China and South Africa announced a "comprehensive strategic partnership" on Tuesday during South African President Jacob Zuma's first state visit to China.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Zuma signed the Beijing Declaration after their one-hour talk in the Great Hall of the People Tuesday afternoon, during which the two presidents praised the growth of bilateral ties and agreed to lift relations to new heights.
"In this new spirit of China-South Africa relations, we will work together to advance the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership," Hu told Zuma.
Hu made specific proposals that the two countries maintain close contacts between leaders, utilize cooperative mechanism to further implement bilateral cooperation documents and strengthen exchanges between ruling parties and legislatures.
In the economic area, Hu hoped both sides would promote trade and investment growth, energy cooperation and optimize financial services.
China and South Africa need to work together in culture, education, media, health and tourism, Hu said, bolstering more academic and research cooperation.
On the multilateral front, the countries need to improve consultation and coordination to further South-to-South cooperation and tackle global challenges.
Further, China appreciates South Africa's important role in maintaining peace and stability on the continent and in promoting the development of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, said Hu, adding that China supports South Africa's playing a larger role in international affairs.
Zuma said the bilateral relations had great potential as China is a major trading partner and investor in South Africa. He hoped both sides take advantage of establishing the comprehensive strategic partnership to promote cooperation in various fields.
Zuma also extended his sympathy to the Chinese people in those regions hit by flood and mudslide disasters.
Zuma, who is on his first state visit to China since taking office, was accompanied by a 300-strong business delegation, which was the largest to accompany him during his foreign state tours.
The business delegation participated in numerous achievements during this visit, with over a dozen cooperative documents signed at a business forum on Tuesday morning.
These cooperative documents, including a loan agreement on 240 million euros, involved projects in areas such as solar power, iron ore, finance, and telecommunications.
Addressing the forum, Zuma said South Africa welcomed China's investors, as China was one of the most important strategic partners for South Africa.
Statistics from China's Commerce Ministry showed that China is now South Africa's largest trading partner and South Africa has become China's second largest trade partner.
Bilateral trade volume in the first half of this year reached $10.81 billion, up 56.1 percent year on year, according to officials.
"There is still great potential in bilateral trade," said Liu Youfa, an expert on African issues at the China Institute of International Studies.
Zuma planned this visit with a view to promoting domestic economic growth by expanding economic and trade cooperation with China, said Liu.
The China visit was the last leg of Zuma's tour of the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China. Experts said this showed South Africa's strong willingness to take advantage of new trade and investment opportunities in rapidly growing emerging markets.
Besides strengthening economic cooperation with China, Zuma's visit has reached its other important goal, to elevate its earlier "strategic partnership" with China to a higher level of "comprehensive strategic partnership".
According to the Beijing Declaration signed by the two presidents, the two countries expressed their desire to further strengthen and deepen exchanges and cooperation between the two nations in both political and regional affairs by establishing a comprehensive strategic partnership based on equality, mutual benefits and common development.
In the area of economics, the two sides agreed to improve the current structure of trade between the two countries, in particular by working towards more balanced trade profiles and encouraging trade in manufactured value-added products.
The Chinese and South African governments on Tuesday afternoon also signed another seven bilateral cooperation agreements covering visa procedures, mining, energy, environment and transport sectors.
(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2010)