ATC171209: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on Study Tour to China, 02 – 09 December 2017
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS ON STUDY TOUR TO CHINA, 02 – 09 DECEMBER 2017
From 02 December to 09 December 2017, the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative
Governance and Traditional Affairs undertook a study tour to the People’s Republic of China
(PRC). This followed an invitation from the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the National
People’s Congress (NPC), which had visited the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
and the Portfolio Committee in August 2017. The NPC is the highest organ of state power in
China, and has the right to amend the Constitution, enact laws and decide on major issues
concerning the country – a role similar to that of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.
The Portfolio Committee’s visit was a follow up on the key themes emerging from the meeting
of the Committee and the Commission, particularly those concerning poverty alleviation and
economic development in the context of cooperative government and traditional affairs.
The Committee delegation to China consisted of six members: Hon. Richard Mdakane
(Chairperson); Hon. Enoch Mthethwa (ANC); Hon. Joyce Maluleke (ANC); Hon. Xolani Ngwezi
(IFP); Hon. Kevin Mileham (DA); and Hon. David Matsepe (DA). Ms. Shereen Cassiem
(Committee Secretary) and Mr. Andile Sokomani (Committee Researcher) supported the
delegation. Mr. Lebohang Tekane (Parliamentary Liaison Officer for the Department of
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs) was also present.
Hosting the delegation for the duration of the trip in China were,
- Mr. Li Jingtian - member of the Standing Committee of the NCP as well as the
- Chairperson of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of the NPC.
- Mr. Wu Shimin - member of the Standing Committee of the NPC as well as Vice-
- Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of the NPC.
- Mr. Su Xiaoyun - member of the Standing Committee of the NPC as well as member
- of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the NPC.
- Mr. Hao Guicheng - Director of the Administrative Office of the State Ethnic Affairs
- Commission of the NPC.
- Ms. Zhang Jie - sub-inspector of the Administrative Office of the State Ethnic Affairs
- Commission of the NPC.
- Liu Li - official of the Administrative Office of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of
- the NPC.
- Mr. Duan Baorui - official of the Research Office of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the NPC.
- Mr. Zhang Bo (Mr. Xiaoyun’s secretary) and Mr. Liu Wanli (interpreter).
2. MONDAY 04 DECEMBER 2017: BEIJING
The Committee’s most substantive engagements and high-level meetings took place in
Beijing, the political and administrative capital of China.
2.1. Morning: Meeting with LGOP Officials
The first meeting of the Portfolio Committee was with officials from the State Leading Group
Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China (LGOP) at their headquarters in
Beijing. The LGOP is responsible for coordinating surveys and research projects; drafting
guidelines, policies and plans for economic development in poor areas; coordinating solutions
for key issues in poverty-alleviation development; supervising poverty-alleviation work; and
organising exchanges of experience. Representing the LGOP delegation were Mr Chen
Zhigang (LGOP Vice-Minister); Mr Zhang Liang (Deputy Director-General of the Office of
LGOP); Mr Zuo Changsheng (Director-General of the International Poverty Centre in China),
Mr Zhao Dongwen and Mr Wang Kai (Programme Officers of the LGOP).
2.1.1. Remarks by Vice-Minister Chen Zhigang
In his opening remarks, Vice-Minister Chen Zhigang extended a warm welcome to the South
African delegation, stressing South Africa and China’s common mission of improving the
livelihoods of their peoples, and emphasizing that China also has much to learn from South
Africa’s experience with poverty alleviation. The Vice-Minister noted that since 1979, when
China began reforms that prioritised poverty alleviation, the poverty rate has decreased to
below four percent. This translated to lifting approximately 700 million people out of poverty –
contributing to about 70% of global poverty alleviation. The Vice-Minister attributed this
success to China’s experimental and incremental approach to reform, which he described as
‘socialism with Chinese characteristics.’ The Vice-Minister was confident that, with this
approach, China would achieve its goal of eliminating extreme poverty in all its counties by
2020. This would be ten years ahead of the United Nations goal of eliminating global poverty
Guiding China’s poverty alleviation efforts - the Vice-Minister noted - was the ideal of building
a moderately prosperous society, which is the substance of the political report of the 18th
National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) held in 2012. This includes
achieving, by the centenary of the CPC in 2021, an average per capita monthly income of
RMB 4000 (approximately R8000 rand), free health care for the indigent and subsidized health
care for 85% of each provincial population, promoting industries, leveraging the household
impact of quality training administered to at least one individual in every household, and
The Vice-Minister reiterated the extreme importance to which the Communist Party of China
and its various levels of leadership, attached to poverty alleviation work. During its 19th
Congress, which concluded just before the Portfolio Committee’s visit, the Party resolved to
give focused attention to every poverty-stricken household. The Party will continue to stress
reform and innovation, such as investment in solar energy and the introduction of a scheme
where corporate councils rent farmland on poor farmers’ behalf. It will also encourage
everyone to embrace the central government’s poverty alleviation vision, and to take
responsibility for their own development.
