China, South Africa Talk on Mines, Investment

Source:

"For S. Africa, China also is a model of state action in the economy."

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping started talks with South Africa on Wednesday aimed at securing minerals the Asian giant needs to fuel its growth.

China is South Africa's biggest bilateral trading partner and the focal point of its plan to divert more trade and investment from traditional markets in Europe and North America to the world's fastest growing economies.

Xi, touted as China's next president, a day earlier began a three-day visit to Africa's largest economy, which is seeking to decrease a trade deficit, which hit $2.7 billion last year, skewed in Beijing's favour.

South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Xi will co-chair the 4th China-South Africa bilateral commission and sign a number of mining-related agreements.

Details of the agreements have yet to be released.

Beijing sees global mining power and regional financial services leader South Africa as a vital source of commodities and as a stepping stone to access other African states.

For South Africa, China also serves as a model of state action in the economy, with Pretoria hoping to join it in the BRIC—Brazil, Russia, India and China—group of fast emerging economies.

South Africa's ruling African National has plans to tackle the country's massive unemployment problem with many ANC officials seeing the success of the BRICs as evidence that the state should intervene more.

But experts said the ANC is loathe to add flexibility to the rigid labor market to make it easier for its companies to hire and fire staff with the ease with which Chinese firms operate.

"Around labor policy, there is no translatability of a China or U.S. approach to labor and labour flexibility," said Martyn Davies, CEO of Frontier Advisory and an expert on Africa-China relations.

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