China and South Africa offer beacons of hope, writes UJ’s Dr David Monyae

David Monyae.

Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University Of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece entitled ” China and South Africa offer beacons of hope“, published on China Daily Africa, 5 May 2017.

When Vice-Premier Liu Yandong led a large delegation to South Africa for the second session of the China-South Africa high-level dialogue in Pretoria on April 25, the concepts of Ubuntu and a community of shared future informed many of the deliberations on matters of culture, education, communications, health, science and technology, sports, tourism, youth and women.

China’s Two Centenary Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and First 10-Year Implementation Plan show that Africa as a whole can successfully link its current development trajectories with that of China.

Win-win cooperation, exchanges and mutual learning opportunities between Chinese and African people, given our shared history and common developmental goals, are therefore unlimited. South Africa, at the bilateral as well as African Union Commission and regional economic communities’ level, has shown the willingness to cooperate with China.

Given the current global challenges, including armed conflicts, economic hardships and climate change, it is crucial for African and Chinese people to combine their efforts to confront these challenges. In a post-colonial era where global institutions’ architecture favors former imperial and colonial states, the people of the South should again unite to correct these inequalities. The realization of a prosperous, democratic and harmonious society in Africa and China depends on this.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1998, our countries’ relations have become a benchmark for South-South relations. South Africa and China enjoy a strategic comprehensive partnership that can be felt in different spheres of South African and Chinese people’s lives. China remains South Africa’s top trading partner and continues to give the country enormous support. The special economic zones established throughout South Africa showcase China’s efforts to promote economic growth for South Africa.

The Southern African Development Community’s Industrialization Strategy should be a focal point in enhancing cooperation through increased trade, investment and science and technology for mutual benefit in the context of the Africa-China Plan of Action. South Africa is a key player in the SADC, accounting for more than 60 percent of the SADC’s total trade and about 70 percent of its GDP. China-South Africa relations therefore will be felt beyond South Africa’s borders.

At this important time, it is fitting to mention that Africa is celebrating its youth population this year, which is the African Union’s Year of the Young people. This is an area in which South Africa and China can further strengthen their relations by exchanging youth cooperation. Youth are the custodians of our cooperation and will safeguard the institutional memory of organizations. I call for South Africa and China to revitalize youth engagements. More can be done to link South African and Chinese youth at our leading universities and in sports and cultural exchanges.

Unfortunately, African youth account for 60 percent of the unemployed population. With more than 200 million between the ages of 15 and 24, the continent has an abundance of human resources. The AU’s 2017 theme of “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth” speaks to the common agenda of guaranteeing our youth full access to education, training, skills and technology, jobs and economic opportunities. South Africa welcomes China’s efforts in supporting our youth through full scholarships and skills development programs. Common in our African cultures is a proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We live in a global village, given the interconnection of our lives.

On a continental level, the Forum for China Africa Cooperation illustrates Beijing’s commitment to African development. South Africa currently co-chairs the FOCAC, a prestigious platform where Sino-African relations continue to grow. What makes Beijing important to all of Africa is that it is not imposing on African states. African solutions to African problems are a well-respected unwritten code that can be felt in China’s support to Africa. China was there when we fought against colonialism and won independence and liberation, and it has been here as African nations have pursued development and better lives for our people.

Given our current cooperation, we are guaranteed that China will be there in 2063 when we celebrate Agenda 2063’s peaceful and prosperous Africa. How can we forget our friend’s efforts to help end the Ebola epidemic, the true embodiment of an all-weather friendship?

Given our shared of history of humiliation, imperialism and colonialism, African and Chinese people should hold hands to end injustices globally. South Africa and China cooperate at the G20, the BRICS, the G77 and other platforms with the common aim of attaining a fair world order. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals are an important rallying point where we can lift our people from poverty. Unequal development, governance challenges and the digital divide are among areas in which South Africa and China should cooperate to make this world a better place for our people.

At the United Nations, South Africa wishes to call for fair representation on the Security Council. In the post-1945 global world order, much has changed, and developing countries need to have more than a General Assembly vote. Peace and development in the world can only be secured if the international rule of law is promoted. China and South Africa have proved to be leaders in upholding international law standards, and we should therefore cooperate in using our “soft power” as beacons of hope. Our quest for meaningful development will fail if the rule of law, which guarantees stability, is not upheld.

Monyae is a political analyst and co-director at the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute.

*The views expressed in the article is that of the author/s and does not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg

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