There were 13 policy documents guiding the poverty work in China, and local governments
have developed over 200 implementation plans based on these documents. The resources
mobilised in this regard amounted to RMB 270 billion over the last five years, with contributions
from provinces, prefectures and local governments. Banks also provided interest-free loans.
More than 34 000 companies, including public enterprises, have also assisted more than
30 000 villages towards poverty alleviation. There is a database of all the poverty-stricken
areas in China and government has sent millions of officials to visit these places. The largest
of these is the Tibet region, which, together with similar regions, has been a particular focus
of the central government.
The Vice-Minister noted that the government of China would continue to ensure that there are consequences for officials, at all levels of government, who fail to meet its poverty alleviation
targets – including dismissals and demotions. Central government would continue to
supervise local government and apply appropriate sanctions where performance fails to meet
expected standards. Supervision involves use of objective criteria such as hiring experts to
assess and evaluate a county’s performance in reducing poverty.
With this approach, China has lifted more 130 million people out of poverty annually since
2013. During this period, incomes in poverty-stricken areas have risen considerably.
Infrastructure construction has afforded more than 58% of rural households access to potable
water, and 98% have access to telephones. However, there were still 335 million poverty-stricken people. As an economic growth rate of below ten percent (6.8 percent at the time of
writing) has become the new norm in China, President Xi Jinping has placed emphasis on
promoting agriculture as a key poverty alleviation strategy in China’s rural areas. The Vice-
Minister then gave the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Hon. Richard Mdakane, an
opportunity to make some input.
2.1.2. Remarks by Hon. Richard Mdakane
Hon. Mdakane contextualised the study tour visit in terms of the many areas of cooperation
that currently exist between China and South Africa through the Five-to-Ten Year Strategic
Programme for Cooperation signed between the two countries in 2014. He then congratulated
the country for the successful 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China. Hon. Mdakane
expressed appreciation for the effort the Chinese government put at implementing its policies,
contrasting this against South Africa’s poor record of implementing its generally well considered ideas. He noted that almost half of South Africa’s population lives in poverty and
that at the micro (family) level, the country seemingly had little impact on poverty alleviation.
Hon. Mdakane revisited the concept of self-development and asked the Vice-Minister to
elaborate further on how to encourage people to take responsibility for their own development,
including starting their own businesses. He also allowed an opportunity for Portfolio Committee
members to pose questions. Hon. Kevin Mileham observed that a multi-party democracy,
unlike China’s governance model, has inherent constraints in respect of the range of measures
at a government’s disposal to ensure strict compliance with its dictates. He asked the Vice-
Minister if he had any suggestion on how to transplant the Communist Party’s ability to enforce
compliance with its poverty alleviation agenda into a multi-party democracy context.
In reply to these questions, the Vice-Minister reiterated the importance of self-development –
stressing that it is easy for people to regress to poverty if they rely solely on government
assistance. In this regard, the Chinese government strives to ensure that at least one person
from every household is trained and equipped to be self-reliant. Farming is one example where
government offers training and then assists the emerging farmers to find a market for their
produce. In response to the question of tackling poverty in a multi-party democratic context,
the Vice-Minister pointed out that China was a multi-party democracy, with eight other parties
besides the ruling Communist Party. In this way, the Communist Party was also obliged to
consult and cooperate with the other parties in all its decision-making processes.
At this point, the Vice-Minister adjourned the meeting, as the Committee’s schedule did not
allow time for further engagement.
