Zuma in China To Strengthen Cooperation

December 5, 2014

President Jacob Zuma, at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, arrived in Beijing on a four-day state visit December 3rd, accompanied by a high-profile delegation including seven ministers and 100 business executives, to advance South Africa's collaboration with China on trade relations and economic development.

This is Zuma's first visit to China since he was re-elected in May. On a previous trip to Beijing in 2010, Zuma completed the Beijing Declaration with then-President Hu Jintao, an agreement for a "comprehensive strategic partnership" between the two BRICS nations. According to a report on the South African Times Live website yesterday, Xi said that

"President Zuma is the Chinese people's old friend and good friend...South Africa is the comprehensive and strategic partner of China in Africa...[noting]...We are good friends and good brothers that mutually benefit each other."

Yesterday, Zuma and President Xi Jinping signed a new five to ten year framework for further improving their economic cooperation. China is South Africa's largest trading partner, and South Africa is China's largest trading partner in Africa. The trade balance is weighted to China's advantage; during this state visit, the two partner nations are seeking to rectify this imbalance. Bi-lateral trade between the two nations grew by 32% last year.

South Africa is to be the African regional headquarters of the BRICS New Development Bank. South Africa wants to secure more Chinese investments in science, technology, infrastructure, agriculture, and infrastructure, with the end-goal of improving the value of South African exports to China. This includes the establishment of factories in South Africa, a process which has already begun with plants for household appliances and automobile and light truck production. An annual meeting of the South Africa Expo, which began in 2011, will continue to be held in Beijing, with the intention of developing ways to give more value to South African products before they are exported back to China.

At the official signing of the agreement today, Xi said that
"The China-South Africa relationship is standing at a new historical point. We should look to the future and work hand in hand, to deepen cooperation in all fields."

Later today, a South Africa China Business Forum will be held, in which 150 Chinese businesses will meet the Zuma delegation, which is expected to lead to a significant number of new business deals. Among the seven ministers with Zuma are: International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, and Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana. A recent Brookings report notes similarly, that China is moving toward investments in infrastructure and in agricultural and manufacturing industries, instead of just raw materials. The report states that over the past year, China has given $10 billion in direct loans to African governments.