H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian at the Press Conference on the Visit of the Chinese Government Economic and Trade Delegation
1. Q: President Cyril Ramaphosa made his first SONA address yesterday at the new South African Parliament. Now South Africa has entered the New Era. Why the Chinese government decided to send such a large economic and trade delegation to South Africa at this time? What does it mean for bilateral relations? Could you please brief us on the Chinese delegation and the major outcomes of the visit?
A: It is known that both China and South Africa belong to the developing countries and emerging market economies, are facing the common challenge of eradicating poverty and the shared mission of national development for a better life of our peoples. The comprehensive strategic partnership between China and South Africa are supported by four cooperation platforms, namely the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), BRICS cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and South-South Cooperation. Our bilateral relations have been boosted by a strong momentum of political mutual trust, economic mutual benefit, people-to-people friendship and international coordination. China has become the most important and reliable partner of South Africa for its economic and social transformation.
Yesterday, in his first SONA address since being elected, H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined the priorities of improving investment environment for economic development, poverty alleviation, jobs creation, a better life for people, and drew up a beautiful blueprint to lead South Africans to realize the “South African Dream” of national development and renewal.
Today, the Chinese government sends such a powerful economic and trade delegation of 40 major Chinese enterprises to South Africa, for business cooperation with their South African counterparts. Just now, 89 Chinese and South African enterprises signed 93 investment and trade agreements worth of nearly US$ 2 billion, with the procurement of mineral products such as chrome, manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper, as well as agricultural products such as fruits, nuts, lobsters, beef, lucerne and wool, etc.
The significance of the Chinese government taking the lead to take such major actions goes beyond the economic and trade cooperation itself. First, it fully demonstrates China’s firm political commitment to support the efforts of the new South African government led by H.E. President Ramaphosa for its economic and social transformation and development. Second, it also fully shows China’s strong confidence in South Africa realizing development and renewal. Third, it sends out a positive, clear and strong message to the international communities that South Africa is on track to move forward the national development and renewal and will encourage more countries, companies and tourists to South Africa for investment, business and tourism.
We are happy to see that the new South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, Chairman of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation of the National Assembly Tandi Mahambehlala, the Director-Generals and Deputy Director-Generals of the three departments and representatives from all sectors of South Africa attended and witnessed the signing ceremony. Though unable to attend due to his diary, H.E. President Ramaphosa conveyed his message of congratulations through Minister Patel to the signing ceremony. It fully shows that the South African side highly appreciates China’s actions and will surely more Chinese enterprises to carry out investment and trade cooperation in South Africa for the common development of our two countries.
Th facts have shown again that the most important advantage and outstanding feature of China-South Africa and China-Africa cooperation is that we always honor our commitment and take highly efficient and practical implementation. There is no empty talks but only actions in our cooperation. China welcomes the US, EU and other developed countries to follow suite and take concrete actions, to join China to support the sustainable development of South Africa and Africa, rather than to sabotage China-South Africa and China-Africa mutually beneficial cooperation by fabricating such fake news or fallacies of China creating “debt crisis” and “debt trap” for Africa, or “taking over strategic assets”.
2. Q: It is the top priority of the new South African government led by President Cyril Ramaphosa to attract foreign investment to develop its economy, create jobs, alleviate poverty and improve people’s livelihood. How does China view South Africa’s investment environment? What is the outlook of China-South Africa investment cooperation in the near future?
A: South Africa ranks the top in Africa in terms of comprehensive national strengths. It has three unique advantages of abundant natural resources, unique geographic location and better conditions and foundations for development. More importantly, the country has a strong leadership like H.E. President Ramaphosa who is proficient in economy, pragmatic in diplomacy, and committed to upholding multilateralism, attracting foreign investment to develop economy, create more jobs and building a developmental government.
We fully appreciate and agree with President Ramaphosa’s governing ideas and policy guidelines that the top priority for the new government is to enhance efficiency, build a safe and secure Africa, and improve the environment to attract more investments to develop its economy. We strongly believe that South Africa is among the best potential destinations in the world for investment, business and tourism.
Many potential Chinese investors share with me their strong desire to invest in South Africa, but also their three major concerns of personal and property safety, preferential policies and legal protection, and government efficiency.
