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Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian and President Ramaphosa on FOCAC and BRICS

Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, H.E. Lin Songtian addresses the media at the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) in Johannesburg. Photo: Wei Zhimin

During a media briefing at the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) in Johannesburg on 23 August 2018, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian reflected on the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing and outlined the successes of the July 2018 BRICS Johannesburg Summit, emphasising South Africa’s crucial role for Africa in its relationship with China.

It is fair to say that China-South Africa relations have become a role model for China-Africa, South-South and emerging markets cooperation. Moving forward, China and South Africa will have much to contribute to the building of a closer China-Africa community of shared future, and to a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.

In the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the South Africa-China diplomatic relations, Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Xi Jinping of China agreed to strengthen cooperation under the frameworks of the Belt and Road Initiative and FOCAC. President Ramaphosa will serve as Co-chair of the two-day 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Beijing.

During the state visit by President Xi Jinping to South Africa for the 10th BRICS Johannesburg Summit on 23-27 July 2018, a number of South Africa-China comprehensive strategic agreements were signed to enhance high-level exchanges, deepen political trust, synergise development strategies, promote practical cooperation, intensify people-to-people exchanges, strengthen cooperation in multilateral fora, and jointly uphold multilateralism and oppose unilateralism and protectionism.

The two Presidents agreed to deepen cooperation in new economies and emerging sectors, to share the development opportunities brought forth by the 4th industrial revolution, and to bring more benefits to the peoples of China and South Africa.

Beijing FOCAC Summit 2018

In the year 2000 FOCAC was jointly established by China and 38 African countries. Ambassador Lin Songtian previously served as the Director-General for African Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Secretary-General of the Chinese Follow-up Committee for FOCAC.

The FOCAC Summit in Beijing, under the theme of “China and Africa: Towards an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation”, will adopt two outcome documents, namely the Beijing Declaration: Towards an Even Stronger China-Africa Community with a Shared Future, and the Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021).

The Summit will focus on connecting ideas and development strategies between China and Africa, and to form a synergy among the Belt and Road Initiative, the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union’s 2063 Agenda, and the national development strategies of African countries.

“We are working to build an Africa that is defined by good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address at the FOCAC Summit in Beijing.

“We look to China as a valuable and committed partner in advancing Agenda 2063. It is in pursuit of this vision that we embrace China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.

“We are confident that this initiative, which effectively compliments the work of FOCAC, will reduce the costs and increase the volume of trade between Africa and China,” he added.

According to Ambassador Lin Songtian, FOCAC cooperation will continue to address three bottleneck issues, develop three priority areas, achieve four priority objectives, and promote five networks in Africa. The three bottleneck issues identified are infrastructure, professional and skilled personnel, and capital sources. The three priority areas are investment, market access, and tourism; and the four priority objectives are industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, digitalisation, and urbanisation. The five networks to be promoted are railways, highways, aviation, information, and electricity.

President Ramaphosa remarked,

Through FOCAC and other forums, China has worked to ensure that Africa’s development is prominent on the international agenda. Building on these remarkable achievements, we welcome the announcement today by President Xi of new FOCAC initiatives that will have a significant and lasting impact on peace, stability and sustainable development on the African continent. We appreciate the decision to provide new funding to African countries to the value of US$60 billion and to invest in initiatives in areas such as industrial development, infrastructure, human resource development, health care, the green economy, and peace and security, among others.

At the SANEF press briefing, Ambassador Lin stated,

We have every reason to believe that, as our leaders gather in Beijing for another historic and successful FOCAC Summit, China-Africa cooperation will embrace a new era of win-win cooperation for common development, and will gather new strength and momentum towards an even stronger China-Africa community of shared future. Over the past 18 years, FOCAC has grown tremendously in terms of its mechanism building, practical cooperation, and achievements. Today, we are very proud to say that FOCAC has undoubtedly become the most leading, visible, influential, and high-achieving cooperation forum for development cooperation with Africa. It has become a flagship cooperation model for international cooperation with Africa.

Three success factors of the 2018 FOCAC Summit

Ambassador Lin presented three factors that underpins the success of 2018 FOCAC Summit:

  1. FOCAC’s establishment of comprehensive mechanism

The Forum will not be a talk shop. In terms of implementation and cooperation the Forum has well-established mechanisms of cooperation including the Ministerial Conference, the Senior Officials’ Meeting, the Follow-Up Committee on Outcome Implementation, and the Secretariat, along with over 40 FOCAC member countries with their own established national follow-up committees.

