Commentaries are written by Research Analysts at the Centre and focus on current and topical discussions or media events with regard to China or China/Africa relations.

China and the Ebola epidemic: Humanitarianism, instrumentalism and domestic security

CCS_Commentary_Ebola_2 201427 August 2014

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has been met with a high profile Chinese response. Not only have they pledged US$ 5 million worth of medical supplies but have also sent in several Chinese medical teams to affected areas. To further dramatize China’s commitment, this medical team was being sent in while similar such teams from the United States of America and Japan were being evacuated. Chinese official media have not shied away from playing up this intervention, with articles on China’s assistance to affected countries dominating state-media headlines for several consecutive days. This response is informative of a shifting Chinese domestic and foreign policy on a number of levels. At a domestic level, it signals a shift toward a more humanitarian focused China – something which has not traditionally held sway. In terms of realpolitik, this signals China using international crises intervention as a way of competing with traditional western powers as champions of humanitarian intervention. Furthermore, with Asia being a hot-spot for potential pandemics, from swine flu to SARS, tackling the Ebola virus head on in Africa may be an indirect attempt at ensuring domestic health security. [Continue reading]

By Dr Ross Anthony
Research Fellow
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University

The implications of Chinese food scandals on overseas markets

CCS_Commentary_China_Food_Scandal_DC_201419 August 2014

More and more, the Chinese population is reluctant to consume “made in China” food products. China’s growing middle class is increasingly aiming at acquiring quality food supplies from overseas, particularly when it comes to dairy and meat products. This domestic shift is having a significant impact on the international food market, including Africa. The 2008  “milk scandal”, in which it was found that a number of producers such as Sanlu Group, Arla Mengniu, Yili and Yashili were producing melamine-contaminated milk, continues to be a nightmare for the majority of Chinese. From Hong Kong to Canada, a number of Chinese immigrants have discovered a new business: buying quality food products to resell in China. During one of my trips to Canada, while at a supermarket, I witnessed a Chinese customer attempting to purchase multiple boxes of milk; but once at the cashier, he was told he could only buy a limited number. Aware of the new business of the Chinese to supply quality food at home, measures have been taken to limit the quantity of milk or dairy products that Chinese can buy. [Continue reading]

By Dr Daouda Cissé
Research Fellow
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University

The US-Africa Leaders Summit: an echo of Forum on China Africa Cooperation?


11 August 2014

As the dust settles on the US-Africa Leaders Summit convened by President Barak Obama in Washington between 4 August and 6 August 2014, time is ripe for a retrospective analysis of how the event fared vis-à-vis similar recent geo-political jamborees targeted at African leaders. It might seem like a myopic game of checkers to hold up the US-Africa summit against other summit diplomacy such as Japan’s Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development (TICAD), China’s Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) or the EU-Africa summit, but for realists, this is just how the world is shaping up. Gone are the days when the world’s largest superpower courting Africa could eclipse the continent’s relationship with other powers, not least of all China, whose powerful diplomacy seems to frame virtually all analysis of the US-Africa Leaders Summit. [Continue reading]

By Bob WekesaCCS_Image_Bob_Wekesa
Research Associate
University of the Witwatersrand
PhD candidate
Communication University of China

Has Chinese investment evolved? : Hisense in South Africa

CCS_Commentary_Has Chinese investment eveolved_YK_201404 August 2014
I have used this platform on several occasions to discuss the optimistic sides of Chinese investment in Africa. One such example is the discussion of the recent expansion at the home-appliance and electronics manufacturer, Hisense in South Africa. The success of the company is crucial since there are various stakeholders including different levels of the Chinese and South African governments as well as various agencies involved in the progress of the company. The company’s expansion, which has already resulted in new jobs, seems promising. Recently the author conducted research focusing on the nature of jobs generated by the company and also conducted interviews with the workers at Hisense. The reason was to include the views of various stakeholders, especially the group (i.e., workers) most influenced by the company’s operation, which is very often overlooked. Thus the author aimed to attain a more comprehensive perspective regarding Chinese investment in South Africa. The findings put a question mark over the sustainability of job creation. [Continue reading]

By Yejoo KimCCS_Research_Analyst_Yejoo_10
Research Analyst
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University

Putting the CAP in FOCAC: How African countries can get on the FOCAC train for South Africa 2015

China's President Hu Jintao delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of FOCAC in Beijing28 July 2014

The next Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting will be held in South Africa in 2015. It is no secret anymore that for many the China-Africa honeymoon has lost much of its shine. What many people do not know however, is that a large problem with the China-Africa partnership is not so much Chinese “neo-colonialism” or environmental destruction, but rather a lack of African strategy in dealings with China. A good example for African countries as how to react to China would be Australia. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, supplying China with iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas. In response to the increased importance of China and Asia, the Australian government released a white paper entitled “Australia in the Asian Century” (link). Additions to the white paper include country strategies for Japan, China, Indonesia, India and South Korea. On the other side of the Indian Ocean, China has similar interests in Africa as in Australia: it is also the largest trading partner with many African states and many of the same commodities it exports from Australia, it also exports from Africa. Yet in terms of African states, or Africa as a whole, development of a “China strategy” is comparatively underdeveloped. The Chinese government has indicated that it wants to work with African states and FOCAC was launched as a platform of achieving mutually beneficial co-operation, yet FOCAC is criticised as being overly China dominated. Why has it been that Africa has not been able to get its act together in its engagements with China? And more specifically, how can African states use the FOCAC mechanism to get a better deal? [Continue reading]

By Harrie EsterhuyseCCS_Research_Analyst_Harrie_2013_12
Research Analyst / Deputy Editor
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University