Keynote address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa on high level people to people exchange mechanism between South Africa and people’s Republic of China

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24 Apr 2017

Programme Director, Deputy Minister Manamela

Her Excellency, Vice Premier Liu Yandong

Ministers present both from South Africa and China

Dr Q Zhang, from University of Stellenbosch

Ms K. Bosielo, from Huawei Technologies SA

Senior officials

Media Fraternity

Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to officially welcome Her Excellency Vice Premier Liu Yandong and her esteemed delegation, whom we will co-chair the Inaugural Meeting of the Mechanism and further witness the different signings of cooperation agreements.

Our primary mission is to serve the people and this historic launch of the South Africa- China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism is destined to do just that. Allow me to officially welcome Her Excellency Vice Premier Liu Yandong and her esteemed delegation, whom we will co-chair the Inaugural Meeting of the Mechanism and further witness the different signings of cooperation agreements.

We are grateful that H.E. President Zuma and H.E. President Xi Jinping agreed to this mechanism because it meant that South Africa is joining other six countries that China has launched similar mechanisms with, including United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France, Indonesia as well as European Union and Regional organisations. We are further indebted to the fact that South Africa is the first African Country to engage in such mechanism.

Our point of departure.

The strategic perspective of the African National Congress on international relations is informed by our policy lodestar, the Freedom Charter which states amongst others the following:

“South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of international disputes by negotiation - not war. Peace and friendship amongst all people shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all”.

The world we live in.

The economic model of 1945 no longer works even for the developed world.  The world in which we live is still characterized by the dominance of the capitalist mode of production.

The political and economic landscape of global governance is undemocratic both in form and content

As we all know, the current financial crisis that originated in 2007, is the worst the world has seen since the Great Depression that started late in 1929 and continued well into the 1930’s.  Up until today the world is still feeling the pinch of this economic crisis from which many countries, especially in the developed world have not as yet fully recovered.

At the centre of the crisis is the dominance of finance capital and its tendency towards self-perpetuation as a system virtually parallel to the real economy.

At the centre of humanity’s challenges is the fundamental question of political economy, the distribution of income.

In many developed countries, large swathes of the population have in the recent period experienced stagnant incomes and a declining quality of life. The trend towards greater inequality plays out even in some of those countries that have extricated hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

The crisis of capitalism also finds expression in the collapse of ethics, or greater public exposure of such unethical conduct.

In other words, the global system of social relations is facing a poly-crisis. Besides the socio-economic challenges, waves of migrants are pouring into the developed countries, escaping conflicts and social circumstances which are to a large extent the creation of destinations in which they aspire to settle.

Accompanying these multiple crises is the declining legitimacy of the political and business elites. This is a consequence of their inability to address the fundamental questions of social inequality, declining social ethics and mismanagement of such global challenges as migration and terrorism. Narrow nationalism and chauvinism are on the ascendancy. Selfish geo-political pursuits and the rise of the security-industrial complex threaten to worsen global tensions and plunge the world into a devastating inferno.

Addressing the current challenges.

In responding to this challenge of imperialism, the progressive forces needs to strengthen itself and develop a common agenda with an objective of realizing a just and a better world.

Such a world order must be characterized, inter-alia by greater security, peace, dialogue and greater equilibrium between the poor and the rich.

Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, particularly for developing countries.


The emergence of this power block with such potential is a result of painstaking work by the progressive forces over the last twenty years or so.

Alternative to the unipolar world and the dominance of the US and Europe on international governance issues, BRICS was formed as both economic and political countermeasure.

BRICS is constituted by major regional emerging economies.

•        Almost half of the world population live in BRICS countries.

•        The BRICS Bank will constitute an alternative source of development finance for the developing world and emerging economies of the world which hitherto had been dominated by the World Bank and IMF.

Our meeting today, as stated in its objectives is to cement and deepen our already existing relations through the programme of people to people relationship.

Often called “soft diplomacy” learning about each other’s world view, belief systems and way of life is a critical part of creating a better world for all.

Central to our efforts in field of international relations and diplomacy is a notion of people to people relations with partner countries jointly engaging each other and deepening our understanding of ourselves. The civil society is central to the realisation of this goal.

AU Agenda 2063 

Through the dictates of Agenda 2063 we aspire a shared prosperity and well-being, for unity and integration. We desire a continent of free citizens and expanded horizons were the full potential of women, youth, boys and girls are realised. 

This mechanism is coming in handy for us to respond to those goals.

Role of arts, culture and heritage.

Our government is moving from the point that creative industries have a powerful role to play in Nation building and Social Cohesion. It also has a great potential to contribute into our national economy.

This belief is rooted in the understanding that culture bears the imprint of humanity.

Arts, Culture and Heritage grants us an opportunity to learn about each other’s world view, belief systems and way of life of others which is a critical part of creating a better world for all.

Today the world faces unprecedented challenges, high and rising levels of youth unemployment and disenfranchisement, a deep economic recession, growing evidence of the impact of climate change and a wave of migration across Europe not seen since World War II as people flee terrible conflict.

Now more than ever before we must invest in and support arts, culture and heritage as a way for people to retain a sense of self, as a way to build prosperous and innovative nations and most of all, as means to be themselves, express their views and feelings in constructive ways.

This launch came few days before our Freedom Day that we will be celebrating on the 27th of April and coincided with the centenary of  Oliver Reginald Tambo, the ANC’s Isithwalandwe, a struggle icon and a statesman who whilst in exile visited PRC in order to establish ties with China.

I make mention of this gigantic hero because he was a Science teacher turned Lawyer. He could have easily become a Scientist or a Medical Doctor if it wasn’t for laws that were segregating. It is pacifying that through his struggles and sacrifice, we are having this launch today and our children, black and white, boys and girls will benefit out of this engagement.

Her Excellency, let me conclude by expressing our gratitude for the Agreements and MoUs that we will be signing today. All 6 are germane and we are looking forward to implement them.

I thank you.