Ambassador, H.E. Mr LIN Songtian and officials
Colleagues from the Republic of South Africa’s cabinet
Representatives of the RSA Government
Ladies and Gentlemen
It’s an honour a privilege to officiate at this auspicious occasion to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
We all know that the actual celebration are held on 1 October since 1950.
On behalf of the South African Government, we extend our warm wishes to the People’s Republic of China, and its people. May you grow from strength to strength!
We wish your country strength as it marches to the next 70 odd years.
As we all know, China is not only a friend of South Africa, but that friendship extends to the rest of the continent.
Although our friendship with China dates back many years ago, it was only in 2010 that we became strategic partners through the Beijing Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
This followed after the re-establishment of the diplomatic relations in 1998.
Our relationship has grown significantly both politically and in socio-economic perspectives.
One of the pillars of the strategy is the People-to-people Exchanges and Cooperation.
In responding to the strategic mandate, South Africa and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Field of Basic Education. This was signed in in March 2013 in the city of Durban.
Subsequently, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Chinese Ministry of Education further signed an Implementation plan on the MoU on 24th of February 2014, in Beijing, China.
In 2015, we announced the introduction of the Mandarin Chinese language in our South African public schools.
By 2018, the first cohort of South African learners would have written Mandarin Chinese in Grade 12.
Thus, we have succeed in narrowing the gap between our two countries through this programme and many others.
The relationship between us and the Ministry of Education in China, through the Embassy of China in South Africa has been strong and steady.
Through this partnership, several South African schools have engaged in twinning programmes with Chinese schools, using the Confucius institutes that are in South Africa.
Further to this, South Africa has opened five Confucius institutes situated in Durban University of Technology (DUT), Rhodes University, University of Johannesburg (UJ), University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University.
There are also three Confucius classrooms: Cape Academy, Westford High School and Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Centre (CCIEEC).
This afternoon and tonight, we celebrate three key parts of our partnership.
There’s a poster exhibition of achievements of all 6 Confucius Institutes and 3 Confucius Classrooms in South African in the past 15 years, as well as a poster on South African Languages Taught in China.
We will also announce the 17th day of September every year as South African Chinese Language Day, with support from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).
The third event is about the Chinese Bridge Competition for High School Learners.
Since 2015, South Africa has been hosting its own Chinese Bridge Competition for High School Learners annually.
These learners participate from different schools. The winners are sent to China to compete against other countries.
This competition is a good way to showcase the cultural aspect of the South Africa-China partnership, under the People-to-people Exchanges and Cooperation pillar.
Hence today, we will watch the performance of winners in recent “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for South African University Students as well as the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for South African High School Students.
On a lighter note, in 2015, when we announced the introduction of the Mandarin Chinese language in our public schools, one newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, quipped that I was dreaming in Mandarin.
Subsequent to the newspaper article, and our announcement of introduction of the Mandarin Chinese in our schools, we actually rolled out the learning of the language at the Basic Education Department in September 2016.
So some of my staff are proficient in the language. One day, I will indeed dream in Chinese Mandarin.
I thank you.