JOHANNESBURG - China's President Xi Jinping arrived in South Africa Wednesday for a state visit and a two-day China-Africa forum expected to bring about billions of dollars in investment deals.
South African officials are quick to point out that this is not Xi’s first state visit to South Africa - a fact that highlights the importance of the relationship between the two nations.
“The state visit by President Xi to South Africa is a very important visit," said Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s foreign ministry, speaking to VOA News from Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, where President Jacob Zuma is hosting the Chinese president.
“As you know, he’s only been in office less than two years, and already he is visiting South Africa the second time on a state visit. That’s quite unprecedented and it speaks volumes about the strategic relationship between South Africa and China," Monyela said.
Biggest trade partner
South Africa, after all, is China’s biggest trade partner in Africa. The two nations are also members of the increasingly powerful economic bloc known as BRICS - for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Xi comes to South Africa after a daylong visit to neighboring Zimbabwe, where he met with his counterpart, President Robert Mugabe. The two governments signed 10 agreements, including a $1-billion thermal power expansion project, according to Reuters.
In South Africa, there is also a lot of money on the table, Monyela said.
“There’s a number of agreements and deals that are being concluded, worth billions and billions of dollars which we believe will make a contribution towards growing the South African economy and assist us to deal with the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and eradicating inequality," said Monyela. "So it’s quite an important state visit.”
But China’s Commerce Ministry recently admitted that Chinese investments to Africa had fallen by 40 percent in the first half of this year - a move that some analysts attributed to China's slowing economy. Others, however, say it is more related to Beijing's changing approach to investments overseas.
South Africa says they aren’t seeing that, though, and that trade between the two countries rose more than twofold from 2009 to 2013.
In the coming days, President Xi will meet with other African leaders in Johannesburg for a forum on Africa-China relations.