South Africa and China have taken their political and economic ties to the next level, signing several trade agreements and agreeing to “consult closely” on issues of common concern within BRICS and other multilateral forums.
Speaking to the media at the Union Buildings during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he and Xi had agreed to adopt a joint approach to global issues of common interest.
This included reforming the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), trade and integrating African economies. Xi was on a state visit to South Africa ahead of the 15th BRICS Summit, which started at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg later on Tuesday.
After rolling out the red carpet for Xi, complete with a 21-gun salute, Ramaphosa used the occasion to remind everyone that relations between his country and Beijing were significant and deepening.
“We discussed the need to narrow the trade deficit between South Africa and China, and that one of the ways of doing so is to ensure greater market access for value-added South African goods exported to the Chinese market. We also are very delighted that China has agreed to re-open the export of beef to China. This is a huge boost to our agricultural sector,” Ramaphosa said.
“In our multilateral cooperation, we have agreed on a number of issues. President Xi Jinping and I have agreed to consult closely on issues of common concern, including in the BRICS context as well as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the G77 plus China, and also at the G20.”
On the international stage, China and South Africa agreed to jointly push for reforming global governance institutions and securing Africa a voice.
The West dominated global political and economic governance institutions, including the UNSC, World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since their formation after the end of the Second World War in 1945.
The United States and Europe have resisted attempts by the Global South and other developing nations to reform these key institutions over the past two decades.
“We have discussed areas of synergy in line with the call by South Africa and other African countries for the reform of the institutions of global governance, notably the United Nations Security Council, and agreed that the continent of Africa that remains excluded from this important organ should indeed get a voice in the United Nations Security Council. We agreed that the interest of the Global South must be fairly represented in all other multilateral forums,” he added.
Moreover, Xi and Ramaphosa discussed the “significant impact” of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine on the developing economies in Africa and elsewhere. They urged the warring parties to negotiate a settlement.
Ramaphosa said Xi welcomed the peace mission to Russia initiated by African leaders, adding they also agreed that BRICS must play “an expanded role in global affairs”.
He added that they would co-chair the China-Africa leaders round table on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.
“The purpose of this round table is to further deepen cooperation between China and the African continent on matters of development, industrialisation and the integration of African economies. We are gratified that the friendship between the People’s Republic of China and South Africa has endured over many years.”
Ramaphosa, who reiterated South Africa’s non-alignment foreign policy before Xi’s arrival, said the friendship that existed between Pretoria and Beijing was “living proof of what is set out in our freedom charter, which is the forerunner of the South African constitution, which declared that there shall be peace and friendship”.
“We look forward to the era of even greater ties between our two countries, ties of friendship underpinned by our commitment to achieving common prosperity for the respective people of China, South Africa, and the respective peoples of China and the African continent, and finally, of the Global South,” he maintained.
Ramaphosa stressed that several trade agreements signed by the two BRICS member states “bear testimony to the deeping relations” between Pretoria and Beijing.
Xi, on his sixth state visit to South Africa since becoming president in 2012, added that he was more than willing to work with Ramaphosa, to push China-South Africa’s comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level.
He said carrying forward friendship, deepening cooperation, and strengthening coordination were South Africa and China’s common aspirations.
Dr Paul Zilungiselele Tembe, a founder of SELE Encounters and a Senior Lecturer of Mandarin at UNISA, said Xi’s visit was important in the context of the shifting geopolitics and the emergence of BRICS as an alternative to Western-dominated political and economic systems.
“This visit is significant in the context of RSA hosting the 15th BRICS Summit in a world, inarguably, undergoing tectonic geopolitical changes. An aggregate effect of these changes is experienced, above all, in a nuclear superpower confrontation, through the proxy Russia-Ukraine War, between the Russian Federation versus the Collective West (EU and USA).
“Linked to this is the collective clamour by the Global South majority (in Africa, Asia, and Latin America) countries to seek alternative frameworks to organize society (beyond liberal democracies) and trade interactions (de-dollarisation),” Tembe said.
“In the context of gun-boat threats by the USA against RSA, using AGOA as a blunt instrument, it is encouraging that China continues to be, since 2009, our country’s biggest trading partner and that, since 2010, South Africa is in Africa the PRC’s biggest trading partner.”