South Africa Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday lauded Chinese President Xi Jinping for taking leadership of the world and setting the political and economic agenda.
Speaking during an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) in Davos, where the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting is taking place this week, Ramaphosa reflected on Jinping’s historic address to the WEF on Tuesday, labelling it an “outstanding” and “iconic speech”.
“Through that speech, I think President Xi Jinping really took the leadership of the world. He gave an iconic speech that set out the political and economic agenda for the world, basically talking about how, at a political level, we need to be the types of governments that are going to lift our people out of poverty, address their needs.
“And at the economic level, just say ‘Hey, globalisation is here to stay’. You’ve got to be willing and have the strength and the determination to swim in the globalisation ocean and find a way of surviving like they did.”
Ramaphosa added: “Of course, it will give rise to difficulties and challenges, and when and if it does, find ways of solving it, forge partnerships. These must be win-win partnerships, rather than one partner wins and the other partner loses.”
South Africa and China are key strategic partners in the BRICS Forum, alongside Brazil, India and Russia.
In a speech filled with vivid imagery and Chinese sayings and poems, Xi had on Tuesday argued passionately for the continuation of globalisation, this against the backdrop of sweeping protectionist and isolationist rhetoric in much of the Western world and which has seen Donald Trump ascend the steps towards the US Presidency and Britain exit the European union.
Xi, in the first visit by a Chinese head of state to the global summit in Switzerland, delivered a rallying cry in defence of globalisation, saying that it had powered world growth and should not be blamed for the problems now being witnessed across the world.
Citing frequent regional conflicts, global challenges like terrorism and refugees, as well as poverty, unemployment and a widening income gap, Xi tapped into the uncertain mood in the world, saying: “Many people feel bewildered and wonder: What has gone wrong with the world?”
However, he cautioned against blaming economic globalisation for the chaos in the world and lamented how globalisation had gone from once being “viewed as the treasure cave found by Ali Baba in The Arabian Nights, but it has now become the Pandora’s box in the eyes of many”.
“It is true that economic globalisation created new problems, but this is no justification to write off economic globalisation altogether,” he told Davos attendees. “Rather we should adapt to, and guide, economic globalisation, cushion its negative impacts and deliver its benefits for all countries.”
Xi called for countries to remain committed to developing global free trade and investment and facilitation through opening-up, and saying no to protectionism, which he likened to “locking oneself in a dark room”.
“While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”
Xi also called for structural reforms of current institutional systems to meet changing demands.
The Chinese President’s address was also hailed by WEF founder and executive chairman, Professor Klaus Schwab, as a “very important speech at a historic time”.