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A critical analysis of South Africa’s relations with China.

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Abstract There has been a lot of speculation in terms of the bilateral relations between China and South Africa. China has been seen regarded as a rising power within the international system that is even changing the world order and challenging the United States of America as a global hegemony. With the Asian country’s fast growing economy, it has had to go out in search of new markets and also secure natural resources to maintain their economic growth. South Africa has been identified as one of the most developed countries in Africa and the Sino-South African partnership has always worked in favor of China. China has had open access to South Africa’s natural resource, market and China is also able to generate foreign investment from the country. China has never colonized Africa and through its soft power mechanisms it has been able to convince countries such as South Africa that it is better to do business with China than the West. Critics such as Krauss and Bradsher (2015) are concerned that China’s controversial human rights record may pose a bad example for African countries and this has been considered as one of the primary effects of doing business with China. Other identifiable effects of the Sino-African business relationship also include corruption which takes the guise of a noninterference policy, exploitation of resources within South Africa and also interference within bureaucratic issues have managed to prove that China has managed in some way to control South Africa’s internal affairs. This research seeks to critically explore the bilateral relations between China and South Africa. By employing a fusion of the Dependency theory and neocolonialism as a conceptual framework, the study aims to show that China is a colonizer in South Africa. Through neocolonialism China has been able to control South Africa by using mechanism of soft power and these tactics are causing the African country to depend more and more on the Asian country. Overcoming apartheid indeed proved to be a big milestone for South Africa as it exposed the country international platforms which it had not been capable of before. Although South Africa recognizes its sufficient role as a game changer within the China-Africa bilateral relations, the country however has proven to have very little capacity capable of dictating how to conduct a relationship that is beneficial to her. A lack of bargaining power linked to issues such as economic standing and the status of being a third-world country plays a crucial role in limitingSouth Africa’s influence as there are still negative connotations associated with the continent. Africa’s self-developmental ambitions through organizations such as NEPAD seem to be a farfetched dream that the continent can only hope for. The frailty of South Africa stands as an obstacle in the country’s efforts in going against the global norm of attaining development on its own and this could result in further isolating the country from the international system. Both the USA and China have used the opportunity of South Africa being a gate opener to the rest of Africa to their advantage and either seems to be better than the other. As such expansion of relations between China and South Africa promote the trend of going against global norms set out by the west has become increasingly popular, such as violation of workers’ rights and putting economic drive before the needs of the people. Unlike China the game of chasing economic emancipation before respecting and adhering to global norms has undoubtedly worked against the African country as it fails to match up to the capabilities of China.


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.