In my view, such concerns are widely shared by other foreign investors. Those are also the most pressing issues for the South African government to solve in order to improve investment environment to attract foreign investment.
First, the social security issue must be solved to make investor feel “safe”. No safety, no foreign investors, no tourists and no development. Second, competitive and preferential policies, which shall be legalized into laws, are very necessary to attract investors and make them feel “reassured”. South Africa has a lot of preferential policies for foreign investment. But we did not find them in laws. Third, government service and efficiency need to be improved to make things easy and investor feel “comfortable”. The South African government has already set up some One-Stop Shops, but it seems to us it still needs a lot of work to do to streamline the process and reduce red tape.
Another headache issue for foreign investors and tourists is that it is very hard to get visas to South Africa. Given the size and scope of China-South Africa cooperation and exchanges of personnel, and with only 3 South African visa officials in China, we can image how difficult it is to get visas to South Africa. Actually, this is only a technical issue that can be solved by sending more visa officials to China. By doing so, not only more jobs will be created and more foreign exchanges be earned, but also tourism and national development will be promoted. We are happy to learn that the South African Department of Home Affairs has decided to take action to solve it.
Another issue of conception is that it is more difficult for foreign investors to get working permits in South Africa. For high-tech companies like Huawei and major investment projects like the BAIC factory in Cogea Industrial Park, it is important to provide necessary working permits to some key technical and high-level management personnel to ensure smooth operation of their investment projects. Any foreign investment projects with 90% of local employment should be embraced and welcomed. Trust them, investors will not bring the workforce far from China if they could find the appropriate personnel here in South Africa, because it is too costly to take care of the employees from China 24 hours a day.
Tourists will not come to South Africa if they feel difficult to get visas. But if the key technical and high-level management personnel of the investment projects cannot get visas and working permits, it will be hard for them to make the decision to invest or expand their investment in South Africa. South Africa should firstly make it clear whether or not they need to attract investors and tourists. If you need, you make it easier. Of course, visa is a sovereign issue. We fully understand and respect any decision made by the South African government.
With a vast consumer market of 1.4 billion population, including over 400 million mid-income population, China imports over $2 trillion of goods, invests more than $100 billion abroad, and makes more than 150 million overseas trips every year. China stands ready to become the most important and reliable partner of South Africa for its economic and social transformation, and share our development achievement and huge market with South Africa for win-win cooperation and common development.
As long as South Africa could address the above concerns of investors and tourists, China-South Africa cooperation in investment, trade and tourism will embrace a broad prospect and promising future.
3. Q: The G20 Osaka Summit will be held before the end of June and President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump will meet during the Summit. There is a strong expectation of the international community that China and the US could reach agreement at the summit on the trade issue and stop the trade war. Is it possible? Given the current situations, will the G20 Osaka Summit make new contributions to global economic governance? and will Africa benefit from it?
A: Unfortunately, as the only super-power in the world, the US trumpeted “America First” and launches a global trade war in order to maintain its hegemony and “make America great again”. The global trade war has affected China, India, Mexico, Japan, Europe and even the whole world, and more seriously, undermined the rules-based free trade system and universal values of fairness, justice and rule of law. It exerted negative impact on the global economic and financial situation. Therefore, it definitely meets strong opposition of people all over the world.
All countries and people in the world sincerely hope that America can abandon the “winner takes all” law of jungle and zero-sum mentality of the Cold War, and learn to live in harmony and engage in win-win cooperation with other countries. With the utmost sincerity, China has sent a delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu He to hold 11 rounds of negotiation with the US and reached a series of important consensus.
However, it is known to all, the current US government is very good at doing business, and the more is offered, the more it wants. It forces others to sell and buy, so as to maximize its own interests. Maybe even the God does no know when the global trade war launched by the US will end. Only the US has the ability to decide whether or not to launch the trade war and when to stop it. The ball is at the US’s court. It is unfair for the peoples all over the world and also sabotage the spirit of democracy, equality and rule of law.
