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China is willing to work with South Africa

The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa

The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa

Published Jan 28, 2021


Ambassador-designate of China to South Africa Chen Xiaodong is interviewed by Group Foreign Editor Shannon Ebrahim.

Q: The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is regarded as a wind vane of global politics and economy. This year, "multilateralism" became the key word of the Davos Agenda. What kind of message do you think President Xi Jinping’s speech at WEF conveyed with regards to multilateralism? Since both China and South Africa firmly support multilateralism, in which areas can our two countries co-operate?

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A: President Xi Jinping pointed out the four major tasks facing the world at the World Economic Forum virtual event of the Davos Agenda.

The first is to step up macroeconomic policy co-ordination and jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the world economy.

The second is to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and win-win co-operation.

The third is to close the divide between developed and developing countries and jointly bring about growth and prosperity for all.

The fourth is to come together against global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity. President Xi emphasised that the way out of our problems is to uphold multilateralism.

The principles and core of multilateralism are, as President Xi Jinping said, boiled down to the following four aspects:

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First, we should stay committed to openness and inclusiveness instead of exclusion. To create isolation or estrangement will only push the world into division and even greater confrontation.

Second, we should stay committed to international law and international rules instead of seeking one's own supremacy. "Selective multilateralism" should not be our option.

Third, we should stay committed to consultation and co-operation instead of conflict, and advocate fair competition.

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Fourth, we need to reform and improve the system of global governance on the basis of extensive consultation and consensus-building.

President Ramaphosa said at the Davos Dialogue that it is only through multilateral action that the world can solve its challenges. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China and South Africa have firmly upheld multilateralism, supported the WHO in playing a positive role in global Covid-19 response, and strengthened solidarity in the fight against the pandemic.

President Xi and President Ramaphosa co-hosted the extraordinary China-Africa summit on solidarity against Covid-19, which has played an important strategic leading role in promoting China-Africa anti-pandemic cooperation.

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China is willing to work with South Africa to strengthen co-ordination in multilateral affairs, safeguard the UN-centred international system, the international order based on international law and the WTO-centred multilateral trading regime.

We shall step up our co-operation under the framework of BRICS, G20 and Focac, jointly advance the reform of the global governance system, and safeguard the interests of developing countries, so as to achieve win-win co-operation for common development.

Q: Covid-19 is still raging around the world, and South Africa is experiencing the “second wave.” We have noted that President Xi said at the WEF that China will continue to play an active part in international anti-pandemic co-operation. Could you brief us on the measures China will take to support South Africa and other African countries in their Covid-19 response going forward?

A: Just as you said, President Xi pointed out at the Davos Dialogue that containing the Covid-19 is the most pressing task for the international community. Closer solidarity and co-operation, more information sharing, and a stronger global response are what we need to defeat Covid-19 across the world.

China will actively engage in international co-operation on Covid-19 vaccines, continue to share its experience with other countries, do its best to assist countries and regions that are less prepared for the pandemic, and work for greater accessibility and affordability of Covid-19 vaccines in developing countries.

We hope these efforts will contribute to an early and complete victory over the coronavirus throughout the world.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the Chinese government has not only provided a large amount of medical supplies to 53 African countries and the AU, but also sent medical teams composed of more than 170 members to 15 African countries.

We have held many video conferences to share our experience in fighting the pandemic with African countries. China has donated millions of rand in cash, more than 6 million masks, and hundreds of thousands of testing reagents, respirators, temperature guns, goggles, protective suits, surgical gloves and food packages to South Africa. The fourth batch of government assistance from China, including 360 000 nucleic acid extraction reagents worth R20 million arrived in South Africa on January 23.

Now that African countries are experiencing the second wave, we will continue to provide assistance. We will promote co-operation by pairing-up hospitals and speeding up the building of the headquarters of African CDC.

We will honour our commitment to make the Covid vaccine a global public good. China is discussing vaccine co-operation with South Africa.

Q: China is the first major economy to achieve economic recovery. President Xi said at the Davos Dialogue that China will continue to co-operate with other countries and give further impetus to global economic recovery and growth. What opportunities will China bring to South Africa and other African countries for post-Covid-19 economic recovery and transformation?

A: There is a saying “a single flower does not make a spring.” China cannot develop itself in isolation from the world. As a long-standing supporter of economic globalisation, China is committed to following through on its fundamental policy of opening up. It is clearly stated in the draft paper of our 14th five-year plan that “China will open up at a higher level and create new prospects for win-win co-operation.”

Last year China was the first major economy to achieve positive economic growth, with its GDP exceeding 10 trillion yuan and historic achievements made in poverty alleviation. A total of 800 million people were lifted out of poverty by the end of last year. China’s share in the world economy has risen to about 17%, and the OECD forecasts that China will contribute more than one third of global growth this year.

Going forward, we will promote high-quality Belt and Road co-operation, optimise the allocation of investment in production capacity, and upgrade China-Africa co-operation.

We shall take China’s new development paradigm and the launching of the African Continental Free Trade Area as an opportunity and make full use of the platform of the China international import exhibition (CIIE).

The CIIE will expand the imports of Africa’s high quality products, and strengthen the connectivity of our industrial and supply chains. We believe that with these efforts, our two sides will foster a huge market with a population of 2.7 billion for China and Africa, and better promote connectivity in terms of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance, and people-to-people exchanges.

We shall share technology and experiences in the digital economy, and strengthen co-operation in talent and skills training so as to help African countries seize the opportunities brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

At the same time, we shall take the implementation of the Paris agreement on climate change as a new highlight for our co-operation to jointly build a green economy and pursue green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development.