Man­dela praised as ‘old friend’ of Chi­nese

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUWEI in New York yuweizhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

News of the pass­ing of Nel­son Man­dela, for­mer South African pres­i­dent, on Thurs­day saddened the global com­mu­nity. The an­ti­a­partheid rev­o­lu­tion­ary’s con­nec­tion to China dates back decades and has been a unique one.

China on Fri­day ex­pressed its con­do­lences over the pass­ing of the leg­endary leader to South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said Man­dela laid a great foun­da­tion for China-South Africa re­la­tions and had pushed for­ward co­op­er­a­tion in dif­fer­ent ar­eas be­tween the two peo­ples. The for­mer pres­i­dent will al­ways be re­mem­bered by the Chi­nese peo­ple for all the con­tri­bu­tions he made for China and South Africa, Xi said.

Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesper­son Hong Lei said that Man­dela was an “old friend” of the Chi­nese peo­ple and had made “his­toric” con­tri­bu­tions to the es­tab­lish­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

Man­dela passed away at the age of 95 in Jo­han­nes­burg, af­ter a long ill­ness.

The South African leader once said that Chi­nese peo­ple’s fight for na­tional in­de­pen­dence had in­spired South Africans and him­self. Back in 2004, when he met the then-Chi­nese Vice-Pres­i­dent Zeng Qinghong, Man­dela said that for­mer Chi­nese lead­ers — such as Mao Ze­dong, Zhou En­lai and Zhu De — as well as the Chi­nese peo­ple them­selves had in­spired him and the South African peo­ple.

“Like the peo­ple of the East, Africans have a highly de­vel­oped sense of dig­nity, or what the Chi­nese call ‘face’,” wrote Man­dela in his best­selling au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Long Walk to Free­dom.

“In Edgar Snow’s bril­liant Red Star Over China I saw that it was Mao’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and non-tra­di­tional think­ing that led him to vic­tory,” he wrote.

The South African leader was known to have pushed for­ward the es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween China in 1998, a year and a half be­fore he re­tired as the first black pres­i­dent in South African his­tory.

Man­dela spent 27 years in prison for op­pos­ing apartheid dur­ing which he read Chi­nese philoso­phers in­clud­ing Con­fu­cius and was in­spired by the Se­lected Works of Mao Ze­dong.

Af­ter his re­lease from prison in 1990, Man­dela trav­elled to many coun­tries, in­clud­ing China twice, where he walked on the Great Wall in Bei­jing. Man­dela met with a num­ber of Chi­nese lead­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Pres­i­dents Jiang Zem­ing and Hu Jin­tao (while he served as vice-pres­i­dent).

Among the many who paid trib­ute to the pass­ing of Man­dela, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said the South African leader was “a gi­ant for jus­tice and a down-toearth hu­man in­spi­ra­tion”.

“Many around the world were greatly in­flu­enced by his self­less strug­gle for hu­man dig­nity, equal­ity and free­dom. He touched our lives in deeply per­sonal ways. At the same time, no one did more in our time to ad­vance the val­ues and as­pi­ra­tions of the United Na­tions,” said Ban.

The UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly in 2009 named July 18 — the leader’s birth­day — Nel­son Man­dela In­ter­na­tional Day. It was the first ever in­ter­na­tional day hon­or­ing an in­di­vid­ual.

The free­dom fighter, the ex-boxer and lawyer, de­scribed as “in­flu­en­tial, courageous and pro­foundly good” by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, also in­flu­enced the Chi­nese peo­ple greatly.

On China’s pop­u­lar Twit­ter-like so­cial me­dia site Sina Weibo, Chi­nese ne­ti­zens ex­pressed their con­do­lences.

“The pass­ing of Man­dela has a huge im­pact in dif­fer­ent parts of the world,” wrote China’s prop­erty ty­coon Ren Zhiqiang on his Weibo post­ing. “Be­cause he was a fighter — for all his life — for democ­racy, equal­ity and peace and har­mony.”

REUTERS

Nel­son Man­dela greets the then Chi­nese Pres­i­dent JIang Zemin dur­ing Jiang’s visit to Pre­to­ria in 2000, the first visit by a Chi­nese head of state to South Africa.

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