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

Tug-of-war: The Maldives and Sino-Indian competition in the Indian Ocean Region

19 March 2018

An ongoing political and constitutional crisis in the Maldives has shone a spotlight on emergent geopolitical competition, particularly between China and India, in the Indian Ocean region. For both Beijing and New Delhi, reliance on Indian Ocean trade routes is essential for their long-term economic prosperity. This reliance makes gaining influence with the Maldives, given its central location in the region, a key strategic objective of both countries. While multiple countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have similar economic and security interests in the country, the competition between China and India for influence in the Maldives has been particularly acute. [Continue reading]

 By Robert Atwell
Asia-Pacific Risk and Security Analyst
S-RM, Risk Management, Business Intelligence and Cyber-Security
CCS Affiliate, Centre for Chinese Studies, Stellenbosch University

Upcoming policy brief series – FOCAC VII: cementing Africa’s environmental agenda

The seventh Ministerial Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit will be held in Beijing in 2018. Since the first conference held in 2000 FOCAC has become an important and effective platform for dialogue between China and African countries. Additionally, the implementation of FOCAC action plans has become a significant means for examining and further analysing the relations between the two sides. An array of action plans will be worked out in terms of commerce, security, culture and society during the 2018 summit. While these themes are important to reflect upon, this policy brief series deliberately examines sustainability issues in FOCAC and China’s environmental footprint in Africa.

The CCS will create a series of policy briefs providing strategic information for policy-makers and stakeholders. The policy briefs will cover topical areas such as environmental protection, conservation, natural resources management and water, and the role of civil society. This collaborative work will contribute toward coherent, credible policy options for African decision-makers, in the interests of a sustainable relationship between China and Africa.

Click on the link below for a previous policy brief on environmental concerns in FOCAC.

[Download CCS Policy Brief No. 7, 2015]


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

China turns its back on Comrade Bob to embrace change in Zimbabwe

22 NovCCS_Logo_Guardian_2013ember 2017

Confirmation of Robert Mugabe’s ouster prompted revelry on the streets of Harare. “The Goblin has gone!” raved one.Thousands of miles away in Beijing – for decades Mugabe’s most powerful backer – there were no obvious signs of jubilation. But experts believe China’s leaders will be both relieved and contented to see the back of “Comrade Bob” – a suspicion reinforced by the approving tone coverage of his demise has taken in the Communist party-controlled press. [Continue reading] 



22 November 2017

Beijing has said speculation that it had a hand in ongoing efforts to dethrone Robert Mugabe is an “evil” plot designed to sully its reputation and derail China-Africa relations. A recent visit to Beijing by one of the architects of last week’s slow-burn coup has stoked suspicions China played some role in attempts to oust its longtime ally. Experts say Mugabe had fallen from favour with China’s Communist party leaders in recent years, with Beijing particularly alarmed at the prospect of his wife, Grace Mugabe, succeeding him. [Continue reading]