South-South cooperation increasingly important

By Tim Collard
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 7, 2018
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend an informal meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the BRICS mechanism in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 27, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Not unnaturally, the eyes of the world have largely been focused on the U.S.-China relationship, as China tries to digest and respond to President Trump's decision to impose unilateral tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S., giving rise to the possibility of a full-scale "trade war." 

But Chinese policy under the current leadership has been a consistent one of simultaneous management of a number of trading relationships, forming a global network which will hopefully enable setbacks in one area to be balanced by successes in another. 

While the highest stakes remain in the game of U.S.-China relations, China will not be deflected from its endeavors to maximize the benefits of the world's other vital trading networks. It is in this spirit that President Xi Jinping, towards the end of July, embarked on a tour of the United Arab Emirates and four African nations, culminating in the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

The extended trip began with the President's first visit to the UAE on July 19. This leg of the trip had two main objectives: to promote strategic cooperation between China and Arab countries, building on the very recent Beijing ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, in which the establishment of a strategic partnership was adumbrated. 

The second, obviously linked to the first, was financial. China and the UAE launched a 10-billion-U.S.-dollar joint investment fund in December 2015, focusing on traditional energy, infrastructure development and high-end manufacturing industries. It is now time to develop this initiative in greater detail. Both countries are already major investors in each other's economies. 

The UAE, with their considerable oil-derived resources, have declared themselves prepared to play a central role in financing projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, making provisions for the establishment of the first Belt and Road International Exchange in Abu Dhabi. This will enable the strategic partnership to be firmly underpinned by major cooperative projects of benefit to both sides, and provide China with increased access to the region's physical and financial resources.

Africa was the next stage – a continent emerging rapidly from underdevelopment, with the help of increasing Chinese interest and commitment. The deepening relationship with Africa is clearly central to Xi's approach to global diplomacy; the continent was the first he visited after his initial election in 2013, and again after his re-election this year. Accordingly, the president emphasized that the firming-up of relations with African countries is China's long-term strategic choice.

He travelled first to Senegal, the first West African country to sign a Belt and Road cooperation document with China, which it is hoped will be widely replicated within the region. Senegalese President Macky Sall promised full support and cooperation in this year's summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), to be held in Beijing in September.

These themes were also covered in depth at Xi's meetings with the leaders of Rwanda and Mauritius in the later stages of his trip. Altogether, over 40 cooperation documents were signed during Xi's trip, and work will begin on arranging the details.

But the most prominent feature of the visit was the Chinese president's attendance at the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, inaugurating the second "Golden Decade" for BRICS cooperation.

In his address, Xi said that a crucial aspect of the next decade would be the replacement of former global growth drivers by new ones, making a profound reshaping of the global governance system inevitable. The key aim must be to guide this reshaping into the optimal form, building an open global economy, rejecting unilateralism and protectionism, and boosting cooperation in innovation, and ensuring the continuation of a rules-based international order. He made no direct mention of the USA, but the target of his spirited rejection of trade wars, which could have no winner, and economic hegemonism was unmistakable.

The Johannesburg summit was a success in the signals it gave out; that global governance is the proper concern of all regions of the world, which has now become genuinely multipolar; and that China is committed to cooperation with the outside world rather than to confrontation with it. BRICS also has no intention of forming an impenetrable bloc, inviting other emerging market economies and African nations to participate in the "BRICS Plus" dialogue. 

The visit confirmed China's continuing commitment to what has become known as the South-South cooperation agenda; in the face of an increasingly complex world and the uncertainties caused by unilateral actions, Xi provided further evidence that China does not wish to be over-dependent on relations with the West and the Northern Hemisphere generally. 

This visit was intended as a true contribution to genuine multilateralism in global trading relations. Clearly there is still work to do, and the FOCAC summit in September will hopefully build on the foundations laid by the goodwill engendered in Africa by this well-received visit.

Tim Collard is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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