Anti-West sentiments within the ruling party are no longer just bluffs as the ANC has made their foreign policy official, declaring their support for China as an “example of the triumph of humanity over adversity.” Their opposition to the West (notably: the USA) has been cemented as they blame them for perpetuating “Cold War” aggression towards both Russia and China.

This decision comes in the wake of a potential global economic crisis spurred by China. ANC foreign policy makers have shown their support of China by stating that they wish to emulate the nation’s development strategies.

It is pretty obvious that the ANC is wishing to go back to its ideological roots, but what does this mean for South Africa? The following is a list of 10 basic reasons why this new foreign policy is a bad idea.

1.      China is an unfair competitor

China has a massive labour force and has become a veritable capital of global manufacturing. The vast majority of consumer goods in South Africa (and much of the world) are made in China. Typically, access to cheap goods is good for the consumer and for start-up businesses, but a myriad of factors have disallowed these benefits in South Africa and have, instead, exacerbated the dangers of foreign trade.

Draconian labour regulations restrict South African employment while China’s (allegedly) Communist government provides no such thing. Seldom enforced minimum wages, pensions and safe working conditions are a privilege in China. When faced with our restricted labour force, local companies cannot compete with the cheap “slave”-produced goods of China.

Chinese imports have already destroyed both our textile and steel industry. In a developing country such as our own, which should rely on manufacturing, we cannot afford to lose industries and potential employers to China.

It is not usual for Libertarians to advocate protectionism but, in the case of China, it is not only pragmatic but justified to place restrictions on a nation which has no respect for fair trade.

2.      China and Russia’s abhorrent Human Rights record

In this March 26, 2012 file photo, Tibetan exile Jamphel Yeshi screams as he runs engulfed in flames after setting himself on fire at a protest in New Delhi, India, against Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India. Yeshi died two days later while hundreds of other activists were being held without charge before the president's arrival. Hu arrived in New Delhi for a summit with India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)
In this March 26, 2012 file photo, Tibetan exile Jamphel Yeshi screams as he runs engulfed in flames after setting himself on fire at a protest in New Delhi, India, against Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India. Yeshi died two days later while hundreds of other activists were being held without charge before the president’s arrival. Hu arrived in New Delhi for a summit with India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

In addition to an almost non-existent respect for workers’ rights, China also has a record of disregarding individual rights, self-determination and the lives of its citizens.

Human Rights Watch heavily condemns China’s human rights record. Chinese citizens’ internet access is severely restricted by the “Great Firewall of China”, Tibetan independence is constantly repressed and political dissidents are systematically eliminated. Above this, the events of the Tiananmen Square massacre are still repressed.

The ANC have ignored Tiananmen Square as a valid example of human rights abuse, calling it a deception by the West to aid counter-revolutionary sentiments. Last time I checked, revolutions were anti-government but, seeing the ANC’s previous track record of competence, I wouldn’t put it past them to misunderstand the meaning of “revolutionary.”

Furthermore Russia is not much better, with policies to oppress and even kill political dissidents, LGBT groups and anyone perceived to be against the interests of the Putin regime.

3.      China and Russia have no regard for our interests

Despite our membership in BRICS, and Chinese promises, it is a stretch to really think that China and Russia have any regard for South Africa above their own potential profit. The ANC leadership is only working together with the two Authoritarian states due to some misguided ideological reasons or the more likely case of bribes and kick-backs.

China has allegedly promised to aid South Africa’s industrial development and improve our governance. Seeing that China benefits from our lack of industry and that the ANC would never truly enter into a deal which could eliminate corruption, it is reasonable to state that this is mere hot air.

The Russian Nuclear Deal has already been condemned by even Russian activists as a mere attempt by Russia’s corrupt nuclear industry to make South Africa reliant on Russian supplies. The deal itself, overall, is too expensive for South Africa and exclusively benefits Russia and the ANC elite.

4.      China’s economy isn’t doing too well

KWN-Fleckenstein-762015We are facing a potential economic crisis due to China’s actions. Their irresponsible and deceitful economic practices have led to a burst bubble as China’s demand for commodities shrinks in the wake of a stock market crash which has spread economic contagion across world markets.

If a strong economic partner was in South Africa’s interest, then China is definitely not the right ally. Their demand for commodity imports (such as we provide) is no longer sufficient and increased interdependency will only lead to further devaluation of the Rand.

5.      Europe is a better market for our goods

The West, most notably Europe, has been and will continue to be, our biggest and most reliable market for goods. They aren’t flooding our markets with cheap, local industry destroying goods and they purchase a wide variety of our locally produced goods and commodities.

DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, is correct in condemning this prioritisation of Eastern trade when our best customers are in the north.

In contrast, China is no longer buying commodities on mass and Russia has never been so-inclined to purchase our goods on mass being only our 35th largest trading partner. In volume, China is our biggest trade partner, but as mentioned earlier, this is at a far greater cost than if we were to focus on western trade.

