Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Pretoria for a state visit to South Africa, July 23, 2018. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by high-ranking South African government officials at the airport. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)
PRETORIA, July 23 (Xinhua) -- South Africa rolled out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday as he started his third state visit to the "rainbow nation" with the aim of boosting bilateral friendly relations and cooperation.
Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by high-ranking South African government officials at the airport.
This state visit is the first of its kind South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has hosted since he took office in February this year.
The two leaders will hold talks in Pretoria to draw a new blueprint for further developing bilateral relations, and attend celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of their countries' diplomatic relations.
Upon arrival, Xi said that in the past 20 years, China-South Africa relations have developed in an all-round and in-depth way, leaping from a partnership to a strategic partnership and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
The two countries have witnessed increasing political mutual trust, practical cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and strategic coordination, Xi said.
At present, China is South Africa's largest trading partner and South Africa is China's largest trading partner in Africa, according to Chinese official statistics.
"I look forward to having an in-depth exchange of views with President Ramaphosa on bilateral relations, the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, as well as international and regional issues of common concern, so as to jointly elevate China-South Africa relations to a new high in the new era and bring greater benefits to our two peoples," he said.
Xi is also scheduled to attend the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg on July 25-27. It will be the sixth consecutive time for the Chinese president to attend such meetings.
BRICS gathers the world's five major emerging economies -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
"I hope to discuss cooperation and development with the leaders of other BRICS members, African countries, and other emerging-market countries and developing countries, in order to lift the solidarity and cooperation between developing countries to a new level and make greater contributions to promoting world peace and development," Xi said.
Xi will attend the BRICS Business Forum, leaders' meetings, and an informal meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the BRICS summit mechanism. He will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries on the sidelines of the summit.
South Africa is the fourth stop of Xi's five-nation Middle East and Africa tour, which has taken him to the United Arab Emirates, Senegal and Rwanda. He will also visit Mauritius during a stopover.
When Xi left Rwanda for South Africa earlier in the day, Rwandan President Paul Kagame held a grand ceremony to see him off at the airport, with colorfully dressed Rwandans putting on traditional drumming and dancing performances and a military band playing national anthems.
Speaking highly of the important achievements Rwanda has made in national reconciliation and reconstruction, Xi wished the African country greater development.
"I am grateful for your hospitality and my visit to Rwanda is a great success," Xi told Kagame, adding that both the Chinese and Rwandan people value peace and China stands ready to work with Rwanda to create a better life for their people.
Kagame said he feels honored to host Xi for the state visit, whose fruitful outcomes have further consolidated the foundation of bilateral ties.
Rwanda is willing to strengthen high-level exchanges with China to further boost bilateral friendly and cooperative ties, he added.