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CACS seminar on Sino-SA relations in the UNSC

From left to right are Prof Peng Yi, Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, Dr David Monyae, Ambassador Lin Songtian, Dr Sithembile Mbete, Adv Doctor Mashabane, and a political counsellor in the Chinese Embassy. Image: The Visual Studio.

CACS seminar asks critical questions about cooperation between Sino-South African cooperation in the UN Security Council

On Thursday 16 May 2019, the UJ Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS) and the UJ Library hosted a seminar on the subject of ‘South Africa and China at the United Nations Security Council’.

Attendees at this timely gathering included UJ staff; UJ students; government officials; and Australian, Russian, British and French diplomats. Dr Essop Pahad, former Minister in the Presidency, and Aziz Pahad, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, also attended.

The speakers were Prof Tshilidzi Marwala; UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal; Prof Saurabh Sinha, UJ Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation; Amb. Lin Songtian, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa; Adv Doctor Mashabane, Chief Director: United Nations in the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO); Amb. Welile Nhlapo,  former South African Ambassador to the United States; and Dr Sithembile Mbete, lecturer in international relations at the University of Pretoria, and an expert on the UNSC.

The seminar focused on South Africa’s current two-year term (its third since the advent of democracy in 1994) as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), on which China occupies a permanent seat. The seminar provided a platform for scholars and policy-makers to reflect on previous shared terms, paint a clear picture of the present policy landscape, discuss areas of mutual interest between South Africa and China as strategic partners, and assess the outlook for collaboration on the UNSC.

In an opening address, Prof Sinha spoke about the work already done by the seven-month-old Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS), which  was launched in November 2018, as well as the importance of China to the fortunes and prospects of Africa in general and South Africa in particular. ‘There is no doubt,’ he said, ‘that China has emerged as one of the most vital players in the international arena today. It has done this at a very rapid pace. For Africa in particular, this relationship is central, with China ranking highly among Africa’s trade and investment partners, and with these figures growing by exponential rates at each year at an average rate of 20 to 40 percent each year.

‘The Africa-China relationship needs to be studied and understood from dynamic and fact-based angles. The CACS is therefore a hub and a go-to facility for knowledge on all matters related to the political economy of the Africa-China relationship in its many layers.’

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala welcomed guests to the University of Johannesburg, and spoke about the ethos of UJ as an institution that not only promotes answers, but also encourages its research staff and students to ask as many critical questions as possible.

Dr David Monyae, CACS Co-Director, gave a brief overview of the UNSC in terms of its origins and the powers vested in it by the UN Charter, and highlighted some of the pressing issues surrounding the UNSC, including the need to democratise this important body. He then welcomed the chair of the two sessions, Prof Peng Yi, Co-Director of CACS.

Adv Mashabane spoke about a range of pressing issues surounding the UNSC, including its apparent undermining by some UN member states, resulting in a declining budget. This, he argued, had major implications for Africa, notably because it was the largest recipient of peacekeeping assistance from the UNSC. In 2016, he noted, US$5-billion of the US$8 billion budget allocated to peacekeeping for that financial year was spent in Africa. He argued that, as like-minded countries, South Africa and China should utilise the time they will spend together on the UNSC to promote an ‘African agenda’. He also stated that, despite its many problems and difficulties, the UN was still a vital role player, and the next best thing to a global government capable of bringing international order.

Amb. Lin Songtian discussed the ascent of China to the UN in 1971 and the vital role played in this by African states, many of which  voted in favour of the resolution that granted China entry and removed Taiwan. He then spoke about the interconnectedness between economics and security, China’s willingness to invest in the UN security agenda, its continued intention to pursue a ‘win-win cooperation for shared development’, and also its intention to support ‘African solutions to African issues’.

Amb. Nhlapo spoke about South Africa’s place and role in the UNSC, and reviewed some of its past decisions. Perhaps the most controversial was to vote in favour of UNSC Resolution 1973, which sanctioned a blockade of Libya, leading to the invasion of that country and the removal of Muamar Gaddafi from power.

He also highlighted the need to expand the UNSC, which at present only provides two  non-permanent seats to two African countries at a time. While arguing in favour of creating two permanent seats for African countries, he cautioned that the selection and entry of those two countries was a potential point of contention, as there would be no guarantee that they would always advance the continental agenda.

Dr Mbete spoke about the differences between South Africa’s first two terms on the UNSC. These were caused by who was at the helm of South African foreign policy, along with international dynamics, including China’s status as an ‘emerging economy’, and the US presidencies of George Bush and later Barack Obama. However, she argued that American foreign policy and its policy at the UN remained intact regardless of who was in the White House, as the US would always safeguard its own interests first and foremost. She also highlighted the deep structural inequalities underpinning the council, defined by differences in alignment between the US, the UK and France compared to China and Russia, which she termed a ‘P3 vs P2’ scenario, which often put the UNSC in gridlock.

Issues raised during the question and answer session included China’s establishment of a naval base in Djibouti and its presence on the Somali coast, and whether this was accompanied by the training of those countries’ own coast guards; the role of new media in escalating the probability of future conflicts;  and the role of the UNSC in preventing nuclear proliferation.

