Pretoria – President Cyril Ramaphosa is leading South Africa’s participation at the virtual two-day 14th BRICS Leaders’ Summit hosted by the People’s Republic of China.
The high-level summit, chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping who is chairing the BRICS forum for 2022, is being held under the theme: “Foster high-quality BRICS Partnership: Usher in a New Era for Global Development.”
BRICS is a grouping of five major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – which together represent about 41% of the world’s population, 26% of the planet’s land mass across four of the continents, 25% of global GDP and 20% of world trade.
Speaking to IOL on the sidelines of the summit, Chinese consul-general in Joburg Tang Zhongdong said he hopes the gathering elevates the strong ties between South Africa and China.
Already, China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner for over a decade, and the diplomat said the economic ties have doubled despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Even though China and South Africa are geographically separated, the friendship and the link between these two countries has been on for a very long time, even for hundreds of years.
“Both countries established official diplomatic relations in January 1998 and that bilateral relationship has been a great leap to a strategic partnership from having just common relations in the beginning,” said Tang.
“The bilateral friendly relationship between the two countries continues to develop in a profound way, bringing tangible benefits to people of both nations.
“China has been the largest trading partner of South Africa for 13 consecutive years and the trade between the two countries has risen to $54.1 billion last year, which is the highest in history.”
Tang said in 2019, the trade between South Africa and China was around $25bn, but has doubled even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
“South Africa has exported to China goods worth about $33bn.
“This shows you the cooperation is blossoming in various fields.
“Chinese people stand with South African people in exploring a development path to pursue common prosperity while forging a China-South Africa community with a shared future in a new era,” he said.
Last year, more than 17% of South Africa’s exports were destined for fellow BRICS countries, while more than 29% of South Africa’s total imports came from these countries.
In his weekly newsletter earlier this year, Ramaphosa said the BRICS platform continues to grow in terms of trade amongst partners.
“These countries are, therefore, significant trading partners, and the value of this trade is continuing to grow.
“Total South African trade with other BRICS countries reached R702bn in 2021, up from R487bn in 2017,” said Ramaphosa.
Corroborating Ramaphosa’s stance, Tang said the ongoing BRICS Summit will be a significant boost amongst the countries.
“The BRICS is an important international organisation.
“China appreciates the role and function South Africa has taken in this organisation.
“We would want to see the organisation grow, to be inclusive of other members.
“China wants to continue working with South Africa inside this mechanism, to help other countries to overcome difficulties and to develop economically,” said Tang.
A week ago, Chinese director-general of the Department of African Affairs Wu Peng was in Pretoria, where he was accompanied by Chinese ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong to meet senior officials of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
Wu also hosted representatives of the South African academia and think-tanks at the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, before he departed for Malawi.