Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at the Union Buildings on Tuesday, where he was officially welcomed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by a beaming President Ramaphosa and his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, just before 10am, South African time.
South Africa has rolled out the red carpet for President Xi, who started his State visit in Pretoria aimed at boosting bilateral relations and cooperation.
As per tradition for visiting Heads of State, Pretoria gave the Chinese first couple a regal welcome, complete with a 21-gun salute, guard of honour and the Chinese flag hoisted high at the Union Buildings. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) brass band gave renditions of both countries’ anthems.
The national ceremonial guard soldiers in their green and gold uniforms stood in a pristine line as the Chinese President inspected the guard of honour.
Flanked by an entourage of ministers from both countries, Presidents Ramaphosa and Xi stood in silence on the steps of the Union Buildings, while cannon fire echoed over Pretoria.
There is huge media interest in the State visit, with a significant Chinese media presence.
After the official welcome ceremony, President Ramaphosa ushered his counterpart away from the flower-bedecked amphitheatre to the presidential boardroom for a closed-door tête-à-tête aimed at drawing a new blueprint for further cooperation.
The State visit coincides with the 10th BRICS Summit and takes place within the context of strengthening strategic, political, economic, social and international cooperation between South Africa and China.
Presidents Ramaphosa and Xi will use the State visit to engage in bilateral talks and evaluate the progress achieved by the two countries on the Strategic Programme, with specific reference to the six priority areas identified in 2015.
They include the alignment of industries to accelerate South Africa’s industrialisation process; enhancement of cooperation in Special Economic Zones (SEZs); enhancement of marine cooperation; infrastructure development; human resources cooperation, as well as financial cooperation.
South Africa’s relations with China are at the level of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
The Beijing Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership encapsulates all facets of South Africa’s relations with China, where China has committed to the respective developmental objectives.
The total trade between South Africa and China has experienced an upward trajectory since 2009, growing from R118 billion to R271 billion by the end of 2013.
While there is a trade imbalance between China and South Africa, both countries have implemented various mechanisms to address these discrepancies, the Presidency said.
These mechanisms include the Inter-Ministerial Joint Working Group (JWG), RSA-PRC Bi-National Commission, Five-to-Ten Year Strategic Programme for Cooperation and the Strategic Dialogue.
According to the formal programme, the two Heads of State are expected to brief the media at noon before going to Members of the Media arrive at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for a guided tour of the exhibition followed by a high-level dialogue.
The First Ladies will have a separate programme, which will see them have a guided tour of the Uthando Christian Day Care Centre in Mamelodi, as well as attend a graduation ceremony at the Capital Hotel in Menlyn Maine.