South African President Cyril Ramaphosa chairs the second phase of the roundtable meeting of the 2018 Focac Beijing Summit at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Picture: Ju Peng/Xinhua
Beijing -  President Cyril Ramaphosa has hit back at critics of the outcomes of the Forum on China-Africa Summit saying “We have entered a golden age. Some are jealous, and that’s why they say it’s a new colonialism.” Ramaphosa has called the 2018 Focac a huge success, and the relationship with China as being one based on action and implementation.  

“We are dealing with partners that are not arrogant or pushy, but want to engage with us,” Ramaphosa said at the conclusion of the Beijing Summit.  

The reaction of some of the western press to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement yesterday of a further US$60 billion in development financing for the African continent has been negative. The allegation is that African countries are falling into a debt trap that they will be unable to climb out of.  

Addressing this concern, Ramaphosa told a media briefing following the Focac closing ceremony, “The US$60 billion will come in the form of different categories such as grants, assistance programs and loans. If some African countries can’t keep up with their debt payments, the debt will be forgiven. The situation is quite progressive.” To date, South Africa has not taken any of the loans China has made available through Focac.  

Ramaphosa also addressed another concern that when China invests it sends its own people to do the work. “When China invests, it sends key managers, but the bulk of the people who do the work are South Africans.”  

In a clear reference to the Trump administration, Ramaphosa responded to a question posed by the Chinese media saying, “We are living in an uncertain global environment, some say their countries come first, and there is nothing wrong with saying that, but if they are doing it at the expense of others then it is a problem as it goes against multilateralism and a rules-based international system.  

All of us must be bound by rules and governed by the multilateral organisations. One party mustn’t decide to do something different from everyone else. There is wisdom in rules because they become an equaliser.”  

In perhaps one of the strongest indications of South Africa’s firm affinity with its Chinese counterparts, Ramaphosa said, “Our political orientation and perspectives are very similar, we have a revolutionary approach, and we look at the world in a similar way, we are therefore close friends.”  

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies praised China for what are being referred to as their “five no’s,” which are: no interference in the internal affairs of other countries; no political conditions attached to assistance; no dictating on development paths; no political self-interest in investment; no imposition of will on other countries.  

Davies remains concerned, however, with the structural imbalance in South Africa’s trade relations with China. “In the last few years, our trade imbalance with China has been as large as our exports to their country.

“The direction our relationship with China needs to take is investment-led trade where we build our industrial capacity, create regional value chains, and produce more value-added products,” Davies told Independent Media. Davies also noted that we have a larger quantum of investors in China than they have in South Africa.  

“But China delivers on its promises, and has made an effort to understand where Africa wants to go, including in areas such as beneficiation.” Davies has noted that China has begun some effort towards beneficiation in South Africa, starting with a metallurgical project in one of our Special Economic Zones. “China has also said it would invest in technology to produce steel from its highveld source,” Davies said.