OPINION: While pursuing its own development, China has stood united and co-operated with South Africa and other African countries to tide them over in difficult times, writes Chen Xiaodong, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to South Africa.
This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the 72nd birthday of the People’s Republic of China. Under the strong leadership of the CPC and thanks to the tenacious efforts of the Chinese people, the great land of China has undergone tremendous changes. It has stood up, grown rich, and become strong, creating a miracle in the history of human development.
While pursuing its own development, China has stood united and co-operated with South Africa and other African countries to tide them over in difficult times.This has not only upheld the overall interests of developing countries including China and South Africa, but also made outstanding contributions to international peace and development.
A glorious past behind, and a new journey ahead
Founding of New China
Since its birth, the CPC has made it its mission to seek happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation. Through arduous exploration and practice, the CPC united the people and led them to embark on the right revolutionary path, use rural areas to encircle the cities and seize state power with military force.
After 28 years of painful struggle, the CPC defeated the Japanese imperialists, overthrew the reactionary rule of the Kuomintang, completed the New Democratic Revolution and founded New China.
The founding of New China put an end to the semi-colonial, semi-feudal society of the old China; put an end to the state of disunity and disarray that existed in Chinese society at the time; and put an end to the unequal treaties that were imposed on our country by foreign powers and to all privileges that imperialist countries unjustifiably enjoyed in China.
The Chinese people have since stood up, and began to embark on a remarkable journey toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
New headway has been constantly made throughout China’s 72 years of history. When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, China's GDP was only $18.9bn; people’s average life expectancy was only 35 years; the school enrolment rate of school-age children was only about 20%; more than 80% of the population was illiterate; and public cultural facilities were severely inadequate.
By 2020, China's GDP stood at about $14.73 trillion; the average life expectancy rose to 77.3 years; and the completion rate of nine-year compulsory education reached 95.2%. In recent years, about 10 million new jobs have been created every year. At the end of 2020, China's registered urban unemployment rate was only 4.2%.
China has built the world's largest social security system, with over 1.3 billion people covered by basic medical insurance and nearly 1 billion people covered by basic old-age insurance. The national security index has reached 98.4%, making China “one of the most secure countries in the world”. In 2020, China spent about $380bn on R&D, accounting for 2.4% of its GDP and higher than the average of EU countries.
A new chapter has been written in national effort towards great rejuvenation. As the CPC celebrates its 100th birthday, China has fulfilled its first centenary goal on schedule and made historic progress in eradicating absolute poverty. China's economy was the first to recover from the pandemic and rebounded strongly, with a year-on-year growth of 12.7% in the first half of 2021.
The Zhurong rover has landed on Mars; the Tiangong space station has been put into operation; and major scientific and technological achievements have continued to emerge.
After successfully hosting the Summer Olympics in 2008, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in early 2022, making it the first twin-Olympic city in history. The Chinese people are becoming more confident, open-minded, optimistic, positive, and full of hope for the future. They are moving with greater vigour toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.
China strengthens itself to help the world, and promotes harmony among all nations
China contributes its strength to defending multilateralism. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the lawful seat of the PRC in the UN. Over the past 50 years, China has always been an advocate, defender, practitioner and pioneer of multilateralism.
We firmly believe that there is only one system in the world, and that is the international system with the UN at its core; there is only one order, the international order based on international law; there is only one set of rules, namely the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China firmly opposes unilateralism in the name of the so-called multilateralism, and rejects hegemonism and power politics.
China believes we need to pursue dialogue and inclusiveness over confrontation and exclusion. We need to build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, equity, justice and win-win co-operation, and do the best we can to expand the convergence of our interests and achieve the biggest synergy possible.
China is leading the global fight against Covid-19 as a responsible major country. China took the lead in providing massive supplies to other countries, and launched the largest global emergency humanitarian relief operation since 1949. By early September this year, China had provided 320 billion masks, 3.9 billion protective suits and 5.6 billion test kits to more than 200 countries and regions.
China has provided more than 1.1 billion doses of finished and bulk vaccines to more than 100 countries and international organisations, and will strive to provide 2 billion doses of vaccine for the whole year. In addition to donating $100 million to Covax, China will donate 100 million doses of vaccine to developing countries this year. China has sent 37 medical teams to 34 countries on different continents.
