great future. And the BRICS mechanism is advancing it in a very positive direction," he said. 

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