The Centre for Chinese Studies

The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS), at Stellenbosch University, serves as the most prominent and high quality point of reference for the study of China and East Asia on the African continent.

Latest Commentary

Making a play for Africa: China, India and Japan compete for the continent’s favour

15 SeptembJPIDer 2017

Africa’s importance as a significant variable in the political and economic manoeuvrings of the world’s great powers is often overlooked or underestimated. However, in recent years, actions by Asia’s powerhouses – China, Japan and India – demonstrate the continent’s value as a platform for carrying out strategic competitive connectivity initiatives. Over the last three years (2014-2016), India and Japan have increased efforts to improve their economic engagement with Africa. In part, these efforts have largely been interpreted as a response to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, a global economic development strategy introduced in 2013. With both India and Japan having unresolved territorial disputes and strategic tensions with their neighbour, they seem to remain suspicious of OBOR and view it as means to increase China’s political and economic influence and, subsequently, its power in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. [Continue reading]


By Mandira Bagwandeen
Independent Researcher

Online Course/Application Open: China-Africa: Strategy and Skills for Engagement

Course staCCS Online Short Course China Africa Skills and Strategy-1rts: 30 October 2017 / Registration 


This online course offers a comprehensive introduction to China’s engagement on the African continent, with a small component providing a basic introduction to Mandarin business language skills. The course includes an overview of Chinese investments on the continent, including infrastructure, extractive industries and trade relationships; it also examines China-Africa relations within the context of global groupings such as BRICS and FOCAC, the role of historical and political relations and the growing role of Chinese security within Africa. The course familiarizes students with the controversy surrounding the relationship, including issues of labour and environmental degradation as well as mechanisms which African countries draw on to command more cooperative interaction.

The language component includes a selection of high frequency dialogues and vocabulary, such as greetings and obtaining information in a professional or business setting. By the end of the course, students will possess a comprehensive overview of the China-Africa relationship.

This self-paced course will allow students to go through smaller chunks of training at a time and can be done from any location and any time. The combined elements of video, audio, quizzes and forum interactions will lead to increased retention and a strong grasp of the course. It also allows you the ability to revisit and replay sections of training that might not have been clear the first time around.

Who should attend?:

The course is suitable for those in business, media, government, NGOs and academia whose work entails engagement with China; as well as students considering a career path relating to the East Asia region.

Certification and Accreditation:

  • Certificate of Attendance

Registration (Until October 23!)

Follow this link to register online

Course Fees:

Course fees for the four-week online course: ZAR R5.000


6 hours per week



CCS New Publication

CCS Discussion Paper: A study of perspectives on how to enhance Botswana-China relations

Second draft -Discusssion PaperBy Frank Youngman

China’s relations with Africa date back to the 1950s but they have transformed in scope and depth since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. The increased interactions between African countries and China have brought important benefits to both sides in a variety of areas, from trade and investment to cultural exchange. Nevertheless, stresses and strains have also arisen and it is apparent that for optimal cooperation purposeful measures have to be undertaken to promote positive relations. Botswana’s experience parallels that of the continent as whole. Engagement with China has developed very rapidly in recent years. However, although Botswana’s current relationship with China has positive dimensions, it also has significant tensions. In this situation, it is timely to consider how improved bilateral relations can be promoted at both the state and non-state level.

[Download CCS Discussion Paper 01/2017]

CCS in the Media

Airport idle, jumbos take the highway

mg_logo_white_bg22 September 2017

Dubbed the world’s emptiest airport, the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Sri Lanka is designed to handle a million people a year. Instead, most days just a handful of passengers pass through this vast, empty space. The $209‑million project’s cargo terminals were used to store rice after a bumper harvest — this brought in more revenue than flight-related activities at the time.

Building the loss-making airport cleared 809 hectares of forest and displaced about 200 elephants, which can now be seen trundling along the newly paved four-lane highway in the remote area of Hambantota on the southernmost tip of the island instead. Also connected by the desolate highway is a seldom-used 3 000-seat cricket stadium and a world-class convention centre.

The $1.4‑billion Hambantota seaport (which earlier studies found to be unfeasible) has been proved a money-loser. According to the Sri Lankan press, it had handled just 44 ships between 2015 and August this year. Massive infrastructure projects have caused the Sri Lankan government to drown in debt. [Continue reading]