2.2. Noon: Meeting with Officials of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission
From the LGOP offices, the delegation shuttled to the headquarters of the State Ethnic Affairs
Commission (SEAC) of the National People’s Congress of China to meet with the
Commission’s officials. Some of the Committee members and Commission officials
recognised each other from the meeting of 29 August 2017 in Cape Town. (Please refer to the
Report’s introduction for the Commission officials’ names and designations). The
Commission’s Chairperson provided an overview of the SEAC, including its functions and
composition. The Chinese government established the Commission in 1949 (the founding
year of the People’s Republic of China) with a mandate to take charge of China’s ethnic affairs
and champion the interests of China’s 56 ethnic minority groups. The State Council assigns
all the Commission’s responsibilities in respect of ethnic minorities. China’s ethnic policy rests
on four pillars:
- Treating all ethnic groups equally, regardless of history, population size or level of
development. This entails non-discrimination and respect for all ethnic groups, their
costumes, languages and ways of living.
- Fostering solidarity among the Han (the majority ethnic group) and the minority ethnic
groups, as well as solidarity among the 56 ethnic minority groups.
- Encouraging regional ethnic autonomy and balancing this autonomy against the ideals
of co-existence and solidarity, and
- Creating prosperity for all ethnic groups.
The Chairperson then afforded Hon. Mdakane an opportunity to provide a brief introduction
into the South African government’s ethnic policies. In his overview of the ethnic situation in
South Africa, Hon. Mdakane highlighted the country’s diversity in terms of the official and
‘unofficial’ languages spoken, as well as government’s policy initiatives in respect of Khoi and
San minorities. He also cited the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa whose founding
principles of human dignity, non-racialism, non-sexism, and the rule of law guaranteed the
protection of ethnic minority rights. Hon. Mdakane observed that at 23 years of democracy,
South Africa was a relatively new nation compared to China’s 70 years of existence as a united
nation – and that South Africa’s greatest challenge was poverty.
The Commission’s Chairperson concluded the meeting by stressing the importance of
strengthening relations and exchanges between China and South Africa. He noted that
although there are many formal agreements between the two countries at various levels, the
State Ethnic Affairs Commission had no formal agreements with any public institution in South Africa. The Commission therefore had no formal channel to contribute to the friendship and prosperity of the two nations.
2.3. Afternoon: Courtesy meeting with the Vice-Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs
In his brief welcoming remarks to the delegation, the Vice-Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs
Commission, Mr Wu Shimin, recapped on the Commission delegation’s visit to South Africa,
and expressed his high regard for the concept of the ‘rainbow nation.’ He noted China and
South Africa’s remarkable achievement in terms of high-level exchanges and bilateral ties in
the context of the G20 and the BRICS, as well as the cooperation agreements flowing from
the 2013 Summit held in Johannesburg. Mr Shimin also noted that December 5, 2017 would
mark the 20th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and South Africa. In
conclusion, Mr Shimin stressed that the Commission attached much importance to legislative
cooperation and that the study tour visit marked an improvement in this area. He then wished
the delegation a successful visit to China.
2.3.1. Remarks by Hon. Mdakane
Hon. Mdakane thanked the Vice-Chairman for the welcoming remarks and appreciated the
high regard for South Africa, which was a relatively small power compared to China. He once
again congratulated the Communist Party of China for its successful 19th Congress and noted
that he had listened to President Xi Jinping’s keynote address, and was studying the
Congress’ resolutions. Hon. Mdakane highlighted the resolution relating to taking
approximately 400 million people out of poverty by 2020 and was curious to learn how this will
materialise, as this would provide a critical lesson for the Portfolio Committee. He noted the
proven capacity of the Chinese government to implement its decisions, and was keen to learn
from China about effective programme implementation.
Mr Shimin reiterated that he was confident that China would eliminate poverty by 2020. He
expressed the hope that deepened cooperation between China and South Africa’s legislative
bodies would enhance the capacity of these bodies to make laws.
2.4. Late Afternoon: Meeting and Banquet with Mr Li Jingtian, Chairman of the
Ethnic Affairs Commission
Mr Jingtian began the meeting by reflecting on the experience of their six-member delegation
visit to South Africa, and expressed gratitude for their reception. He hoped that the Portfolio
Committee would experience the same warmth during its visit, and wished the Committee
On the Committee’s behalf, Hon. Mdakane welcomed Mr Jingtian’s sentiments. He noted that
the cooperation between the Chinese State and its private sector on poverty alleviation was
encouraging. Hon. Mdakane was keen to understand how China ensures that its local
governments implement the central government’s directives; how it governs large cities such
as Shangai in order to create wealth; and why it had achieved faster development.