China supports the exemption of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, and supports the WTO and other international bodies in making a decision on this at an early date. China will continue to support and participate in origin-tracing globally on a scientific basis and firmly opposes any form of political manipulation.
China makes contributions to promoting economic growth
China has become the world’s second largest economy, the largest trader of goods, the largest recipient of foreign investment, and the largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. For years in a row, China has contributed about 30% to world economic growth. As President Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the general debate of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, China will pursue more robust, greener and more balanced global development.
We will follow six principles. First, staying committed to development as a priority. We need to put development high on the global macro policy agenda, and speed up the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Second, staying committed to a people-centered approach, and make sure that development is for the people and by the people, and that its fruits are shared among the people.
Third, staying committed to benefits for all. We should care about the special needs of developing countries with emphasis on addressing unbalanced and inadequate development among and within countries. Fourth, staying committed to innovation-driven development. We need to seize the historic opportunities created by the latest round of technological revolution and industrial transformation, redouble efforts to harness technological achievements to boost productivity.
Fifth, staying committed to harmony between man and nature. China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad. Sixth, staying committed to results-oriented actions.
We need to advance on a priority basis co-operation on poverty alleviation, food security, Covid-19 response and vaccines, development financing, climate change and green development, industrialisation, digital economy and connectivity, among other areas, so as to build a global community of development with a shared future.
Good friends feel close even when they are thousands of miles apart
China and South Africa enjoy a time-honoured friendship. The bilateral relationship has been strengthened in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism, and deepened through solidarity and co-operation for mutual benefit and common development. It has made a major leap from a partnership to a strategic partnership and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Under the guidance of successive leaders of the two countries, especially President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, political mutual trust has been deepened; practical co-operation has been expanded; people-to-people and cultural co-operation has been flourishing; and international co-ordination has been closer. China-South Africa relations have long gone beyond the scope of bilateral relations and become a model for China-Africa relations, South-South co-operation and co-operation among emerging market countries, with important strategic significance and global influence.
Since the beginning of this year, President Xi Jinping and President Ramaphosa have had intensive interactions, exchanging letters and jointly attending relevant meetings to discuss major plans for China-South Africa and China-Africa co-operation. In his congratulatory letter to President Xi Jinping on China’s National Day, President Ramaphosa spoke highly of China’s great achievements and expressed his determination to deepen and expand bilateral ties.
On the occasion of the CPC's centenary celebration, President Ramaphosa attended the CPC and World Political Parties Summit in his capacity as President of the ANC and addressed the summit, charting the course for co-operation and common development between the two parties and two countries.
China and South Africa firmly support each other’s fight against the virus. The top leadership of the party, the government and all social sectors in South Africa have joined hands with China to speak up for justice against politicisation of origin-tracing of the coronavirus and jointly uphold global co-operation against the epidemic. Sinovac vaccines have been approved for emergency use in South Africa, marking important progress in vaccine co-operation between the two countries.
China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, while South Africa has been China's largest trading partner in Africa for 11 consecutive years. In the first eight months of this year, China-South Africa trade totalled $34.72 billion, up by 65.7% year on year. China and South Africa have maintained close communication and co-operation on multilateral occasions such as the UN, G20, BRICS, Forum on China-Africa Co-operation and Human Rights Council meetings to jointly safeguard the common interests of developing countries and international equity and justice.
China highly appreciates the great efforts made by the South African government in fighting the pandemic, reigniting economic growth as well as safeguarding people's livelihood. China will continue to support South Africa in developing economy and creating jobs to benefit the people.
China-Africa relations have grown stronger over time. In the 1950s and 1960s, China and Africa fought side by side against imperialism and colonialism, and fought for national liberation and independence, forging a profound bond of friendship. Since the beginning of the new century, China-Africa relations have entered a new stage of comprehensive and rapid development.
In particular, the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith and the right approach to justice and shared interests put forward by President Xi Jinping, as well as the 10 co-operation plans and eight initiatives, have injected strong impetus to the growth of China-Africa relations.
By the end of the year, the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation will be held. China would like to take this opportunity to build a closer China-Africa common community with shared future, and work hand in hand to build a healthy, connected, digital, green and secure Africa who is also a strong manufacturer and enjoys a bumper harvest and rich human resources.
We will continue to enrich the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and co-operative partnership and inject new impetus into the cause of human progress.
*Chen Xiaodong is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to South Africa
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media