China in South Africa: media responses to a developing relationship


Chinese Journal of Communication
Volume 5, Issue 3, 2012

Special Issue: Media and the State: China and Beyond

China in South Africa: media responses to a developing relationship


Herman Wassermana


The formal invitation extended to South Africa by China late in 2010 to join the BRIC formation of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) may be seen as a confirmation of the growing economic ties between China and South Africa. The expanded trade between these two countries allows South Africa an opportunity to meet its development needs. For China, the interest in South Africa as an emerging market forms part of its growing interest in Africa for resources, markets, and diplomatic support. However, this involvement has not been unequivocally welcomed. While China’s growing concern in Africa is seen as an opportunity by some for the continent to grow its economies and become a stronger presence in international markets, others are concerned that the economic boost that China brings to the African continent comes with too many strings attached. These critics are concerned that China’s controversial human rights record may pose a bad example for African countries, especially when China’s domestic policies lead to neutrality over human rights abuses in African countries where it seeks to establish links with the ruling elite. Some of these critics go as far as to say that China’s involvement in Africa constitutes a new type of imperialism and a “scramble for Africa”. This paper investigates how the South African media reports on China and how this reporting compares with the reporting on other BRIC countries to establish whether the negative views by international media of China’s involvement in Africa, as noted in the academic literature, also holds true of the South African media’s general views of China’s involvement in Africa. The article aims to contextualize this reporting through a reference to the South African media landscape as itself a contested and transitional space.

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