Africa must strengthen relations with China


By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

Recently a round table session was held to look closer into Africa-China relations.

And according to thought-leaders on trade and investment policy it may be time to review the outdated notion that Chinese investment in Africa comes from a fire-breathing super-beast.

‘We’re not interested in being a superpower, and we’re not interested in influencing African politics’ – that was the message of the Chinese delegation at a roundtable discussion hosted recently by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB).

History confirnms that China is known for policies of rapid economic expansion, growing military strength and increasing international influence through foreign trade and political co-operation.

And in the past, China’s exponential influence has provoked suspicion from established powerbases and many countries on the African continent.

It is here in South Africa that one of the key features of China’s open trade policy is most evident – its eagerness to establish trade relations with developing nations.

While large-scale investments in Africa have resulted in China emerging as the continent’s largest trade partner.

Typically, these relations have included advancing much-needed infrastructural support, often in the form of roads to countries in exchange for trade concessions and agreements involving natural resources.

As for the natural resource-rich but infrastructure-poor African countries, this often comes as a boon. But, critics have been asking, at what long-term cost?

Ma Zhengang former Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom,has said: “There are “all kinds of rumours about China’s behaviour, but ultimately people need to develop a better understanding of China’s real aims and Chinese people should have a better understanding, both of the rest of the world and of its own role in that world,” said former Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom.

While Professor Mills Soko, the GSB specialist in international trade and foreign investment in Africa, who chaired the discussion with Ma, warned: “Very often what we hear about the Chinese economy is from people who are not Chinese.”

Commenting about the roundtable, Soko said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to have a robust and meaningful dialogue about issues that affect us all.”

Professor Wang Yong, Director of the Centre of Political Economy at Peking University: “It is only by globalising that China can develop.”

Yong further explained that: “China is not aiming to overthrow current systems of emerging economies, but rather to work with them, help them with reform and to restore their credibility.”

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