Sum­mit raises host’s pro­file in con­ti­nent

China Daily European Weekly - - Spotlight - By AN­DREW MOODY an­drew­moody@chi­nadaily.com.cn Africa China in

South Africa now has one of the strong­est re­la­tion­ships with China of any African coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a lead­ing in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions ex­pert.

Chris Alden, head of the for­eign pol­icy pro­gram at the South African In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs in Johannesburg, in­sists this is mainly due to China’s key role in South Africa be­ing ad­mit­ted as one of the BRICS emerg­ing na­tions in 2010.

De­spite be­ing Africa’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy, it is dwarfed by fel­low mem­bers, Rus­sia, In­dia and Brazil as well as China.

“For the (South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob) Zuma pres­i­dency, this re­mains one of the ma­jor for­eign pol­icy ac­com­plish­ments,” he says.

Some be­lieve the strength of the re­la­tion­ship is ev­i­denced by South Africa be­ing the first African na­tion to hold a full sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion, or FOCAC, on Dec 4 and 5.

Ad­dis Ababa held a min­is­te­rial

CHRIS ALDEN, con­fer­ence in 2006 as did Sharm ElSheikh in Egypt in 2009.

Alex Vines, head of the Africa pro­gram at Chatham House, the Lon­don-based for­eign pol­icy think tank, be­lieves it is a ma­jor coup for South Africa to host FOCAC.

“I think it is really im­por­tant for South Africa’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and it comes at the time when the gov­ern­ment is hav­ing a lot of po­lit­i­cal prob­lems do­mes­ti­cally,” he says.

“It shores up the fact that as a mem­ber of BRICS it is now part of an elite club and it is hold­ing a sum­mit and bring­ing all the African lead­ers to Johannesburg.”

Vines also be­lieves that South Africa’s lead­ers are among the few on the con­ti­nent who firmly be­lieve in the South-South agenda.

“There is an em­pha­sis on South­South Co­op­er­a­tion that you don’t find else­where on the con­ti­nent cur­rently. They are firmly look­ing east­ward. I think other African coun­tries are be­com­ing more bal­anced in their re­la­tion­ships. They are nei­ther proWest or pro-East.”

Alden, also reader in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics and au­thor of

— one of the first books to be pub­lished on the new re­la­tion­ship — says the close­ness of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween South Africa and China is based on long­stand­ing ties.

Chi­nese mi­grants came to the area that even­tu­ally be­came South African in the late 19th cen­tury and there are now three Chi­na­towns in Johannesburg alone.

“South Africans have known Chi­nese peo­ple through­out their lives, have gone to school and worked with them and that kind of thing.”

The aca­demic, who also co-wrote a re­cent pa­per, South Africa and China: The Making of a Part­ner­ship with Yu-Shan Wu, says what South Africa needs from China is more in­dus­trial in­vest­ment.

“This type of in­vest­ment re­mains quite small as it does through­out the rest of the con­ti­nent in com­par­i­son. There are a few ex­am­ples like au­to­mo­tive as­sem­bly plants in Pre­to­ria but they are iso­lated com­pared to the in­vest­ments made by the UK, US and France, who want to make things for South Africa’s fast grow­ing con­sumer mar­ket.”

Vines be­lieves the long- term ben­e­fit for South Africa of a closer re­la­tion­ship with China could be a per­ma­nent seat on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Since World War II, there have only been five mem­bers — the US, UK, France, China and Rus­sia — but many UN mem­bers want re­form.

“If there is re­form, there will be com­pe­ti­tion for which sub-Sa­ha­ran coun­try gets a per­ma­nent seat and clearly South Africa will be vy­ing with Nige­ria, and a close re­la­tion­ship with China could be really im­por­tant for that.”

South Africans have known Chi­nese peo­ple through­out their lives, have gone to school and worked with them and that kind of thing.”

Alex Vines, head of the Africa pro­gram at Chatham House

Chris Alden of the South African In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs

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