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  • South Africa signs 93 economic and trade deals with China

  • Worth over $1.7 billion dollars

  • China is South Africa's biggest trading partner and biggest investor

  • But South Africa's deepening ties with China have other consequences

  • Welcome back to China Uncensored.

  • I'm Chris Chappell.

  • China has been cozying up to South Africa for a long time.

  • But like just about everything in life,

  • that chummy economic and trade relationship

  • has unforeseen consequences.

  • And to take viewers on a deeper dive into

  • China's growing presence in South Africa is Shelley Zhang,

  • who traveled to Johannesburg.

  • Thanks Chris.

  • As soon as I landed in South Africa,

  • signs of China-Africa cooperation were everywhere.

  • Since 2010, China has been South Africa's biggest trade partner.

  • Now, China is also South Africa's single biggest investor.

  • China clearly sees South Africa,

  • with its development, infrastructure, and location,

  • as a gateway to the rest of the continent.

  • And the two countries are in the middle

  • of a pretty intense honeymoon period.

  • But there are already signs that the relationship could easily go sour.

  • In June 2019, China and South Africa signed

  • 93 economic and trade cooperation deals

  • worth 1.7 billion dollars.

  • That was also when Chinese leader Xi Jinping

  • and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa met during

  • the G20 summit in Japan.

  • And the South African president...

  • grabbed Xi Jinping's chest while Putin looked on?

  • What is going on here?

  • Please don't tell me.

  • But it's clear that Xi and Ramaphosa have a connection.

  • I mean, Xi Jinping looks...almost happy.

  • Maybe that's because he knows that President Ramaphosa,

  • and his political party, the ANC,

  • are strong supporters of the Chinese Communist Party.

  • In fact, back in 2015,

  • the ANC called the Chinese Communist Party

  • a “guiding lodestarfor the ANC

  • because of their economic reforms in China.

  • And the support goes both ways.

  • China's ambassador to South Africa said that

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa is the last hope of this country.”

  • That's in reference to Ramaphosa's drive

  • to bring in 100 billion dollars of new investment

  • to lift South Africa's economy out of a slump.

  • And most of what they've raised so far is from

  • you guessed itChina!

  • Like the $2.5 billion loan to the heavily indebted

  • state-owned power company Eskom.

  • But a big focus for the two countries is trade.

  • Like those 93 trade agreements I mentioned earlier.

  • One thing these deals are supposed to do is to fix

  • a trade imbalance between the two countries.

  • Currently, 85% of what China buys from South Africa

  • are minerals and metals.

  • T

  • hey're sucking up South Africa's natural resources.

  • And what does China sell to South Africa?

  • Manufactured goods.

  • Like here at Johannesburg's China Mall.

  • Or at Oriental Plaza...

  • ...where you can get a bargain on China Green tea,

  • or communist Che Guevera shirts

  • or random cookware.

  • I'm not a big fan.

  • While this is great for China,

  • it's less great for South Africa,

  • since cheap imports can affect local industries.

  • That's a structural imbalance

  • that South Africa's trade minister wants to reset.

  • Most of the imported goods at places like China Mall

  • are from small mom-and-pop businesses.

  • There are around half a million Chinese people in South Africa.

  • At first, most immigrants were actually Taiwanese.

  • They came from Taiwan in the 1970s and 80s,

  • when South Africa had an official relationship with Taiwan.

  • Then starting 20 years ago,

  • they were replaced by economic migrants from mainland China.

  • Now, these small-mom-and-pop importers are leaving.

  • I talked to several who told me business isn't what it used to be.

  • But as these small Chinese entrepreneurs leave,

  • they're being replaced by...the Chinese state.

  • That is, huge Chinese state-owned enterprises,

  • and big businesses supported by the state.

  • Which is why South Africa is getting its 5G infrastructure from

  • you guessed itHuawei.

  • The...other Huawei.

  • Another example is state-owned Beijing Automotive Industrial Corporation's

  • new auto assembly plant in Port Elizabeth.

  • The company, known by its acronym BAIC,

  • is supposed to source around 30% of auto components from local companies.

  • Does the auto manufacturing benefit South Africa?

  • Sure.

  • "And it's beginning already now to make a difference

  • to the employment situation of young people."

  • But the auto plant, which can source the remaining

  • 70% of car components from outside of South Africa,

  • could provide outsized benefits for China.

  • "Where a Chinese company partners with a South African company

  • and manufactures here in South Africa,

  • a great opportunity is presented to export duty free

  • into the rest of the African continent,

  • into the European Union, and into the United States,

  • through our favorable trade agreements.”

  • So basically, Chinese companies can exploit South Africa's

  • free or near-free market access to flood the rest of the continent,

  • as well as Europe and the US,

  • with cheap cars that could be assembled mostly from parts made in China.

  • But it's not just about trade and investment.

  • China and South Africa are also cooperating, along with Russia,

  • on military exercises.

  • Part of the PLA's goal to develop a blue-water navy.

  • And South African police are also being trained in China.

  • But perhaps the biggest potential problem

  • with South Africa's growing ties to China

  • is political influence by the Chinese Communist Party.

  • Like when South Africa's president recently came out in defense of Huawei.

  • And he blasted the US as backwards-thinking and jealous

  • in its fight against the company.

  • The United States is unable to imagine a better future

  • that goes beyond 4 plus one G.

  • They are unable to imagine what 5G can offer...

  • They are jealous that a Chinese company called Huawei

  • has outstripped them.”

  • So clearly, South Africa doesn't share America's security concerns.

  • Meanwhile, back in 2017,

  • the South African Minister of Public Service and Administration

  • lavished praise on Xi Jinping's book on socialism for a new era

  • and called him "the most powerful leader on earth

  • and also veryhumble”.

  • "President Xi Jinping's words surpass in value

  • even the most the precious of metals.”

  • I guess that's why South Africa is giving its precious metals to China,

  • in exchange for Xi Jinping's very valuable words.

  • Now it's interesting that if you look for information

  • on China and South Africa's relationship,

  • you don't find that many critical opinions.

  • Maybe that's because they're still on their honeymoon,

  • so everything's still going well.

  • Or maybe it's because China is buying African media's silence.

  • A columnist at a South African paper was fired

  • after writing an opinion piece about the Uyghurs,

  • the Turkic Muslim minority being put in concentration camps in China.

  • Turns out the media company was partly owned

  • by Chinese state-linked investors.

  • Or this.

  • “A scholar at a South African university

  • was told that he would not receive a visa to enter China

  • until his classroom lectures contain more praise for Beijing.”

  • And here's my own experience.

  • As I was planning my trip to South Africa,

  • I tried to set up an interview with a local expert

  • on China South Africa relations.

  • Like I did in Greece, and Italy.

  • Strangely, I couldn't find anyone who wanted to talk to me.

  • In fact, I was even ghosted a few times.

  • And then I found out that right after my trip,

  • one of the biggest universities in Johannesburg

  • was hosting a conference on China.

  • Sponsored by the university's Confucius Institute.

  • Suddenly, many things became clear.

  • Like I said earlier,

  • China and South Africa are still in their honeymoon stage.

  • We'll have to keep watching to see what happens next.

  • Thanks, Shelley.

  • So what do you think about China's growing ties with South Africa?

  • Leave your comments below.

  • Once again, I'm Chris Chappell.

  • Thanks for watching China Uncensored.

South Africa signs 93 economic and trade deals with China

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The Dark Side of China’s Deep Ties With South Africa

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    zijun su posted on 2021/06/02
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