Commentary

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 global finance: hedging bets

CCS_Commentary_China_Global_Finance_MLL_201415 September 2014

On 15 July 2014 at Fortaleza, Brazil, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping announced the establishment of two financial institutions: the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). The NDB will finance infrastructure and development projects; the CRA will provide liquidity in times of financial difficulties. Many commentators saw the move as an effort on the part of China – the clear heavyweight among the five – to challenge “the West’s” grip on global finance. China, they argued, was bent on replacing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with organisations better aligned with its interests. Similarly, China’s promotion of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), to be set up in October this year, is seen as a Chinese attempt to supplant the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which Japan and the United States of America (USA) control. These developments take place amid growing concerns about the implications of the internationalisation of the renminbi (RMB), China’s currency, for the supremacy of the US dollar. On the surface, the new initiatives seem to indicate China’s drive to challenge the status quo. However, a careful examination of China’s recent activity in global finance reveals that Chinese ambitions are less bold than they appear, at least for now. [Read full briefing here]

By Maxime Lauzon-LacroixCCS_Photo_Affiliate_Maxime_Lauzon-Lacroix_2014
Research Affiliate
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University

China, South Africa and the Dalai Lama: costs and benefits

CCS_Commentary_Dalai_Lama_RA_201408 September 2014

The beginning of September witnessed the Dalai Lama cancelling his third consecutive trip to South Africa. As with his 2011 cancellation, the South African government never officially denied the Dalai Lama entry. Rather, they claim that he cancelled his application at the last minute. In contrast to this, the office of Tibet in Pretoria stated that they were contacted by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation to inform them that the visa had been cancelled and that this was done in the national interest so as not to upset relations between South Africa and China. Irrespective of the technicalities, the event will further cement public opinion, both within South Africa and beyond, that South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is beholden to Beijing’s interests at the expense of its own historic principles. In the realpolitik of a cost-benefit analysis, the ANC is most likely not that fussed: economic and political ties with China now far outweigh the domestic South African opinions of a vocal, but ultimately minority, constituency. [Continue reading]

By Dr Ross Anthony CCS_Research_Fellow_Ross_Anthony_2014
Interim Head
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University

Mugabe visits China: Zimbabwe’s “Look East” policy reloaded

CCS_Commentary_Mugabe_China_Visit_BW_201402 September 2014

Analysts have rushed to conclude that nonagenarian Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s state visit to Beijing this week was informed by the desperation of an economy in free-fall.  This viewpoint indeed holds water but significant as it is, it does not tell the whole story.  China seems to have shown somewhat less enthusiasm in offering financial support this time around. Is the south-south solidarity theme, which Mugabe has played on all these years, finally wearing thin? [Continue reading]

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

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