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South Africa’s relations with China and Taiwan: Economic realism and the ‘One China’ doctrine

Anthony, Ross ; Grimm, Sven ; Kim, Yejoo (2013-11)

Citation: Anthony, Ross, Grimm, Sven, Kim, Yejoo. 2013. South Africa's relations with China and Taiwan: Economic realism and the 'one China' doctrine. CCS Policy Briefing, November 2013. Stellenbosch University, Centre for Chinese Studies.

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In 1998, after the fall of apartheid, South Africa commenced diplomatic relations with the People’s Re-public of China (PRC). This ‘normalisation’ of South Africa’s China policy came with a condition to recognise Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy proclaiming Taiwan an inalienable part of China. At the heart of the relationship between South Africa, China and Taiwan exists an economic pragmatism which exists in tandem with a policy of diplomatic isolationism. Nevertheless, while trade with Taiwan has continued, South Africa has been loath to strengthen the relationship, in part due to a fear of alienating its relationship with China. Given that relations with China have steeply increased in importance, cautious behaviour of the South African government is reasonable. However, in the case of economic diplomacy towards Taiwan, South Africa appears to not use available policy space. This can be seen as reflective of a South African foreign policy accused of being beholden to China.

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