The Voice of America Chinese service asked me to comment today on the three-day visit to South Africa by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
I explained that this was a follow-up to the visit earlier this year to China by South African President Jacob Zuma, who took a delegation of 13 cabinet ministers and 370 business representatives with him.
The two countries on that occasion signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” that outlined 38 bilateral cooperation agreements. The visit is an effort to continue the strategic partnership and underscores the strong ties between China and South Africa.
When asked to comment on China’s overall interaction with Africa, I noted that China brings more positive than negative qualities to the relationship. China serves as an important alternative trade partner and source of investment and aid for African countries.
The most negative aspect of the relationship concerns the trade relationship. China buys mostly oil and minerals from Africa, while it sells primarily value added manufactured goods which often undercut products manufactured in Africa.
Much of the African textile industry, for example, has had to shut down because of cheaper imports from countries such as China, India and Pakistan. There are also cases where Chinese companies have not paid sufficient attention to worker safety and local labor laws. China appears, however, to be aware of these concerns and is trying to do better.
Photo: Xi Jinping in New Zealand last June. Creative commons licensed on Flickr by user nznationalparty.Photo credit: Luci Harrison Photography.