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Interview to Independent Media by H.E. Ambassador of China to South Africa Chen Xiaodong

Q: The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is regarded as a wind vane of global politics and economy. This year, "multilateralism" became the key word of the Virtual Event of the "Davos Agenda". As the new US government returns to multilateralism, some people think that what we shall discuss is what kind of multilateralism we need instead of whether we need multilateralism or not. What kind of message do you think President Xi Jinping’s speech conveyed in this regard? Since both China and South Africa firmly support multilateralism, in which areas can our two countries cooperate?

A: President Xi Jinping pointed out the four major tasks facing people of our times at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda. The first is to step up macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy. The second is to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. The third is to close the divide between developed and developing countries and jointly bring about growth and prosperity for all. The fourth is to come together against global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity. President Xi emphasized the way out of above problems is through upholding multilateralism and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Multilateralism is both a historical experience and international consensus. It is an inevitable trend. To uphold multilateralism in the 21st century, we should promote its fine tradition, take on new perspectives and look to the future. We need to stand by the core values and basic principles of multilateralism. We also need to adapt to the changing international landscape and respond to global challenges as they arise. Over the past year, the pandemic has once again proved that whoever has a broader vision of globalization and a firmer pace in advancing multilateralism will achieve more in COVID-19 response and enjoy a brighter prospect for developments. “Grasping the crucial year” calls for wisdom and strength. Only by adhering to the right way of multilateralism, can we prevail over the pandemic, promote the world economic recovery, and create a bright future out of adversity.

The principles and core of multilateralism are, as President Xi Jinping said, boiled down to the following four aspects. First, we should stay committed to openness and inclusiveness instead of closeness and exclusion. To create isolation or estrangement will only push the world into division and even confrontation. Second, we should stay committed to international law and international rules instead of seeking one's own supremacy. Decision should not be made by simply showing off strong muscles or waving a big fist. "Selective multilateralism" should not be our option. Third, we should stay committed to consultation and cooperation instead of conflict and confrontation. We should advocate fair competition, like competing with each other for excellence in a racing field. Fourth, we need to reform and improve the global governance system on the basis of extensive consultation and consensus-building.

President Ramaphosa also said at the Davos Dialogue that it is only through multilateral action that the world can solve its challenges. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China and South Africa have firmly upheld multilateralism, supported the WHO in playing a positive role in global COVID-19 response, and jointly promoted the international community to strengthen solidarity and cooperation to fight against the pandemic. President Xi Jinping and President Ramaphosa co-hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, which has played an important strategic leading role in promoting China-Africa anti-pandemic cooperation and building an even China-Africa community with a shared future.

China is willing to work with South Africa to strengthen communication and coordination in multilateral affairs, safeguard the UN-centered international system, the international order based on international law and the WTO-centered multilateral trading regime. We shall step up our cooperation under the framework of BRICS, G20 and FOCAC, jointly advance the reform of global governance system, and safeguard the interests of developing countries, so as to achieve win-win cooperation for common development.

Q: Now the COVID-19 is still raging around the world, and South Africa is also experiencing the “second wave” . We have noted that President Xi Jinping said at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda that China will continue to take an active part in international anti-pandemic cooperation. China has already brought the pandemic under control and resumed economic and social development in an orderly way. The world is eager to learn from China’s experience in fighting the COVID-19. Could you brief us on the measures China will take to support South Africa and other African countries’ COVID-19 response going forward?

A: Just as you said, President Xi Jinping pointed out at the Davos Dialogue that containing the coronavirus is the most pressing task for the international community. Closer solidarity and cooperation, more information sharing, and a stronger global response are what we need to defeat COVID-19 across the world. China will actively engage itself in international cooperation on COVID vaccines, continue to share its experience with other countries, do its best to assist countries and regions that are less prepared for the pandemic, and work for greater accessibility and affordability of COVID vaccines in developing countries. We hope these efforts will contribute to an early and complete victory over the coronavirus throughout the world.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese government has not only provided a large amount of medical supplies to 53 African countries and the African Union, but also sent medical teams composed of more than 170 members to 15 African countries. We have also held many video conferences to share our experience in fighting the pandemic with African countries. Over 1,100 cooperation projects under the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa are progressing smoothly, and nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel are sticking to their posts in spite of the virus. A number of railway, highway and power station projects have resumed operation, thus making important contributions to local economic and social development.

According to the statistics, China has donated millions of rand in cash, more than 6 million masks, and hundreds of thousands of testing reagents, respirators, temperature guns, goggles, protective suits, surgical gloves and food packages to South Africa. The fourth batch of government assistance from China, including 360,000 nucleic acid extraction reagents worth of 20 million rand, arrived in South Africa on January 23.

Now South Africa and other African countries are experiencing the second wave of COVID-19. We will continue to provide assistance and share anti-pandemic experience in light of the needs of South Africa and the African Continent. We will promote cooperation between pairing-up hospitals, and speed up the building of the headquarters of African CDC, so as to jointly build a community of health and a community with a shared future between China and Africa. We will honor our commitment to make the COVID vaccine a global public good, and cooperate with African countries in need to improve the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa. China is now discussing vaccine cooperation with South Africa. We hope that Chinese vaccines will benefit the South African people at an early date.

Q: China is the first major economy to achieve economic recovery. President Xi said at the Davos Dialogue that China will continue to implement a win-win strategy of opening-up, so as to bring more cooperation opportunities to other countries and give further impetus to global economic recovery and growth. What opportunities do you think will China bring to South Africa and other African countries for post-COVID-19 economic recovery and transformation?

A: There is a saying goes that “a single flower does not make a spring”. China cannot develop itself in isolation from the world, and China’s development will contribute more to the world. As a longstanding supporter of economic globalization, China is committed to following through on its fundamental policy of opening-up. It is clearly stated in the draft paper of the 14th Five-Year Plan and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 that “China will open up at a higher level and create new prospects for win-win cooperation”.

In 2020, China is the first major economy to achieve positive economic growth, with its GDP exceeding 10 trillion yuan and historic achievements scored in poverty alleviation. A total of 800 million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty by the end of 2020. China’s share in the world economy has risen to about 17%, and the OECD forecasts that China will contribute more than one third of global growth in 2021. China is becoming a front-runner in the world economy with a bigger proportion and greater significance.

Going forward, we will proceed from the needs of African countries to seek greater synergy of our respective development strategies, promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, optimize the allocation of investment in production capacity, and upgrade China-Africa cooperation. We shall take China’s new development paradigm and the launching of the African Continental Free Trade Area as an opportunity and make full use of the platform of China International Import Exhibition (CIIE), to expand the imports of Africa’s high quality products, strengthen the connectivity of our industrial chains and supply chains, and make the circulations of China and Africa reinforce each other. We believe that with these efforts, our two sides will foster a huge market with a population of 2.7 billion for China and Africa, and better promote the connectivity between China and Africa in terms of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance, and people-to-people exchanges.

We will seek greater synergy between China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 with the AU 2063 Agenda and South Africa’s Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan. While ensuring the sound development of our cooperation in such areas as trade, infrastructure, investment, production capacity and agriculture, we shall share technology and experiences in digital economy, and strengthen cooperation in talent and skills training, so as to help African countries seize the opportunities brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, we shall take the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change as a new highlight for our cooperation to jointly build a green economy and pursue green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development.

In 2021, we will wrap up the efforts to implement the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and hold another FOCAC meeting. We are ready to maintain close communication and coordination with South Africa to jointly plan for the next 20 “golden” years of China-Africa cooperation. We will give priority to anti-pandemic cooperation and economic recovery and transformation to achieve the high-quality development of China-Africa cooperation.

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