Signs with the US flag and Chinese flag are seen at the Qingdao free trade port area in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province on May 8, 2019. File photo: AFP/STRINGER
Signs with the US flag and Chinese flag are seen at the Qingdao free trade port area in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province on May 8, 2019. File photo: AFP/STRINGER

The US is jealous of China’s rapid economic growth and achievements in the past few years and was using the trade wars to frustrate and stall it, Lin Songtian, the Chinese ambassador to SA said on Monday.

The US occupies the first spot in the world economy and is followed in close second by China. But the two economic behemoths have been exchanging trade wars since the election of President Donald Trump. Recently he imposed huge tariffs on Chinese goods entering the US and the Chinese have responded in kind.

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“The Americans are accusing us of stealing their technology, stealing their innovation. We didn’t do anything like that. We invested by taking our people to learn from the US and other Western countries. We learnt from the best and then we bettered the best. That is what China is doing,” Lin told a gathering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal .

He said the trade wars will only end when the US, as the only superpower, decides to end themr. “China would wait because we also need the American market to grow our economy,” he said.

Turning his attention on trade and investments between SA and China, Lin said SA had potential to become one of the world’s best developed countries but social and political instability, the government inefficiency, poor infrastructure, poor policies and crime are preventing it from achieving its potential.

He said SA’s “slow and inefficient” railway system was preventing R10bn-worth of China’s investments in Limpopo’s mining and other projects.

“If you can fix the railway line, China is ready to invest in Limpopo. And goods and other materials can move from Limpopo to the Richards Bay harbour. We have the capacity to help SA to achieve this if it allows us,” he said.

SA has been China’s largest trading partner in Africa for 10 years, accounting for a quarter to a third of China-Africa overall trade.

In 2017 bilateral trade between the two countries grew 11.7% to $39.17bn, a more than 20-fold increase from the figure at the beginning of diplomatic relations more than 20 years ago.

Lin said China was willing and capable of helping SA to deal decisively with its triple challenges of poverty, inequality and joblessness. But SA needed to rise to the challenge by creating a conducive environment for investment, trade and other forms of mutual co-operation and benefits.

“China is keen on investing in SA because this country is endowed with many resources, including minerals, agricultural production, oceans resources, human capital and  location, as it is embraced by two oceans. These things make us envy you,” he said.

“It is not [the] government that creates jobs. Jobs are created by [good] government policies. Jobs are the key to solving the issues of poverty and these jobs can only come from investors and their investments,” he said.

He said SA had invested in project such as the Industrial Development Zone but has failed to attract investments. “In places like Coega you have invested in a nest, but where are the birds [investors]?”

He said investors want to be assured that they will make returns on their investments and tourists and investors want to feel safe when they visit the country.

“We have the capacity to help secure SA. We have the experience. If a foreigner comes to China to do good they are welcome. But if they come to the country to do bad, we have 1.4- billion eyes and we will catch them,” he said.

Lin said he has confidence in the “new dawn” brought about by the recent election of President Cyril Ramaphosa who, he said possesses all the “right qualities” to lead the country’s economic boom, as he has been a successful businessman and a good negotiator.

“Ramaphosa has capable leadership qualities and has a strong commitment to lead the fight against poverty and for common prosperity. China needs a rich SA , a rich African continent to do business. SA and China have a win-win co-operation for common development,” he said.

He invited South Africans to tap into the Chinese market and also take advantage of the resources that country has been able to amass, as it now has more than 40% of the world’s foreign reserves.