Media statement by Arts and Culture Minister, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, at the briefing on the high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism between South Africa and the People's Republic of China
Programme Director, Acting DG of GCIS, Donald Liphoko
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Today we are here to announce that we have turned over a new leaf and are starting a new chapter in our relations with the People’s Republic of China. For the first time in the course of our relations with China, together we have put in place a mechanism to ensure people to people contact and exchange.
The Preamble to our Constitution, echoing the Freedom Charter, states that: South Africa “belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” Indeed it has been through the collective energies of South Africans that we are building people-centred societies and caring communities.
The growth of an inclusive economy characterised by radical socio-economic transformation goes hand in hand with building the capacities of our people, especially our youth at various levels. The National Development Plan further states that: “the future of our country is our collective future. Making it work is our responsibility.”
Similarly at an international level, together with our counterparts, it is people who build a new world of caring local and international communities characterised by multilateralism, the spirit of internationalism, mutual friendship and shared ideas for the advancement of a better life for all and a more inclusive continent and world.
During the State Visit to South Africa by the President of the People's Republic of China in December 2015, His Excellency President Xi Jinping and His Excellency President Jacob Zuma agreed to the establishment of a South Africa-China People-To-People Exchange Mechanism. This was the culmination of deep historical ties and 17 years of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
His Excellency President Jacob Zuma and His Excellency President Xi Jinping appointed me and my counterpart, Vice Premier, Madam Liu Yandong, to co-chair the People-to-People Exchange Mechanism. The Ministers of International Relations and Corporation, Basic Education, Higher Education and Training, Science and Technology, Health, Communications, Sports and Recreation, Tourism, and the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women and the Deputy Minister in the Presidency (Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation), form an integral part of the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
Thus the High-level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism between our country and the People’s Republic of China serves to: enhance mutual trust, friendship and strategic partnership and further deepen co-operation between our two countries especially in the areas of culture, education, communications, health, technology, sports, tourism, women advancement and youth.
Our objective is to create spaces and opportunities to contribute to the knowledge and common understanding between South Africa and China through enhancing contact. This exchange is aimed at providing a forum for exchanging information, identifying common objectives and strategies in the broad field of people-to-people exchange. This mechanism serves further to identify opportunities for co-operation based on mutual interest and benefit.
It is in this context that we are hosting the inaugural High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism between our country and the People's Republic of China, from the 24th to 27th April 2017.
On a practical level we will create opportunities for both peoples to benefit from the sharing of social, cultural and economic capital – across government, academia, business and civil society.
South Africa and China share a common developmental agenda based on the principle of internationalism and enjoy strong diplomatic and trade relations with China being South Africa's biggest trading partner and also the second biggest economy in the world.
Our countries share membership of and participate as partners on numerous international bodies, including BRICS, the Group of 77 + China and the G20.
South Africa and China are also Co-Chairs of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Our bilateral relations with China are guided broadly through mechanisms such as the Beijing Declaration establishing the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership; The Bi-National Commission; The Joint Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Cooperation (JWG); The Strategic Dialogue Mechanism; and The 5-10 Year Strategic Framework on Cooperation signed in 2014. The People-to-People Exchange will add to the existing strategic relations between our two countries.
The People-to-People Exchange will commence with an Inaugural meeting of the South Africa-China People-to-People Exchange Mechanism at 10h00 on 24 April 2017 at the OR Tambo Building, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), City of Tshwane.
At this meeting there will be presentations of progress reports by both countries on the selected thematic areas. A range of cooperation agreements will be signed across a number of areas falling within the two broad themes driving this mechanism – the pursuit of Human Capital Development objectives and projects, as well as Research and Development opportunities. Increased focus on and investment in research, development and innovation have become a cornerstone of major emerging economies.
The full programme includes the co-hosting on 24 April of the China-Africa Health Ministers Conference, wherein 30 Ministers from the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Member States will participate, including the South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Minister Li Bin, the Minister of Health and Family Planning Commission of China to improve the livelihoods of the peoples of Africa.
The Vice Premier and Minister Li Bin will conduct a special visit to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital to donate medical equipment, which have all been sourced from South Africa.
The launch of the South Africa-China Science Park Cooperation will take place at the CSIR International Convention Centre on the afternoon of the 24th. These Science and Technology Parks and other enabling instruments including technology incubators will stimulate and support innovation for socio-economic development.
On 25 April 2017 in the morning, there will be a high-level Seminar on Thought Exchanges and Dialogue in Pretoria followed by a visit to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and a joint cultural evening at the State Theatre.
The Second Africa – China Youth Festival will take place on the 26th April 2017 also in Pretoria where dialogues are planned amongst youth entrepreneurs, youth diplomats and youth academics.
Through the co-operation agreements between South Africa and China, both nations are committed to forge close mutual technical co-operation, teacher training and expertise exchanges in the field of education, particularly in critical fields such as Mathematics, Science and Technology as building blocs for the growth of knowledge economies in the respective countries.
Both nations are committed to work together in introducing Chinese Language teaching in South Africa. As a result, Government has since introduced Mandarin as an elective foreign language in South African school’s curriculum. Mandarin is one of the mostly spoken languages in the world used by more than a billion people. Familiarity with the language is essential for better communication between our peoples.
In the arts, culture and heritage sector there is broad agreement on the establishment of a Chinese Cultural Centre in South Africa and a South African one in China and finer details are being worked out in this regard.
The People-to-People exchange takes place during Freedom Month in our country. 27th April marks the date on which South Africa held its first democratic elections which gave birth to freedom and our constitutional democracy. The elections made it possible to embark on journey to build a country that belongs to all who live in it.
Our Freedom Month celebrations coincide with the centenary of the life of struggle stalwart and statesman, Cde Oliver Reginald Tambo, who epitomised our struggle for liberation. While in exile he rallied the global community including the People’s Republic of China and other countries, who gave support to the liberation movement, came out against the apartheid state and spearheaded international sanctions to bring about change.
I call on all South Africans to embrace this new chapter in South Africa-China relations, and work together for a prosperous future for both our countries.
A joint communique is expected at the end of the People-to-People Exchange. Further updates and announcements will be provided to the public.
I thank you.
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