Improving the Sino-African Relationship

Improving the Sino African RelationshipAt the 6th Forum on China–Africa Cooperation last Friday in Johannesburg, a new relationship between the world’s second-largest economy and its fastest rising continent was on display. The forum is the main platform for official high-level political and economic dialogue between Africa and China, held once every three years. China made headlines at the event by announcing a $60 billion package of loans, aid, investment, and other financial support to Africa.

Yet for all the fanfare, the relationship between China and Africa is under strain. That is why Beijing must now rethink its engagement with the continent, focusing less on the size and number of commitments it offers and more on sustainability, with an approach that goes beyond government-to-government initiatives.

First, the plusses. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled Africa’s importance to Chinese foreign policy by visiting the Republic of Congo,South Africa, and Tanzania on his first presidential trip overseas. African governments have welcomed China’s “no-strings attached” political approach, which broadly gives Africa an alternative to conditional aid from Western donors and allows China to leverage its economic position on the continent.

In a remarkable 22-fold increase, trade between Africa and China has risen from $10 billion in 2000 to $220 billion in 2014. African oil and mineralsmake up nearly half of the total trade with China, but Beijing has also singlehandedly revitalized Africa’s infrastructure network by financing and building sorely needed roads, bridges, and telecommunication infrastructure. Chinese firms are also slowly moving some of their manufacturing capacity to lower-cost African destinations, including to aspecial economic zone outside Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Source: Foreign Affairs/ Luke Patey and Zhang Chun

About The Project

South Africa's conduct of international relations, especially its role in international organisations like the UN Security Council, its choice of strategic partnerships, its leadership role in Africa, its public engagement and foreign policy decision making, has been intensely debated in the recent past. The FPA programme aims to provide a nuanced analysis and facilitate a structured discussion of South Africa's foreign policy in a changing world environment for purposes of informing its future direction.

Aims and Objectives of The Project

The purpose of this focus area is to unpack the extent to which the policy in its making, its nature and its application constitutes a principled and pragmatic response to a complex international environment. In doing so, we hope to be guided by an objective to promote a foreign policy that positions SA as a responsible global citizen committed to building bridges between various power blocs for the benefit of Africa and South Africans.

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