China’s Ambassador Chen ushers in a Year of the Dragon with promises of a ‘shared future’

Published Jan 30, 2024


THEY came from walks of life to bask in the spectacle that was a celebration of Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. Led by China’s top envoy to South Africa, Ambassador Chen Xiaodong, hordes of people from the diplomatic corps, business, politics and media, among others, filled the Sun Arena in Pretoria’s majestic Time Square.

This year, 2024, has been dedicated as the Year of the Dragon. For the uninitiated, the dragon is the fifth animal sign in the Chinese zodiac cycle made up of 12 animals in total.

The magnificent Gala event was held under a tapestry of elegant Chinese traditional performances that added colour and splendour to the well-organised occasion that was attended by almost 800 people.

Members of the Chinese community in SA visibly overjoyed. They included staff of Chinese institutions in SA, educators and learners of Confucius Institutes and dozens of Chinese students.

Tourism minister Patricia De Lille. Picture: Supplied

Minister of Tourism Ms Patricia De Lille represented the SA government at the event, and she praised the China-SA relations as being mutually beneficial, rock solid and unbreakable. Also in attendance was SA’s ambassador to China, Dr Siyabonga Cwele.

If truth be told, those in attendance were treated to a vibrant and an enriching experience that showcased the rich traditions and customs of the Chinese people fused neatly into South Africa’s rich diversity better-known as the Rainbow Nation.

The hundreds of guests were treated to amazing 60-minute long and splendid cultural performances by Chinese groups, and in a typical celebration of a New Year’s celebration, there was an atmosphere of conviviality and camaraderie. Over and above the ample opportunity to network, the long list of the invited guests sang and danced. They were also treated to indigenous Chinese cuisine that left many wanting some more of the delicious dishes.

Chinese ambassador Chen Xiodong. Picture: Supplied

And then, in the midst of it all Ambassador Chen addressed the gathering, reflecting on the past year and ushering 2024 with some encouraging insights and highlights as he shared his message about the ethos of a “shared common future” that has become a hallmark of China’s multipolar-led foreign policy. It is a foreign policy that is consistently based on the maintenance of world peace and promotion of common development.

“The past year, 2023,” said Amb Chen, “was a year in which China forged ahead and made great achievements in the new era.”

He explained: “Under the strong leadership of the CPC (Chinese Communist Party) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China made solid strides in building a modern socialist country in all respects. Chinese economy also enjoyed high-quality development,” he said. He added that “China contributes more to global growth than the US, Europe and Japan combined”.

China’s has also become the world’s leading producer of electric vehicles, lithium batteries and solar cells. Last year alone, China exported the goods stated above to the tune of more than 1 trillion RMB, according to Amb Chen.

By global comparison in 2023, China’s alone produced one-fourth of the world’s grains, one-third of vehicles, over half of steel and nearly 60 percent of home appliances, Amb Chen said.

But it is not only in the sphere of the economy where China did well. China’s diplomacy also made solid strides in 2023, and scored many highlights on the global stage.

Amb Chen explained: “Under the strategic guidance of Head of State diplomacy, solid progress has been made in building a community with a shared future for mankind, Belt and Road cooperation was taken to a new stage of high-quality development and the BRICS mechanism achieved a history expansion. He was referring to the expansion of BRICS from five countries to eleven. The six new additions include Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

This makes the reconfigured organisation, now known as BRICS-Plus, into a leading world’s producer of oil and therefore a critical geopolitical vehicle that boast nearly half of the world’s entire population. The original five members of the bloc are Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA.

Amb Chen also highlighted the fact that China-SA relations reached the “golden era”, marking 25 years since Nelson Mandela’s administration established diplomatic ties with Beijing under One-China Policy that recognises Taiwan as an integral part of China.

“For 15 years in a row,” Amb Chen, elaborated, “China has been South Africa’s biggest trading partner. China-SA relations have gone beyond the bilateral spheres and are carrying stronger strategic significance and global reach.”

Examples of cooperation between the two nations could be seen at international platforms such as the UN, where their voting patterns are in tandem.

Looking ahead, Amb Chen said this year China will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. “It is a key year in the implementation of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan,” said Amb Chen.

This year China will also host China-Africa Cooperation meeting, an event that will bring new opportunities for all parties involved, Amb Chen pointed out.

As he led the gala in ushering the new year of the dragon, Amb Chen reminded all about the importance of the dragon itself, saying: “In traditional Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes strength, wisdom and good fortune. In December last year, the UN adopted a resolution designating the Chinese lunar new year as a UN holiday. The Chinese new year is therefore a now officially a new year for the whole world,” Amb Chen said, to loud applause.

In conclusion, Amb Chen said: “I wish prosperity to the People’s Republic of China and Republic of SA, to the everlasting and ever stronger friendship between China and all of Africa, and to a most happy Chinese New Year and good luck to all people.” It was one mighty celebration.