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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian at the Lighting Ceremony at the Nelson Mandela Square

13 February 2018

Honorable Madame Tokozile Xasa, Minister of Tourism

Distinguished Guests,

Friends from the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening!

This year marks the centenary of the great leader of the South African and the African people—President Nelson Mandela. It is a great pleasure and honor that tonight we are gathered here at the Nelson Mandela Square, to review the spirit of this great man, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of China-South Africa diplomatic relations, and to share the happiness of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

The theme of our gathering tonight is “Lighting up the Spirit of Nelson Mandela, and Lighting up the Friendship and Cooperation between China and South Africa”. In a short moment, we are going to light up 20 Chinese red lanterns, which symbolizes lighting up the great spirit of President Nelson Mandela, lighting up the profound friendship between the Chinese and the South African people, and lighting up the bright prospect for China-South Africa mutually beneficial cooperation.

President Nelson Mandela has devoted his entire life to the cause of liberation and independence of the South African people. It was his resilience and commitment, sympathy and compassion, and wisdom and spirit, that has led the South African people build a new South Africa, a beautiful rainbow nation. It was his spirit that has led the South African people to a beautiful life of freedom, equality, and dignity. More importantly, it was his spirit that has pointed to us a bright future where the peoples of the world break the shackles of racial segregation, and build a new world of democracy, freedom, equality, harmony, prosperity, and rule of law. The spirit of President Nelson Mandela will forever live and shine in the world.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of China-South Africa diplomatic ties. Twenty years ago, it was President Nelson Mandela who had made the major political decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on the basis of the one China policy, i.e. there is only but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China, and Taiwan and Tibet are inalienable parts of China. The political commitment made by President Mandela on behalf of the South African government and people not only demonstrated his political and strategic vision, but also laid down a very strong and solid foundation for China-South Africa relations growing from strength to strength.

Thanks to our joint efforts, the past two decades have recorded historical leapfrog development in China-South Africa relations, from partnership to strategic partnership, then to comprehensive strategic partnership. Major cooperation platforms such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), BRICS, and the Belt and Road initiative have brought tangible and visible benefits to both the South African and the Chinese people. China has already become South Africa’s major investor and source of tourists. For 9 consecutive years, China has remained South Africa’s largest trading partner. By the end of last year, China has in accumulative terms invested over 25 billion US dollars in South Africa, with over 300 investment projects creating thousands of jobs, and generating over 2 billion dollars of foreign exchange for South Africa. Last year, China-South Africa two-way trade reached 39.17 billion dollars, an increase of over 20 times from the early days of our diplomatic ties. In September last year, South Africa also became the first African country to export beef to the Chinese market.

Today, South Africa hosts the largest number of Chinese tourists in Africa, but the number is still very limited, and the potential is huge. In recent years, around 120-130 million person times of Chinese tourists make overseas trips and spend over 100 billion dollars abroad each year. Last year, only about 100,000 Chinese tourists came to South Africa. In the next five years, over 650 million Chinese tourists will travel abroad, which is a truly huge business opportunity for South Africa. We hope and believe that with the strong support from Honorable Minister Xasa, and through joint efforts, we will attract more and more Chinese tourists to come here to enjoy your beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife, but also create more jobs, and pay foreign exchange to South Africa.

President Nelson Mandela once said, together we can do more. In the past, the Chinese government and people have fought side by side with the South African people to fight against the apartheid regime for a new South Africa. Today, the Chinese government and people have committed ourselves to joining the South African government and people to fight against poverty for common prosperity in our efforts to pursue a better life of happiness for our two peoples.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

The Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, is only two days away. This is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese people. As the name suggests, in China, in the northern hemisphere, the Spring Festival marks the advent of the spring season where things awaken and are off to a new start. In South Africa, in the southern hemisphere, the timing coincides the coming of the autumn season, the season of harvest. For China-South Africa relations, 2018 is also a year of harvesting new achievements. We are going to have two important summits. In July, South Africa will host the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. In September, the 3rd FOCAC Summit will be held in Beijing. During the summit, new plans for China-Africa and China-South Africa cooperation will be drawn up.

We are now standing at a new historical starting point, and we are embracing tremendous new opportunities for China-South Africa relations. Moving forward, we will continue to join efforts with South Africa, and make 2018 a year of action, so as to make sure that China-South Africa mutually beneficial cooperation will produce more visible and tangible benefits to our two peoples, and that China-South Africa friendship will enjoy even greater and more profound support from our two peoples.

To conclude, I wish to once again thank Honorable Minister Xasa and all of our friends for coming here to join us. I wish all of you a Happy Chinese Lunar New Year and all the best!

Thank you!

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