Trade itself is reciprocal and mutually beneficial. There will be no winner in trade war. The US does not benefit from the trade war, but instead isolates itself from the Chinese market because of the trade war. In the first five months this year, Chinese imports from the US declined by 30%. It is predicted that the trade war will cost the US more than 2 million jobs and 1% of its GDP. Each American family will incur an additional expenditure of US$2000 per year. In the mid and long run, the US will lose the huge market of China.
On 19 June, President Xi Jinping held telephone talks with President Trump at request. President Trump said that he looks forward to meeting President Xi again during the G20 Osaka Summit and have in-depth discussions on bilateral relations and issues of common concern.
President Xi pointed out that both China and US gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. The two sides should, in accordance with the consensus reached by the two heads of state, push forward the China-US relations featuring coordination, cooperation and stability on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit. As the world’s two biggest economies, China and US should jointly play a leading role in pushing for positive outcomes at the G20 Osaka Summit, so as to inject confidence and vitality into the global market. President Xi said he is ready to to meet with President Trump during the G20 Osaka Summit to exchange views on fundamental issues concerning the development of China-US relations.
We sincerely hope that the US can hear the call of ration and justice from the international community, and return to the negotiation table to end the China-US trade friction as soon as possible.
G20 is an important platform of global economic and financial governance. Therefore, the whole world is full of expectations for the Osaka Summit and hopes that leaders attending the summit can hear the call of the people, and make a strong voice to safeguard multilateralism and free trade system with the WTO at its core, uphold fairness, justice and the rules-based free trade order, firmly oppose unilateralism, trade protectionism and bullying acts, and reach new consensus and inject new impetus to win-win cooperation for common prosperity.
Apart from President Ramaphosa of South Africa, other African leaders such as Presidents of Egypt and Senegal will also attend the summit. Africa is a promising and rising continent with great potential for development. We hope that this summit could also focus on Africa, listen to its voice and support the implementation of the AU Agenda 2063. We also hope that developed countries can fulfill their obligations of helping Africa for its development, increase their investment and financial support to help Africa achieve self-sustainable development.
4. Q: US Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs are attending the 12th US-Africa Business Summit in Mozambique. Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy is also on a visit to South Africa. This coincides with the visit of the Chinese government economic and trade delegation. May I take it that China and the United States are contesting with each other in Africa?
A: Africa belongs to African, and is also an important part of the international community. To support Africa realize durable peace and self-sustainable development serves the common interests of people all over the world and is also the common responsibility of the international community.
In the international cooperation with Africa, there is never lack of meetings or promises, but concrete actions to deliver. We welcome the US and other developed countries to take concrete measures to repay the debt historically owed to the African countries, and fulfill their due international obligations. It is our sincere hope that the US officials’ visit to Africa can inject positive energy to Africa’s efforts for peace and development, and put money in the basket to support Africa’s industrialization and modernization, instead of lecturing African leaders by using their outdated and invalid textbooks as proven by practice.
We are ready to honestly share with our American friends our views on Africa and stand ready to work together with the international community including the US, to support Africa’s efforts to achieve lasting peace and sustainable development.
At present, African countries are committed to accelerating industrialization and agricultural modernization and need huge investments and financial support from the international community, so as to breakthrough three bottlenecks of inadequate infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and short of financial resources.
According to statistics, at present, one fifth of the infrastructure projects in Africa are financed by China, and one third of the projects are constructed by China. The US only financed 1.7% of those projects.
As the only superpower in the world, the US shall pay due attention to the peace and development in Africa. Except for making some empty promises to African countries from time to time, the US has dramatically decreased its investments, trade and aid to Africa since 2014. More regrettably, while reluctant to help Africa, the US is only concerned that China’s support to Africa will help it to realize economic independence and then political independence. This is why the US has been fabricating such fake news or fallacies as China creating “debt crisis” or “debt trap”, “neo-colonialism” or “taking over strategic assets”, so as to smear China, scare Africa and sabotage China-Africa cooperation.
Africa should be a stage for international win-win cooperation rather than an arena of big-power competition and rivalry. We sincerely hope our American friends could truly provide financial support and take concrete actions as China does, to support Africa build infrastructure and open up their market to Africa, instead of making empty promises to Africa, lecturing the African governments and people, or making fake news to undermine China-Africa cooperation and Africa’s development.