Mr Jingtian replied that choosing the right leadership, and the right way to pursue
development, was the foundation of China’s development progress. The Communist Party of
China was the right leadership and ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ was the most
appropriate development framework for China. The CP was the right leadership because it
was the choice of the majority of people, dating back to the civil war against the western sponsored National Party of China. This war witnessed millions of people pledging the last
bowl of rice, the last of piece of fabric and the last child to the CP’s one million troops, which
was a tiny contingent compared to the National Party’s 80 million troops. The CP’s popular
legitimacy was instrumental to the defeat of the National Party, which is now the ruling party
of Taiwan. The will of the masses was the basis for the establishment of the People’s Republic
of China in 1949. Today, approximately 89 million Chinese people in China are members of
Mr Jingtian then noted that China’s developmental trajectory in the last 70 years confirmed
that socialism with Chinese characteristics was the right development path for China. Having
had no prior experience of running a country, the Communist Party was at first compelled to
learn from the Soviet Union. The realisation that China could not fully transplant the Soviet
Union experience led the CP to explore China’s own path of development, a process that
began around 1956. This process involved experimentation with various strategies, including
a ten-year Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976. These not only failed, but also brought
the country disasters. Subsequently, Deng Xiaoping emerged to lead the CP to explore the
idea of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This culminated in the reforms that began in
1978, which have seen China emerging as the second largest economy in the world. The
outcomes of these reforms have proved that socialism with Chinese characteristics was the
correct path for China.
Mr Jingtian stressed that China did not encourage the exportation of its development model,
as it would not necessarily work for other developing countries who must embark on the
difficult task of poverty alleviation. However, he noted that it was important for central
governments to have the power and capacity to instruct other levels of government to
implement decisions. Fighting poverty in China has involved local governments mobilising
resources within their localities; contributions from local communities, the private sector and
other sectors of society; as well as rich areas and charity organisations subsiding and
supporting poorer areas. While this has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty since the 18th
Congress of the CPC in 2012, the Party still faces the difficult task of lifting approximately 400
million people out of poverty. Focusing on increasing financial support to the poverty-stricken
areas, and relocating those living in places that are not fit for human habitation, is now the top
priority of the CP.
3. TUESDAY 05 DECEMBER 2017: CULTURAL TOUR OF BEIJING
Besides being China’s political and legislative capital, Beijing is also the country’s cultural
centre, as it owns more cultural heritage items than any city in China. The delegation visited
two of Beijing and China’s iconic cultural heritage sites: the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
3.1. Morning: Cultural tour of the Great Wall of China
The delegation visited a section of the Great Wall of China, approximately an hour’s drive from
Beijing. A masterpiece of military defence work whose construction began in the 7th century
B.C, the Wall meanders 21 000 kilometres across China’s kaleidoscopic landscape like a giant
dragon. A guide took the delegation through some characteristic features of the Wall, as the
team made its way up to some observation towers from inside the Wall. Ascending and
descending just a few meters of that section of the Wall was a test of physical endurance and
a lesson in hard work, discipline and mental fortitude - values that seemed to permeate the
Chinese national character.
3.2. Afternoon: Cultural tour of the Forbidden City
In the afternoon, the delegation embarked on a guided tour of the Forbidden City – an old but
well-preserved Grand Imperial Palace. This housed the emperors of China’s last two dynasties
(the Ming and the Qing dynasties who had 24 successive emperors in total) who ruled the
country for over 500 years. The emperors forbade access to outsiders, even high-ranking
officials, unless authorised – thus giving rise to the term ‘forbidden city.’ The delegation
explored the various courtyards, halls, chambers, towers, pavilions, and gardens of the
imperial palace complex, with the tour guide explaining the historical significance of these
structures and answering questions. This was a direct experience of the Forbidden City’s
lingering ancient grandeur.
4. WEDNESDAY 06 DECEMBER 2017: WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE
On Wednesday morning, the delegation boarded a high-speed train from Beijing to the City of
Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province in central China. This was a four-hour journey. In
Wuhan, the delegation visited the South Central University for Nationalities, which is under
the direct administration of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission.
