The People’s Republic of China’s “strategic partnerships” with South Africa : 1998-2013

Sithole, Abel Moffat (2015-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The emergence of the People‘s Republic of China (PRC) as an economic superpower has become one of the most significant developments in world affairs in recent times. As the PRC has grown in economic significance, it seeks to translate this to all areas of its relationship with the rest of the world. Africa and African countries are a region where the PRC‘s involvement and engagement has elicits major consternation, especially from Western countries. However, this region, relative to its geographic and population size, natural endowments, and engagement with other regions andWestern countries in particular, remains insignificant in the PRC‘s external relations. South Africa enjoys very good diplomatic relations with the PRC, disproportionate to its significance with regard to the PRC‘s quest for resource that fuels its phenomenal economic resurgence. South Africa and the PRC‘s relationship has, within a decade, grown in depth and complexity that supersedes despite major asymmetries between them. South Africa is the first developing and African country with which the PRC established a comprehensive strategic partnership. While the concept of a ‗strategic partnership‘ remains unclear in international relations, it conveys a relationship of significance and stature that supplements ordinary bilateral relationships, although the latter are better defined and binding than the former. Clearly, the Chinese government attaches great importance to its relationship with South Africa. The advent of democracy and a thriving pluralistic socio-economic and cultural society that is admired despite the challenges it faces, makes South Africa an exemplar and desirable partner. South Africa‘s international stature and role in the international system, matches the PRC‘s objectives in this regard, making South Africa a good foil for PRC. However, this study contends that there are reasons that are beyond the well-worn natural resource extraction and diplomacy arguments that make South Africa attractive to the PRC. It uses asymmetry theory of international relations to explore and elucidate this. It explores what underpins, motivates and accounts for the rapid progression of this relationship and the implications this may have on their relationship in the future This thesis uses Womack‘s (2001, 2003, 2003a, 2006, 2006a, 2010) terminology and methodology to look at how South Africa and the PRC concentrate on areas of complementarity and cooperation and seek and foster mutual understanding and appreciation of each other‘s societies and histories. The thesis explore how they work to actively convert hostility to friendship and adroitly manage the relationship to prevent it drifting from friendship to hostility, as well as using what Womack calls routinization, neutralization and diplomatic ritual, in managing their partnership. From the perspective of asymmetry theory, the PRC and South Africa are complementary. South Africa is the largest; most sophisticated, developed and diversified economy in Africa and the developing world. It possesses or has access to technical and managerial knowhow that the PRC would have difficulty accessing elsewhere. South Africa remains a strategic maritime and naval route for the PRC‘s trade and accesses to key resources on the African continent and elsewhere. The study finds that asymmetry theory is useful in understanding how South Africa and the PRC manage their relationship. Asymmetry theory provides a framework to analyse the motivations and dynamic interactions that drive the progression of their diplomatic relations. The findings of the thesis imply a diplomatic relationship between South Africa and the PRC that is based on more than just the PRC‘s need for resources and diplomatic support in the international system.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die onlangse toetrede van die VolksRepubliek van China (VRC) tot die geledere van die ekonomiese supermoondhede het een van die mees beduidende verwikkelinge in wêreldaangeleenthede geword. Soos die VRC ekonomies belangriker geword het, is gepoog om hierdie sukses te herhaal op ander terreine van die land se buitelandse betrekkinge met die res van die wêreld. Afrika en Afrika lande is ‗n streek waar die VRC se betrokkenheid en verbindnisse groot konsternasie ontlok het, veral vanaf Westerse lande. Maar hierdie streek, relatief tot sy geografiese en demografiese grootte, natuurlike hulpbronne en betrokkenheid by ander streke en veral Westerse lande, bly onbeduidend in die VRC se buitelandse betrekkinge. Die aandag wat Suid Afrika van die VRC geniet is disproporsioneel in vergelyking met die belang van die VRC se soeke na hulpbronne om haar fenomenale ekonomiese groei te stook. Die verhoudinge tussen Suid-Afrika en die VRC het in die bestek van ‗n dekade gegroei in diepte en kompleksiteit wat als oorskadu ten spyte van groot ongelykhede tussen hulle. Suid- Afrika is die eerste ontwikkelende land met wie die VRC ‗n omvattende strategiese vennootskap gesluit het. Terwyl die konsep van ‗n ‗strategiese vennootskap‘ onduidelik bly in internasionale betrekkinge, vergestalt dit betrekinge van beduidenis en statuur wat gewone bilatirale betrekkinge aanvul, alhoewel laasgenoemde beter gedefinieer en bindend is as eersgenoemde. Dit is duidelik dat die Chinese regering groot belang heg aan betrekkinge met Suid-Afrika Die oorgang na demokrasie en ‗n florerende plurale sosio-ekonomiese kulturele samelewing wat bewonder word ten spyte van die uitdagings wat dit in die gesig staar, maak van Suid- Afrika ‗n navolgingswaardige en wenslike vennoot. Suid-Afrika se internasionale statuur en rol in die internasionale stelsel pas die VRC se doelwitte in hierdie opsig en maak van Suid- Afrika ‗n goeie skerm floret vir die VRC. Maar, hierdie tesis betoog dat daar ook ander redes is buiten die wel bekende natuurlike hulpbron onttrekking en diplomatieke argumente wat Suid-Afrika vir die VRC aantreklik sou maak. Womack se ongelykheidsteorie in internasionale betrekkinge word gebruik om dit te ondersoek en toe te lig. Ongelykheidsteorie is nog nie voorheen in studies oor hierdie betrekkinge gebruik nie. Hierdie tesis verskaf dus ‗n belangrike alternatiewe metode om hierdie betrekkinge te bestudeer. Die tesis ondersoek Suid-Afrika en die VRC se betrekkinge na aanleiding van Womack (2001, 2003, 2003a, 2006, 2006a, 2010) se terminologie en metodologie en fokus op gebiede waar die twee lande mekaar komplimenteer en kan saamwerk; wedersydse verstaan van, en waardering vir, mekaar se mense en geskiedenisse kan koester; om aktief vyandigheid te omskep in vriendskap en om verhoudings so bedrewe te bestuur dat vriendskap nie in vyhandigheid verander nie; en om ook wat Womack roetiene, neutraliteit en diplomatieke ritueel noem te gebruik in die bestuur van hul vennootskap. Deur die lens van ongelykheidsteorie kyk die tesis na wat die vinnige progressie wat hierdie betrekkinge onderskraag, motiveer en verklaar. Vanuit die perspektief van ongelykheidsteorie vind die VRC Suid-Afrika komplimenterend. Dit is die grootste, mees gesofistikeerde, ontwikkelde en gediversifiseerde ekonomie in Afrika en die ontwikkelende wêreld. Dit besit of het toegang tot tegniese en bestuurskennis wat die VRC moeilik elders toegang toe sou kon kry. Suid-Afrika bly ‗n strategiese maritime en vloot roete vir VRC handel en toegang tot sleutel hulpbronne op die Afrika kontinent en elders. Een van die bevindings van die studie is dat ongelykheidsteorie ‗n nuttige metode is om die bestuur van die verhouding tussen Suid-Afrika en die VRC te verstaan. Dit verskaf ‗n raamwerk vir die analise van die motiverings en dinamiese interaksies wat die vordering van hul diplomatieke betrekkinge bepaal. Die bevindings van die tesis impliseer dat die diplomatieke betrekkinge tussen Suid-Afrika en die VRC nie net op die VRC se behoefte aan bronne en diplomatieke steun in die internasionale stelsel gebaseer is nie.

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