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.

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

Revising Japan’s constitution: Domestic and international contexts

CCS_Image_21_July_20914_Com_RA21 July 2014

The Japanese cabinet recently amended the constitution to expand the role of the Self-Defence Force (SDF). The defining characteristic of Japan’s post-Second World War constitution was its emphasis on pacifism as a national policy. This limited Japan’s military activities to the purely defensive and outlawed uni-lateral foreign engagements – although provision is made for multi-lateral engagements. For example, SDF soldiers are acting as peacekeepers in South Sudan and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) has a naval base in Djibouti for anti-piracy operations. Recently, however, Japan’s cabinet revised the constitution to allow for acts of “collective self-defence” and to expand the roles of the various arms of the SDF. The inclusion of collective self-defence allows the Japanese military to come to the aid of an ally should the ally be attacked by a third party. A significant reason attributed to this shift is to do with Japan and China’s disputes over territorial waters and islands in the EastChina Sea and, by extension, Chinese disputes with other maritime powers in the South China Sea (including Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan). For Japan, the move is a balancing act on all sides, in which it has to weigh up Chinese overt protest, American tacit support and deep domestic ambivalence.  [Continue reading]

By Robert AttwellCCS_Intern_Robert_4
Centre for Chinese Studies
Stellenbosch University

China-Africa co-operation: a mind shift east

CCS_Commentary_Cultural_Acceptance_TF_201416 July 2014

Within the broad process of globalisation, the economic effects of the China-Africa relationship are having affects in various other aspects of social life. For instance, in Guanzhou, in the south-west of China, there are an abundance of African students. On the Chinese television channel CCTV, there is a thirty minute program every day devoted to Africa (with a bureau in Nairobi), and the Chinese publication ChinaAfrica can be bought in  bookstores all over Africa. There are currently over thirty Confucius Institutes in Africa and the number is growing; the centres have proved popular, with reports from Nairobi University claiming its students are “hooked” on Chinese. Many students from Africa now receive scholarships to further their studies in China. The South African Department of Basic Education and its Chinese counterparts recently signed an agreement that Chinese would be taught in South African secondary schools. However, while such cultural exchanges have helped toward dispelling fears of the ethnic “other” – be they Chinese or African – there is still a long way to go before true mutual cultural acceptance can be achieved. [Continue reading]

By Tienie FourieCCS_Image_Guess_Author_Tienie_Fourie_2014
Guest Author