Implications of the economic partnership agreement between China and southern African countries

By Takudzwa Chikotora. Student of MSc International Trade and Diplomacy at the University of Zimbabwe.

Undoubtedly China has been considered as an emerging and promising new idol for all African countries replacing that of the United States of America in the previous decades (Ndlovu Gatsheni2019).  As such its influence and presence in most of these countries have been attributed fundamentally to its policy of non-intervention or meddling in the political spheres of state’s that it engaged into partnerships with. As such as one of the powerful emerging Asian Tiger Southern African Countries since the beginning of the 21st century have embraced economic policies that attracted Chinese presence in their countries. This article is an analytical approach to the implications of China-Southern African Countries engagement whether the relationship can be termed interdependent or dependency. A global South to South school of thought argued negatively the presence of the Economic Partnership Agreement between China and the South African Countries.

The basis of the argument lay on the economic performance and ranking of China and Southern African Countries. According Jang On (2007) China is considered a major power in the international community with the capabilities that out match those of the southern African Countries combined together. As such equitable economic partnership will be uncompromising as in many factors the African countries will be on a disadvantage position from the onset. This entails that dependency syndrome will be indispensable to this relationship as Southern African Countries will lack that capability to with stand the economic superior of China. For instance in 2012 the Sino Zimbabwe Agreement was signed, which become China’s economic engagement policy with Zimbabwe in the area of Agriculture, Industry, Mining and Textile. As such Chinese products and services have flooded Zimbabwean markets which lead to the collapse of Zimbabwe’s local and infant industry. Undoubtedly the Statutory 64 SI in 2016 was a remedial measure to address a neo liberal policy that suffocates the emerging industry and production in Zimbabwe. Such a mercantile stance was profound in saving struggling industries that are on the verge of extinction. To the effect subscribers of global south to South trade such as Rita Abrahamsen are of the view of the regional integration between states that are at the same platform or footage of economic development. In addition, China’s engagement with the southern African States has been seen as the resurgence of neo colonialism. Claude Ake (1997) argued that African countries through bloodshed war of redemption from colonialism have managed to obtain flag independence without economic and political independence from their colonial powers. In a competitive world of globalization and economic imperialism in order to maintain a balance of power in the International system major power have engaged in scramble for economic agreements as a way to secure there sphere of influence over a certain territory. This ideally was the strategic policy used pre colonialism where great power who are at the zenith of International Affairs in Berlin 1884 agreed that a states was justified to have a control of another state after it obtained an agreement signed between itself and the intended colony. As such neo colonial critics such as Ake argued that the presence of economic partnership Agreement between major power and the third world countries is a replica of the colonial epoch as such southern African countries are at a trap of neo-colonialism. Nevertheless China has been applause for playing a fundamental role in the independence of most African Countries and therefore been seen as the chief advocate for the independence of African countries with policies that are to be seen as darling for most African Countries.  

Whether the policies are meant in good faith remains a bone of contention. Realist and Pragmatic thinkers such as Machiavelli stress the importance of self-interest that are innate and hard wired in each and every individual states.  As such China with no exception has interest that are hidden in its attractive police. In 2016 Zambian International Airport has been over taken by the Chinese Government as a way to compensate itself from its economic investment deal entered into with Zambia. To this effect through NEPAD its economic policy in Zambia China have reduced the territorial control of the Zambian government which serves as a replica of neo colonialism. Moreso, China-Southern African Countries engagement has brought with it positivity in has far as the survival of African countries is concerned in the era of repressive economic sanctions. With the exception of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia have been for has attracted an avalanche of criticism from the western powers through their pursuit of self-political and economic empowerment policies and termed pariah states. It is paramount to not that no state can live in isolation in the international system according to Joseph Nye (1996) theory of interdependence. Although a number of African States during the Cold War epoch undertook a non-alignment stance such as one that was famously declared by Nkwame Nkrumah in 1969 conference in Accra Ghana. It is paramount to note that with the fall of the berlin in 1989 alignment became inevitably and as a result third world Countries were with no exception on crossroads to choose the future of their countries. From the decade 1980 to 2000 most African countries have been darling of the West and Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana have been of no exception through the Washington Consensus (Economic Structural Adjustment Programs). However with the end of the second decade most African countries were determined to implement self-empowering programs which came into divergence with their colonial superiors and resulted in crippling sanctions. Land Reform Particularly on Zimbabwe and Zambia have been most striking and as a result of their expulsion from the community of states with Western powers China became a lucrative contingent plan for these states. In 2004 Zimbabwe declared the Look East Policy primarily China was the target of Zimbabwe. It has offered a relief from isolation from areas of political, economic, social, and cultural engagement with Zimbabwe and preferably Zambia since they were most affected with the Sanctions. As such the immense role of China as a contingent plan for engagement with Southern African countries cannot be turned a blind eye on.

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