Even if some may argue that China has, in the past, been a better consumer of raw materials, we should be encouraging more manufacturing industries – a goal which is unachievable with Chinese competition.

6.      Not the best time to emulate them

Despite ANC claims that China is an excellent model for growth, empirical evidence shows that Chinese successes are greatly exaggerated while the nation is actually severely suffering after a burst bubble and constant market manipulations.

It is not unexpected for the ANC to be ignorant of what economic growth actually means, with Deputy President Ramaphosa making statements that South Africa’s economy is growing.

What emulation of China will mean is increased failure to grow while being unable to hide that fact without the subterfuge of Chinese officials and the power of China’s human capital.

7.      Neutrality is a better option

1433866091995Thomas Jefferson spoke sense when he said: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations…entangling alliances with none” – and as such, we should have followed where his nation did not.

We are not a militarily-inclined nation, no matter how much some want to change that. We don’t need to be a part of any defensive pacts or pick sides in conflicts, cold or hot. In fact, doing so is detrimental. We lose potential trade partners, we alienate previous friendly nations and we make a fool of ourselves.

To use the cliché, we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket. With the global economy in constant flux, we should become as independent as possible. This means entering into non-entangling free trade.

This was Mandela’s intention when, in 1993, he declared that South Africa should remain neutral, internationally friendly and focus its global mandate along humanitarian lines.

In all those regards, we have failed.

8.      A further disrespect of international law and human rights

Demonstrators gather outside the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, to protest against Russian intervention in Ukraine Monday, March 3, 2014. The U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow and whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia's military advances on Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
Demonstrators gather outside the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, to protest against Russian intervention in Ukraine Monday, March 3, 2014. The U.S. and its allies are weighing sanctions on Moscow and whether to bolster defenses in Europe in response to Russia’s military advances on Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

South Africa already has a record of disrespecting international law and allowing human rights abuses to go unchecked. This is coupled with the ANC’s recent statements that South Africa may be leaving the International Criminal Court. This is due to the ‘pro-western’ sentiments of the organisation.

If the ICC and human rights are Western, and the ANC is outspokenly anti-Western, then South Africa’s new foreign policy will mean even less respect for international law.

Russia has a long history of flouting international law in the region and the world. On an ethical level, both China and Russia constantly use their UN Security Council privilege to veto potentially pro-human rights actions. From a more legal perspective, both China and Russia have yet to acknowledge the legitimacy of the ICC – making their politicians veritably immune to international persecution.

9.      China can only teach us things we don’t want to know

ANC officials, such as Ramaphosa, have been visiting and ‘learning’ from China. This does not bode well for freedom, as the only reasonable knowledge China could be willing to part with is the potential repression of our citizenry.

Bills such as the Protection of Information Bill and the new Internet publishing bill are examples of this unwanted knowledge. Both of these laws have little chance of actually being functional in South Africa, as our enforcement agencies fail to even solve normal crimes, as opposed to China which is an expert at repressing its citizens. Ramaphosa could very well be learning repression tactics rather than economics lessons.

10.  We tried to end Colonialism

"Tank Man" temporarily stops the advance of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing, in what is widely considered one of the iconic images of the 20th century.[1][2][3] This photograph (one of four similar versions) was taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press.
“Tank Man” temporarily stops the advance of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing, in what is widely considered one of the iconic images of the 20th century.[1][2][3] This photograph (one of four similar versions) was taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press.
It seems to be a constant fear that Africa is being recolonised in the form of “neo-colonialism.” The fact of the matter is that it may very well be, just not by the West but rather by China.

China is pumping billions into Africa but don’t confuse this for altruism. With every development project and financial package, China gains more and more economic control over Africa. And if the Chinese people are anything to go by, the African people will not see a cent from their new bosses.

It’s not just economic control, though. South Africa has already capitulated to Chinese political or diplomatic control, refusing to allow the entry of the Dalai Lama. It doesn’t stop there. Mandarin is to be taught in schools, further entrenching the idea of who our new cultural leader will be.

Conclusion

If the ANC had the best intentions of the country in mind, rather than their personal agendas and outdated ideologies, then they would be taking a neutral trade stance with a focus on western rather than Chinese trade.

China has an obvious “neo-colonial” agenda and has already violated our sovereignty. These aren’t the types of allies we want.

If we were to take a foreign policy which benefited South Africa, it would be protectionism against China, not support. China cheats and cheaters should get sanctioned. Only through this can we start rejuvenating our dead manufacturing industry and economy as a whole.

 

 

Nicholas Woode-Smith is co-founder of the Rational Standard and its Technical and Marketing Director. He is a student at the University of Cape Town, with majors in Politics, Philosophy and Economic History. He is the youngest council member of the Institute of Race Relations in history and the Regional Director of Southern Africa for African Students For Liberty. He also writes science fiction – prominently, the Warpmancer and Cape Zero series.