A CACS Policy Brief about the seminar and the implications of its proceedings will be published soon.

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Seminar on SA and China at the UN Security Council

On Thursday 16 May 2019, the Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS) hosted a seminar on South Africa and China at the UN Security Council.

The speakers were Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, former South African Ambassador to the United States; Advocate Doctor Mashabane, Chief Director: United Nations in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO); and Dr Sithembile Mbethe, lecturer in International Relations at the University of Pretoria.

The seminar was chaired by Prof Peng Yi, Co-director of the UJ Confucius Institute and the CACS.

South Africa and China are serving together on the UN Security Council – China as one of five permanent members, and South Africa for its third two-year term as a non-permanent member. While they are major trading partners, their interests may not always coincide. To what extent will they collaborate, and what will be the vital enablers of cooperation? Perhaps most importantly, how will they define the African Agenda, and to what extent will they pursue this together? At this timely seminar, leading and emerging scholars explored these questions, and sought to develop cogent answers.

Concept note

South Africa and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) interact on numerous levels. Given that, since 2009, China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner, and South Africa is China’s largest trading partner in Africa, they collaborate intensively at the bilateral level.

They also interact quite closely at the multilateral level, with the leaders and representatives of both countries frequently finding themselves in the same rooms and around the same tables in forums such as FOCAC, BRICS, and the G20.

However, one of the most powerful bodies in which these two players interact, but where their cooperation cannot easily be predicted, is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This is so for two main reasons. First, while China is one of five permanent members of the Council, South Africa is one of ten non-permanent members, and its current two-year tenure (its third since 1994) will expire in 2020. Second, given the membership, status and mandate of the UNSC, its members are continually subjected to complex sets of pressures, both from within and outside the Council. This means that cooperation in the Council, even with supposed partners, is less straightforward than it may seem, and the outcomes are often contingent on particular circumstances and the sets of interests involved in particular issues.

South Africa was previously elected as a non-permanent member in 2007-2008, and again in 2011-2012. In those periods, it promoted the African Agenda, namely peace, security and development. China was a founding member of the UN in 1945, and therefore a permanent member of the UNSC. Until 1971, the seat was held by the Republic of China (Taiwan), and since then, following a General Assembly resolution, by the PRC.

Both countries have changed significantly since they last served on the UNSC together. Given this, there has been widespread speculation about what they will champion in the Council, and the extent to which they will support each other. To what extent will their interests coincide, and what will be the vital enablers of cooperation? Perhaps most importantly, how will they define the African Agenda, and to what extent will they pursue this together?

At this seminar, leading and emerging scholars will explore these questions in depth, and seek to develop cogent answers.

Suggested reading

Makgetla, Itumeleng. 2018. South Africa at the UN Security Council in 2019/20: What’s Different This Time? FAPISA. 18 September.

Monyae, David and Gibson Banda. 2018. Sino-South African Relations at Twenty: Key Lessons. UJCI Africa-China Occasional Paper Series. 2018.

Rupiya, Martin R. 2017. China’s Soft-Power Status (via UN Peacekeeping) and its Implications for the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). UJCI Africa-China Occasional Paper Series.

Van Heerden, Oscar. 2018. The reluctant Hegemon – SA’s third United Nations Security Council Seat. Daily Maverick. 13 June.

Brosig, Malte. 2018. South Africa on the UN Security Council: Priorities and challenges. Africa Portal. 20 June.

News24. 2018. US, China at odds over UN push to fund African peacekeeping. 21 November.


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Seminar on FOCAC 2018

ON Thursday 11 October 2018, the UJCI hosted a seminar on ‘The Future of Africa-China Relations: Conclusions from FOCAC 2018’.

It was aimed at unpacking the outcomes of the 2018 FOCAC summit, and examining some of the features of Africa-China relations in a changing global order. Specifically, it addressed the issue of whether China can be regarded as a genuine African bilateral and multilateral development partner. For a concept note, click here.

The seminar was open to students, faculty members and other staff at the University of Johannesburg, the broader academic community, civil society, the business community, government officials and diplomats, and interested members of the public.

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Public Dialogue on SA economic policy since 1994

On 23 July 2018, the UJCI, in collaboration with the Concerned Africans Forum and the UJ Library, hosted a Public Dialogue entitled ‘Progressive or Neo-Liberal?: South African Policy Economic Policy since 1994’.

The Dialogue was chaired by Mongane Wally Serote, Professor of Philosophy at UJ. The speakers were Dr Essop Pahad, former Minister in the South African Presidency, and Alec Erwin, former Minister of Trade and Industry.

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Seminar on Sino-African satellite cooperation

On 11 June 2018, the UJCI, in collaboration with the UJ Library, presented a seminar on ‘Satellite Cooperation: The Next Frontier of Sino-African Relations?’

The seminar was chaired by Professor Esther Akinlabi, Vice-Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Johannesburg.

The keynote speaker was Dr Zhu Ming, Research Fellow of the Centre for West Asian and African Studies of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS).

