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Benchmark friendship

By CHEN XIAODONG | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-11-12 08:01
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The world is undergoing profound changes in the international situation and COVID-19 pandemic unseen in a century, calling for international unity and cooperation. China and South Africa have joined hands in the fight against the pandemic in accordance with the important consensus reached by the two heads of state. After the COVID-19 outbreak, President Xi Jinping and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa sent letters and made calls to each other, and jointly initiated the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19.

During the toughest time of China's fight against the virus, South Africa provided valuable moral and material support, and many enterprises there have made generous donations to China. In return, the Chinese side donated millions of South African rand, more than 6 million masks and hundreds of thousands of detection reagents, as well as ventilators, protective suits and other anti-pandemic materials, and shared its prevention and control experience with the country.

Unity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons against the virus. Both China and South Africa firmly uphold multilateralism and support the World Health Organization playing the leading role in coordinating the global anti-pandemic efforts and mobilizing the international community to strengthen unity and cooperation in the war against the virus.

During the high-level meeting in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, as well as the 73rd World Health Assembly, the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, both China and South Africa advocated safeguarding multilateralism to oppose unilateralism and protectionism, and both called for the UN to play the core role in defending international equity and justice.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, the pragmatic cooperation and bilateral trade between China and South Africa have demonstrated remarkable resilience and strong momentum.

South Africa's exports to China increased more than 2 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of this year, and China has remained South Africa's largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years.

Digital economic cooperation between the two countries has achieved gratifying results. Rain, South Africa's mobile data-only network operator, has launched its first 5G commercial network and set up a 5G laboratory in South Africa in partnership with Chinese IT giant Huawei.

At present, both China and South Africa face the daunting tasks of countering the pandemic, stabilizing their economies and improving people's livelihoods.

The Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in Beijing on Oct 26-29 outlined the socioeconomic development goals of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and long-term objectives through the year 2035. South Africa also recently rolled out its economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

The two countries will continue to strengthen unity and anti-pandemic cooperation, synergize their development strategies and plans, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, and constantly push the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level.

China and South Africa will continue their joint fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. China's participation in the WHO-led COVAX alliance is the country's concrete commitment to the equitable distribution of its COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, China will also provide a new batch of needed materials such as nucleic acid extraction reagents to South Africa, and explore strengthening cooperation in vaccine research and development.

The two countries will give a strong boost to their economic cooperation. China is accelerating the pace in forming a new dual circulation development pattern, with domestic and international circulation reinforcing each other. This will offer new opportunities for cooperation between China and South Africa.

As South African President Ramaphosa said in his video address to this year's China International Import Expo, Chinese enterprises and investors will discover the potential of South Africa and his country can provide a variety of high value-added products and services.

China and South Africa will strengthen cross-border e-commerce cooperation and support South Africa to further expand exports of superior and high-quality agricultural products to China. China will mobilize more influential enterprises to participate in the third South Africa Investment Conference, so as to better support the post-pandemic economic recovery of South Africa.

The two countries will create new highlights of digital cooperation. China's 14th Five-Year Plan puts forward that the country should regard innovation as a strategic support for national development, and speed up efforts to build itself into a scientific and technological powerhouse.

The two countries will highlight their cooperation in the digital economy, 5G, big data, artificial intelligence and clean and renewable energy technologies, jointly carry out the China-South Africa science and technology park projects, promote the construction of cross-border incubators, and conduct in-depth research, technical training and anti-pandemic cooperation with the help of science and technology.

China and South Africa will lift international cooperation to new heights. The two sides are both emerging markets and key developing economies in the world. They hold the same or similar views on development, security and the international order, and have broad consensus on major international and regional issues.

A group of virtual meetings such as the BRICS leaders' meeting and the G20 Leaders' Summit in Riyadh 2020 will be held soon. Guided by the important consensus of these summits, China and South Africa will continue to strengthen communication and coordination under the framework of the UN, G20, BRICS and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, defend multilateralism, resolutely safeguard the international system with the UN at the core, maintain the international order underpinned by international law and the World Trade Organization-centered multilateral trade regime, promote the reform of the global governance system, and jointly safeguard the interests of developing countries.

The friendship between China and South Africa has been strengthened through trials and hardships. The unprecedented pandemic has highlighted their solidarity and shared destiny. The two countries will conquer the pandemic eventually with concerted efforts, usher in broader prospects for China-South Africa ties, and deliver more benefits of their friendly cooperation to better benefit the people of the two countries and the world.

The author is the Chinese ambassador to South Africa. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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