For the Chinese government, the university represents a national model for ethnic unity and
progress, as it enrols students from all 56 ethnic groups in China, with ethnic minority students
making up 60% of the total. The university campus hosts an Ethnographic Museum, the first
of its kind in universities in China, which documents the history of Chinese ethnic groups. The
delegation went through a guided tour of the Museum and witnessed brilliant displays of
various cultural artefacts associated with different ethnicities.
The delegation also received a fascinating overview of the evolution of Wuhan from a sparse
ancient city into a bustling modern metropolis. The rendering of the city into a gigantic life-like
artificial model that could simulate day and night, was a mesmerising technological feat. The
delegation also marvelled at the exceptionally forward-looking vision guiding the city’s
In the evening, the delegation received a welcoming banquet from the leadership of the
People’s Congress of Hubei Province, who informed that the Province keeps a close
relationship with South Africa, both in terms of economic and education cooperation. Madam
Li, who led the Congress representatives, noted that the study tour visit would promote the
cooperation further and invited the delegation to visit more places in the province. The Hubei
Province was at the heart of China and accounted for approximately 6% of the Chinese
population. There were 800 000 minorities in the province or 4.5% of the Hubei Province
population, half of whom did not have fixed jobs. The Communist Party of China invested in
this Province more than any other province, with RMB12 billion pledged in the 12th Five Year
Plan on village roads and highways in every county. Through its ethnic policies, China was
able to lift 1 million people out poverty in the Hubei Province. Madam Li was also keen to know
about the South African experience in protecting the culture of ethnic groups.
5. THURSDAY 07 DECEMBER 2017: WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE AND GUANZHOU,
5.1. Cultural tour of the Yellow Crane Tower
On Thursday morning, the delegation visited the Yellow Crane Tower, which was a further
education on ancient Chinese history and culture. The Tower is dedicated to legends in
Chinese mythology who rode on yellow cranes. Warfare and fire have destroyed the original
Tower twelve times since AD 223, the original date of construction. The City Government of
Wuhan completed the current structure in 1985. A guide led the delegation through the various
floors of the Tower, from which the delegation enjoyed magnificent views of the city.
In the afternoon, the delegation departed Wuhan for the City of Guangzhou, the capital city of
the Guangdong province in southern China. This was another four-hour journey by high-speed
train. In Guanzhou, the climate had changed to summer, a testament to China’s vast land
mass. Mme Luo Juan, Vice Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of Peoples’ Congress of
Guangdong Province, welcomed the delegation into Guangdong Province. The Committee is,
among other things, responsible for supervising the work of the Provincial People’s
Government – an oversight function. Mme Luo Juan provided an overview of the Province in
terms of land mass, economy, social and political developments. She noted that KwaZulu-
Natal was among the foreign states and provinces, with which the Guangdong province has
forged a sister-relationship – effective from 29 August 2016.
6. FRIDAY 08 DECEMBER 2017: GUANGZHOU, GUANGDONG PROVINCE
On Friday morning, the delegation visited the Golden Flower Service Centre, which
exemplifies the Guangdong Province’s social assistance programmes, including services for
retired citizens, registration for the unemployed and small business start-ups, and the mobility
needs for the disabled. The Central Government funds the Centre, with assistance from Non-
Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The Centre management informed the delegation they
often invite local residents to supervise and assess the performance of Centre staff, giving
credit where it is due. The delegation also met the Local Committee of the Communist Party
as well as the Local Secretary of the Communist Party in Guangzhou. The delegation
concluded the visit to Guangzhou with a tour of the Guangzhou Tower – a 600-metre structure
that briefly held the title of the tallest tower in the world. The delegation flew back home at
The Portfolio Committee left China with profound respect and high regard for the organisation
and administration of the country. The hospitality and administrative efficiency of the State
Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Portfolio Committee’s host for the duration of the trip in China,
were particularly outstanding. The Committee drew much inspiration from China’s poverty
alleviation drive, its transformation of 56 different ethnic groups into a socially cohesive
society, its pride and investment in its vast cultural heritage, and its forward-looking urban
planning. In the main, the Chinese experience has challenged the Portfolio Committee to find
solutions to South Africa’s development challenges internally, as opposed to importing foreign
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