SA is settling for crumbs from China, say experts

2014-12-07 15:00

Analysts say South Africa should stop being satisfied with crumbs and start applying pressure for greater benefits from its relationship with China.

President Jacob Zuma yesterday returned from China bearing an honorary professorship and a string of signed memorandums.

The purpose of the visit was to strengthen trade relations with China, South Africa’s largest trade partner, and to improve the trade balance, which is heavily in China’s favour, so that South Africa can derive greater economic benefits.

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed President Zuma to China and described South Africa as China’s “strategic partner in Africa”.

“We are good friends and good brothers, to our mutual benefit,” he said. But figures show the benefit is far from mutual.

Last year, South Africa imported goods worth R154?billion from China, but only exported R116?billion worth of goods to that country.

Ross Anthony, acting director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University, said it was high time South Africa stood up to China.

“On the whole, South Africa must really be proactive to get more out of its relationship with China. It looks as if South Africa just takes what it gets and is satisfied with that,” said Anthony.

“South Africa doesn’t exert any pressure to find out how much influence it has in the relationship.”

President Zuma was accompanied on the trip by his first wife, Sizakele Zuma; International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe; Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene; Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies; Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa; Transport Minister Dipuo Peters; and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

Business leaders from 100 South African companies also accompanied them.

Yunus Hoosen, acting deputy director-general of trade and industry, said they included SA Airways, the Airports Company SA, Transnet, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Industrial Development Corporation.

Hoosen would not reveal the name of other companies, saying this was “confidential”.

Dr Iqbal Survé, CEO of Sekunjalo, announced that he was on the trip and signed a partnership with TV channel CCTV in China during the visit.

President Zuma’s visit to China comes less than a month after riot police intervened in the National Assembly to remove an Economic Freedom Fighters MP during a discussion about a $10?billion (R114 billion) project from which China can benefit immensely.

The China Three Gorges Corporation and Sinohydro Corporation are among only three developers worldwide from which the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will choose to build the Grand Inga hydropower project.

South Africa plans to contribute about R140?billion to this project, with a long-term agreement to use 12?000 megawatts of the 40?000MW that will be generated.

A treaty between South Africa and the DRC was accepted on November 13 after a discussion in the National Assembly.

City Press reported in August that the ANC was poised to receive funding from the Chinese Communist Party to establish a political school on a farm in North West.

Tian Xuejun, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, met ANC leaders in August to discuss the financing of the project.

However, the ANC is very secretive about what is involved in its friendship with the Chinese Communist Party and how it benefits both parties.

Political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki said although South Africa imported more from China than it exported, the relationship between the countries would benefit South Africa because China was buying South Africa’s minerals. “However, what the ANC is getting [out of the relationship with China] is being kept secret.”

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