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President Xi's visit cements China-South Africa ties in 'golden era', BRICS' appeal to Global South

Late August in South Africa is famed for its radiant afternoons when the golden African sun bathes the landscape in its warm embrace.

It serves as a perfect backdrop for the blossoming China-South Africa relationship, which, as noted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, "has entered a 'golden era,' enjoying broad prospects and a promising future."

This year marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa, and in a signed article published Monday in South African media as he set off to attend the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg and pay a state visit to South Africa, Xi recalled the "leapfrog development" of bilateral ties from a partnership to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

"It is one of the most vibrant bilateral relations in the developing world," said Xi in the article titled "Sailing the Giant Ship of China-South Africa Friendship and Cooperation Toward Greater Success."

It was not the first time Xi called China-South Africa friendship and cooperation a "giant ship." In 2015, before his state visit to the country, Xi said in a signed article that the bilateral cooperation and friendship "has grown from a small boat to a gigantic vessel."

As the world is facing numerous uncertainties and living through accelerating changes unseen in a century, "that metaphor still holds true," said Sifiso Mahlangu, editor-in-chief of South Africa's leading newspaper, The Star, which published Xi's signed articles this time and in 2015.

"A giant ship is a great metaphor" because it rides the wind and waves and "is against the tide," said Mahlangu. "It is a metaphor that stands and lives up to the pledge of BRICS cooperation."

On Monday, the country was abuzz with anticipation as it prepared to welcome Xi.

"To us South Africans, the visit of President Xi is very important in enhancing and strengthening bilateral relations ... (including) trade relations between the two countries," said African National Congress Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula.

Data released by China showed that in the first half of the year, bilateral trade reached 28.25 billion U.S. dollars, up 11.7 percent year-on-year.

China has maintained its position as South Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, while South Africa has been China's largest trading partner in Africa for 13 consecutive years.

Calling the bilateral ties "stronger and stronger," Mbalula told Xinhua that South Africa-China relations are formed by "ties of anti-imperialism, multipolarity that we both believe in and strong ties of economic relationship."

It is also in Johannesburg, a South African city known as the City of Gold, that BRICS leaders will meet from Aug. 22 to 24 to discuss issues including deepening BRICS cooperation, giving more voice to the Global South, and the BRICS group's expansion.

Scholars and observers on BRICS told Xinhua that the group has defended multipolarity and multilateralism since its inception and has become a positive, stable, and constructive force in international affairs, making its golden brand increasingly appealing to the Global South.

"In an increasingly polarised world, BRICS is creating an enabling avenue for countries to fashion a more inclusive political and economic order," said Cavince Adhere, a Kenyan international relations scholar.

For Anil Sooklal, South Africa's BRICS Sherpa, "BRICS has been a catalyst to bring the Global South together."

"It is for the first time in recent geopolitics that you have such a collective and a powerful body representing the voice of the Global South."

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The State Council Information Office: The People's Republic of China.
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