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People-to-People exchanges drive China-South Africa ties

China-South Africa bilateral relations are in a steady trajectory courtesy of the people-to-people exchange mechanism launched barely a year ago between the two countries.

In a speech on Thursday during a one-day forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, Manelisi Genge, the chief director of East Asia and Oceania at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa, said the mechanism has increased opportunities for stronger engagements between non-state actors such as the academia and researchers of the two countries.

"The mechanism, signed last year, has provided an opportunity to exchange ideas, adopt the best practices in deepening relationship in the search for bettering the future of our people," said the ambassador. "Whatever we do must have a positive impact to our people."

He added that such efforts between the two partners are geared towards meeting these expectations and giving impetus to bridging cultural barriers. "Culture and education are the best avenues," he said.

Dr Genge noted that the Chinese government offers SA around 50 scholarships annually that extensively caters for students' welfare while in this program. "Admittedly we do not exhaustively fill this quota and it will be prudent for more education actors to make concerted efforts to boost the number of South Africans accessing these opportunities," he said.

He believed that that these opportunities are avenues to expand knowledge exchange between the two peoples, and strengthen political and economic relationship.

He hoped other African countries can borrow the good practices derived from this engagement and customize according to national priorities to deepen bilateral relationships with China.

The forum, held at the University of Witwatersrand, brought together scholars, policy maker and the business community in recognition of 20 years of China-South Africa engagements.

On his part, Erwin Pon, the Chairman of Chinese Association of Gauteng, said conscious and deliberate efforts by China and SA have deepened understanding between the two people.

"However, there is still room for deeper engagements and discussions to expand cultural exchanges," he said.

Last year in April, South Africa became one of six countries to launch the people-to-people exchange mechanism with China. The others are United States of America, Russia, the UK, France, Indonesia and the EU.

The two countries hope that the mechanism will deepen engagements in the areas of culture, education, communications, health, science, technology, sports, tourism, women and youth.

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