Tensions between Africa`s greatest allies

Dr David Monyae is Director of the Centre for Africa China Studies at the University of Johannesburg. He recently penned an opinion article published in The Star on 01 July 2020.

Two significant events related to China and India have placed the Global South in general and Africa in particular in a predicament. In mid-June these countries were involved in a bloody clash leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unknown number on the Chinese side in Galwan Valley alongside the disputed border. In an unprecedented move India this week banned 59 popular Chinese mobile apps including TikTok WeChat UC Browser Shareit and Baidu Map. If unresolved the worsening tensions will make an irreparable dent in the Global South s quest for the transformation of the institutions of global governance. More importantly these tensions have the potential to reverse the economic gains made in Beijing and New Delhi.

Although it remains unlikely the conflict between these nuclear powers stands to destabilise global peace and security. Africa and the rest of the Global South find it hard to take sides as Beijing and New Delhi are important allies. At this juncture Washington appears to be the main beneficiary of the conflict. Since Barack Obama s pivot to Asia Washington has been drawing New Delhi to its side in a move to limit China’s rise.

In recent times Washington has been moving military hardware near China in the South China Sea. It has furthermore intensified a trade war selling arms to Taiwan interfering in Hong Kong Tibet and the Xinjiang province. As it stands Beijing is under siege as Washington’s hand appears in almost all issues it faces with its neighbours. In such a situation minor border skirmishes such as the one in the Galwan Valley could lead to miscalculations on both sides ending in a war. India s Prime Minister Narendra Modi like US President Donald Trump has diverted global attention from his own mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and the ill treatment of the Muslim minority by focusing the nation on China.

There is an ill conceived idea in New Delhi that India will benefit from the current tensions between Washington and Beijing. It is expected that global companies will relocate from China to India in the wake of the trade war and the coronavirus pandemic. Although liberal democracy gives India an advantage over other countries in the region to become a hub in the value chain Vietnam a communist country appears to be the most preferred country by these companies. What will be the implications of these tensions for BRICS (Brazil Russia India China South Africa) and Africa?

Since the Bandung conference of 1955 China and India played a critical role in the fight against colonialism and apartheid. As the largest developing countries with more than 1 billion people each China and India rallied the Global South in demanding the transformation of the post- World War II world order. India s pivot to Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (US India Japan Australia) Global North alliance will fundamentally dilute BRICS and significantly weakens its ability to push for a change of the current global order. China and India constitute a large portion of Africa s trade. Tensions between Africa s greatest allies should and must be resolved peacefully.

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

dr david monyae
Dr David Monyae: Director of the Centre for Africa China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.
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