China's former ambassador in new job

Lin Songtian. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)
Lin Songtian. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

China's former ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, has assumed his new post in Beijing almost a month after he left South Africa in a hurry.

In a tweet on Lin's old Twitter account, which had since changed handle to @ChineseEmbSA, the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria on 14 April announced he had been appointed President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). 

Embassy officials were tight-lipped about his sudden departure last month on one of the last commercial flights back to China before South Africa's government closed the borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only saying he was destined for a promotion.

David Monyae, director for the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg, said the new position was "a much higher position" than being ambassador to South Africa.

"He is in a strategic position to direct China's foreign policy towards friendly nations, the bulk of which are in Africa," Monyae said.

"This is more likely to be in line with President Xi Jinping's central objective of re-establishing the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the shared future for mankind."

Lin replaces the retiring Li Xiaolin, daughter of former Chinese president Li Xiannian.

On the English version of its website, the association, established in 1954, describes itself as an organisation engaged in people-to-people diplomacy with the purpose of "enhancing people's friendship, furthering international cooperation and safeguarding world peace and promoting common development".

It also says the association "serves the great cause of China's peaceful development".

One official describes the association as a kind of non-governmental organisation, but it's closely associated with both the ruling Communist Party of China and the government. 

The new position also makes Lin one of the most senior bureaucrats in Foreign Affairs. 

In his government career which has spanned several decades, Lin has been posted to four African countries, three as ambassador. In the course of his work on China-Africa relations, he has visited 38 African countries. 

During his time in South Africa, Lin broke with diplomatic convention by being outspoken about economic and crime issues here. He also frequently commented on issues related to the trade war with the United States, and started a Twitter account where he riled especially the right-wing media there. 

It's likely that South Africa will encounter Lin again in the course of his new job.

The embassy tweeted this message from the former ambassador himself to South Africans: "Amb. Lin would like to thank you all again for your valuable support to his work here in SA. This beautiful rainbow nation will always be one of his priorities under the new portfolio."

Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Pyjamas or no pyjamas? Is sleeping in your day clothes:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Disgusting!
63% - 1648 votes
Something I've seriously considered
10% - 266 votes
Normal in my household
27% - 711 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
16.33
(-0.06)
ZAR/GBP
21.08
(-0.04)
ZAR/EUR
19.33
(-0.03)
ZAR/AUD
11.90
(-0.03)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-1.15)
Gold
1949.72
(+0.03)
Silver
26.74
(+0.09)
Platinum
928.80
(+0.44)
Brent Crude
43.52
(-0.32)
Palladium
2356.01
(+0.63)
All Share
54673.65
(-0.66)
Top 40
50399.16
(-0.59)
Financial 15
9841.32
(-2.14)
Industrial 25
72558.00
(-1.08)
Resource 10
55438.10
(+0.58)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo