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Speech at reception for 2009 Chinese Lunar New Year--By Consul General Fang Li

On behalf of the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Johannesburg and in the name of my wife and myself, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all our guests.

2008 is an important year for both China and South Africa – it is the 10th anniversary of diplomatic ties between our two countries. This decade has witnessed the fast development of the bilateral relationship. In terms of the trade volume, China, immediately following Germany and the US, is the third biggest trade partner of South Africa; and South Africa is the second biggest trade partner of China on the African continent. The statistics of 2007 showed a rapid increase in the import of China from South Africa. China, immediately following Japan and the US, has become the third biggest export destination of South Africa. In 2007, the increase of the export from South Africa to China is much larger than that of the import of South Africa from China. The issue of the trade imbalance between the two countries is being solved. The economic and trade measures concerning South Africa, which China promised at the Beijing Summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in November 2006, are being delivered in an orderly way. And some of them have already been carried out that have brought notable benefits to various fields of South Africa. South Africa encourages Chinese firms to take the opportunity of its stable economy and favourable investment environment to seek cooperation and develop business in South Africa. China actively supports South African firms to take advantage of its vast market and fast-growing economy to expand investment in China and promote mutually beneficial cooperation.

When the Chinese people are celebrating the advent of spring – the season of ploughing, South Africa is ready to embrace autumn – the season of harvest. This decade saw not only the sowing of the seeds of friendship, but also the blossoming and fruition of the strategic partnership between our two countries, which, based on equality and mutual benefit for common development, has been steadily growing in depth. Aiming at enhancing bilateral relations, there have been constant exchanges of state leaders between China and South Africa. In 2006, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid a formal visit to South Africa; South African President Thabo Mbeki attended the Summit Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing on a state visit to China, and wrote "At the Heavenly Gate in Beijing Hope is Born!" In 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a state visit to South Africa; South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka attended the third meeting of the China-South African Bi-National Commission on her visit to Beijing. And a few days ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi just wrapped up his visit to Pretoria on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of diplomatic ties. I believe Premier Marshoff is going to lead a delegation to China in the near future, and that the sister relations between Free State province and Jiangsu province of China and between the City of Nanjing and the Mangaung Local Municipality will be strengthened through cooperation and exchanges. The prospect of the development of both countries is attracting an increasing number of people on both sides to explore potentials to further our cooperation in various fields. Chinese enterprises, exemplified by Chery Automobile and Jianghuai Automobile in Anhui province, are looking forward to opportunities of business collaboration with Free State. And numerous firms in Free State are also casting their eyes on the oriental fastest-growing economy in the world. I and my office are most honoured to be the bridge connecting the Chinese people and the people of Free State.

Minorities as they are, the Chinese people in Free State have made their contribution to this beautiful land. While they are living and working here, they can be sure of the help of the local government readily available to them when they are in need. Please allow me to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for the commitment of the Free State government to protecting the security of life and property of all its citizens, no matter where they come from. It is my hope as well as the hope of the Chinese government that the local Chinese communities be further integrated into the mainstream of local society. We are encouraged to see that they are joining hands with the local government and people in building mutual trust and a better place for all to live and work in.

Looking back on the year 2007, we are proud of what we have achieved; and looking forward to 2008, we are confident that we will achieve even more. The development of China is promising, and the China-South Africa cooperation is of great expectation. My dear friends, On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa, let me propose a toast to the development of China-South Africa friendship, and to the prosperity of all our distinguished guests. I wish each and every one of you good luck in 2008. May 2008 the Year of Rat be a happy and prosperous year to you all!

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