  1. FOCAC’s deliverables of tangible and visible results

China has never made empty promises regarding FOCAC to attain visible results. Ambassador Lin stated that three bottleneck issues were discovered requiring attention in Africa, namely backward infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and lack of capital sources. To this, during the December 2015 FOCAC Johannesburg Summit, President Xi Jinping announced Ten Major Cooperative Plans and US$60 billion dedicated to Africa’s industrialisation and agricultural modernisation.

  1. FOCAC’s firmness to common values of equality and trust

All FOCAC members, regardless of their size, wealth, and population participate in FOCAC as equals. Every three years FOCAC develops a new Action Plan based on the conditions and development needs of member countries, and the implementation of each Action Plan is carefully monitored for a win-win cooperation for common development.

Echoing this sentiment, President Ramaphosa in his address at the FOCAC Beijing Summit stated that with FOCAC being premised on the AU’s Agenda 2063, it is aligned with a vision that has been crafted in Africa by Africans. “It is a vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena. It is a vision of a continent where commerce, trade, investment, skills and knowledge move freely across the borders that were imposed on us by our colonial rulers”.

Four achievements of the 2018 BRICS Summit

Ambassador Lin presented four achievements of the 2018 BRICS Johannesburg Summit:

  1. A new blueprint for future BRICS cooperation

BRICS countries have unanimously agreed to seize the new opportunities for innovative and inclusive growth in the fourth industrial revolution. The Summit saw the adoption of the initiative of the BRICS Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution that was put forward by China and South Africa for deepening cooperation in digitisation, industrialisation, innovation, inclusive growth and investment. “I am very happy to share with you that BRICS countries have already agreed to establish an Advisory Group next month to work for a plan on the implementation of this important initiative,” said Ambassador Lin.

  1. Strengthening economic and trade mechanisms

The BRICS countries agreed to reconvene the Trade Promotion Working Group of the Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI), and have established new mechanisms on laws and technical standards, small and medium enterprises, and outcome implementation. This new mechanism is expected to bring about more systematic, institutionalised and concrete BRICS cooperation.

The BRICS countries further adopted the Implementation Framework for Intellectual Property Rights Cooperation Mechanism, which is expected to strengthen cooperation in capacity building, information exchanges, and network development. Other endorsements include the Framework for BRICS E-commerce Cooperation for capacity building and best practice sharing in narrowing the digital gap; the BRICS Trade in Services Cooperation Roadmap; and the BRICS Focal Points on Trade in Services for progress in the exchange of information on international trade services. To further release the trade potential of BRICS and take charge of the global value chain, the commissioning of the review of the BRICS Joint Trade Study on increased value added trade was agreed to.

  1. A strong voice of fairness and justice to the world community

The 2018 BRICS Summit affirmed its spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation in line with the common voice of the vast number of developing countries, “charting for the world the correct course for economic globalization and multi-polarization”.  To uphold the rule-based multilateral trading regime, BRICS supports the fight for a fair international order. This is against the backdrop of rising protectionism, unilateralism, and individualism in the global order.

  1. The improved BRICS Plus mechanism and expanded developing partnership network

BRICS Plus is a dialogue between BRICS countries and other emerging markets and developing countries. BRICS Plus was pioneered during the Xiamen Summit in 2017 to widen the “circle of friends” of BRICS, and to turn the partnership into the most important platform for South-South cooperation, as announced by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March 2017.

Leaders of Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan and Thailand were invited to the first BRICS Plus meeting in China as representatives of non-BRICS developing countries in 2017. In 2018 it was announced that Argentina, Turkey and Jamaica would take part in the meeting under the theme of “BRICS Plus: Securing Sustainable and Inclusive Growth for the Prosperity of the Global South”.  So far, 21 countries including emerging markets and African countries took part in the BRICS Plus leaders’ dialogue, further improving the BRICS Plus mechanism and expanding the BRICS “circle of friends”.

South Africa will host the Summit every five years, and according to Ambassador Lin “this is great opportunity to showcase its development achievements, to attract global attention, and most importantly, to attract global investment”.

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READ HERE: Full remarks of President Cyril Ramaphosa at FOCAC Summit 2018

READ HERE: Full remarks of Ambassador Lin Songtian at SANEF media briefing August 2018

LISTEN HERE: Full remarks of Ambassador Lin Songtian at SANEF media briefing August 2018

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