China hailed as the ‘New Jerusalem’
‘I HAVE seen the New Jerusalem, and it is in China,” Dr David Monyae, the co-director of the Confucius Institute in Johannesburg told a packed SA-China dialogue at the University of the Witwatersrand yesterday.
Monyae, pictured, had just returned from the opening of the Import Expo in Shanghai, where 172 countries and organisations participated, with 400 000 Chinese purchasers in attendance.
“It seems China has conquered the future. It has uplifted 700 million people out of poverty. I went into a factory without a single worker on the factory floor – only machines. How are we going to compete with that? We are sleeping,” Monyae said.
He emphasised that as Africans we need to add value to our products by beneficiating our resources, and we can no longer be simply exporting our raw materials. “To achieve our economic development we need to partner with strategic countries which include China, the UK and Germany.”
Vice-Chancellor of Wits University Adam Habib articulated similar sentiments in his opening remarks saying, “We need to broaden our partnerships with urgency, and that includes looking east.”
As the keynote speaker, Chinese Ambassador Lin Songtian depicted the China-South Africa relationship in particularly strategic terms. “We view each other as a strategic pivot,” he said. “South Africa is the only country in the world that President Xi Jinping has paid three state visits to.”
Lin hailed the huge advantages that South Africa has such as rich resources, superb location, and excellent conditions for development.
David Malcolmson, the chief director for Regional Organisations at Dirco, weighed in during the dialogue saying, “China responded immediately to South Africa’s identification of the three main bottlenecks to its development, those being infrastructure, skills development, and financing.”
Dr Andre Thomashausen, professor emeritus of International Law at Unisa, posed the question, “Where is Europe? China has invested over $100 billion in Africa since 2010, but we are not really sure what it is the European countries are doing.”
But the executive director of the Institute of Global Dialogue, Dr Philani Mthembu, insisted that it is because of African agency that China has noticed the opportunities that the continent presents.
In an effort to contrast Chinese initiatives on the continent with that of some European powers, one of the participants said, “There is a European country that currently controls the foreign reserves of some Francophone African countries from their capital city. When those African countries do not behave in the manner in which that country wants, their foreign reserves are withheld.
“They also have military forces deployed on the continent that have led to the disintegration of countries like Libya.”