China's Xi arrives in South Africa for talks with Zuma, trade summit

Chinese President  Xi Jinping, arrives at Waterkloof Air Force Base ahead of his state visit to South Africa.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, arrives at Waterkloof Air Force Base ahead of his state visit to South Africa.PHOTO: EPA

PRETORIA (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in South Africa on Wednesday (Dec 2) for talks with President Jacob Zuma that are expected to focus on flagging investment and trade worth around US$20 billion (S$28 billion) a year.

One South African cabinet minister said that bilateral deals were expected to be agreed during Wednesday's meeting between Xi and Zuma, and the government issued a statement saying that the trade imbalance was one of the issues to be discussed.

Trade between South Africa and China more than doubled in the four years to 2013 to 271 billion rand (S$27 billion), the South African statistics office said.

Xi will co-chair the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation this week, with several African heads of state expected to attend, and the summit discussions are seen centring on whether China will extend new loans despite its slowing economy, while African states may push for debt moratoriums and technology transfers.

The Chinese president started his Africa tour in Zimbabwe on Tuesday where he witnessed the signing of 10 business agreements, including Beijing providing $1 billion for the country's largest thermal power plant.

China is Africa's largest trading partner with trade amounting to US$220 billion in 2014, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua. Its investments in Africa amounted to US$32.4 billion at the end of 2014, according to London-based BMI Research.

But China's direct investment in Africa has fallen roughly 40 percent in the first half of 2015 to US$1.19 billion, China's commerce ministry said on Nov 17.

Africans broadly see China as a healthy counterbalance to Western influence, though Western governments accuse China of turning a blind eye to conflicts and rights abuses as they pursue trade and aid policies there.