The respondent was Professor Arthur Mutambara, independent technology and strategy consultant, and a Visiting Professor of the University of Johannesburg. He is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, and former president of the African News Agency (ANA).

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Seminar on shifting Sino-American relations: implications for Africa

On Friday 11 May 2018, the UJCI, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg Library, hosted a seminar on ‘Battle of the Giants?: Shifting Sino-American Relations and Re-Globalisation: Implications for Africa’.

The event was chaired by Dr David Monyae, Co-Director, UJCI.

The keynote speakers were Prof Wang Dong, Associate Professor in the School of International Studies, and Executive Deputy Director of the Institute for China-US People to People Exchange at Peking University; and Prof Henry Sun, International Director of the Business Research Institute and Professor at the Business School, University of Chester, United Kingdom.

The discussant was Ms Sanusha Naidu, Foreign Policy Analyst.

The year 2018 will be a busy one for Sino-South African relations. First, these two countries are celebrating 20 years of formal diplomatic relations. Second, South Africa will host the 10th BRICS Summit to be held in Johannesburg on 25-27 July. As host of the Summit, South Africa will be able to set the agenda for this increasingly important alliance between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. In September, China and South Africa will co-chair the 2018 meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), to be hosted by China and held in Beijing. The Forum last met in Johannesburg in 2015.

Representatives of some 50 African countries are expected to meet with Chinese representatives to review their relations thus far and chart a way forward, following multiple changes in their domestic arrangements, including elections, re-elections and constitutional revisions on both sides.

All this will take place against the backdrop of major shifts in the international order, with many analysts now turning their attention to what Graham Allison has termed the ‘Thucydides Trap’ of an inevitable clash between the rising power of China and the United States, the global hegemon since 1945, and made more powerful by the end of the Cold War.

Most recently, in early April, 2018 a trade dispute erupted between the United States and China. Trump’s administration proposed 25 percent tariffs on $ 50 billion-worth of roughly 1,300 Chinese imports. This has invoked much debate and criticism, with some arguing that it is not so much about trade as about China’s rise as a technology power. To make sense of the above, UJCI has invited some of the best Chinese scholars to dissect this issue.

At this Public Dialogue, Professor Wang Dong of Peking University, the leading Chinese scholar on the history and development of Chinese foreign policy, will address these and many other questions, together with Professor Henry Sun, International Director of the Business Research Institute and Visiting Professor at Business School, University of Chester, United Kingdom.

Professor Dong and Professor Sun will be joined by the prominent South African Scholar Ms Sanusha Naidu, who will discuss the past, present and future of bilateral and multilateral areas of operation between African countries and China.

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Public Dialogue on SA-China Relations at Twenty

On Friday 16 March 2018, the UJCI and the Concerned Africans Forum jointly hosted a Public Dialogue on ‘South Africa–China Relations at Twenty: Key Lessons for the Next Decade’.

The keynote address was delivered by H.E. Mr. Lin Songtian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to South Africa.

The other speakers were:

  • Mr Aziz Pahad, Former South African Deputy Minister of International Relations;
  • Prof Garth Shelton, Professor of International Relations, Wits University;
  • Dr David Monyae, Co-Director, UJCI; and
  • Dr Bob Wekesa, Research Associate, China Africa Reporting Project, Wits University

This year, official relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China will reach the twenty-year milestone. At this event, leading analysts will reflect on the lessons learnt from this period, and their implications for charting the future of this vital relationship. All welcome.

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Chinese Lantern Festival 2018

On Friday 2 March 2018, the UJCI staged a Chinese Lantern Festival, which also served as an event for welcoming its new Chinese Co-Director.

The Lantern Festival is one of the most important Chinese traditional festivals. It falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month, which is also the first night of the full moon. In China, the first lunar month was once known as ‘Xiao’ or ‘Yuan’. Both of these two terms refer to the first month of a year, so this day is also known as the ‘Yan Xiao’ Festival. In the Lantern Festival, displaying lanterns is a big practice throughout China. Other performances such as a Dragon Dance or Lion Dance will be held. ‘Guessing lantern riddles’ is also an essential part of the Festival.

During the event, people make and eat ‘Yuanxiao’, a specific type of dumpling made from sticky rice with a sweet filling. All family members get gotether to share the joy of reunification, which represents the deepest meaning of this special day.

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Discussion of book by Chuma Nwokolo

On 27 November 2017, the UJCI hosted a discussion of the novel entitled The Extinction of Menai by the distinguished Nigerian writer and scholar Chuma Nwokolo. Nwokolo talked about the book, followed by a discussion.

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WuShu Performance Tour in Africa

On 26 October 2017, the UJCI hosted a performance of the WuShu Performance Tour in Africa.

The WuShu Performance Tour consists of a series of performances of Chinese Martial Arts, which tell an interesting story about the development of Chinese Martial Arts.

These performances are undertaken by teachers and students at the Martial Art College in Hebei Province, China. They depict the history of Chinese Martial Arts, and the relationship between the Chinese Martial Arts and the lives of ordinary people in a certain period of time. They also create a deeper understanding of Chinese philosophy and culture.

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