The 2018 Happy Spring Festival lantern lighting ceremony took place on the evening of Tuesday 13 February 2018 at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg on the verge of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The ceremony was organised by the Chinese Embassy in South Africa and sponsored by the UnionPay International Africa branch. The event celebrated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa, as well as the Chinese New Year which falls on Friday 16 February 2018.
With the theme of "Illuminate the spirit of Nelson Mandela and light up the friendship and cooperation between China and South Africa", the event saw the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian and South African Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa jointly switching on 20 Chinese palace lanterns, one for each year since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In his address, Ambassador Lin honoured former President Nelson Mandela for making the decision to establish diplomatic relations with China, which has resulted in tangible and visible benefits for both countries over the past 20 years. He said that for the past 9 consecutive years, China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner, having cumulatively invested US$25 billion in the country and creating thousands of jobs.
Minister Xasa expressed her appreciation of being included in such a historical and ground-breaking event, in celebration of the significant value the friendship between South Africa and China has added to both countries. She stressed the importance of tourism for both economies, and encouraged South Africans to embrace all people from China.
Ambassador Lin and Minister Xasa each presented Chinese New Year gifts to representative groups of South African children and Chinese tourists. The audience included guests from various sectors in South Africa, visitors from China and members of the public. The entertainment for the evening was a Chinese and South African cultural show that included an impressive lion dance, dragon dance, flute solo, singing and dancing.
Learners from Iphutheng Primary School performed an energetic and vibrant dance as part of the programme. Behind the statue of Mandela, the Happy Spring Festival photo exhibition has been set up which will be displayed until 28 February 2018. 2018 is a special year in that it marks Nelson Mandela’s centenary – he would have turned 100 this year. Twenty years ago, the then President Mandela took a strategic decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
The relationship between the two countries has strengthened and developed on a strategic level over the years, and Africa has become one of the major tourist destinations for Chinese people. In 2017, the number of Chinese tourists in South Africa increased by 65% over the same period of the previous year.
In response to the cross-border payment demand between China and Africa, UnionPay International has successfully expanded its cooperation to the four major banks in South Africa, namely Standard Bank, FNB, Absa and Nedbank, rapidly promoting UnionPay card acceptance in the South African market, and further encouraging trade and tourism ties between the two countries.
The UnionPay acceptance network extends to 168 countries and regions, covering over 51 million merchants and 2.57 million ATMs in China, and 23 million merchants and 1.64 million ATMs outside mainland China.
UnionPay International will continue expanding its cross-border cooperation within the tourism industry, introducing payment services that better meet the needs of tourists, highlighting tourist attractions, and promoting international economic and tourism growth.