A new Cold War brews between China and the US, what opportunities does this hold for South Africa?

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Tensions between America and China are escalating at a rapid pace. Such is the current situation, that a new international body of academics and political activists has warned the world against sliding into a new Cold War.

The recent closure of China’s consulate in Houston, which was followed by the US consulate being shut in Chengdu are two of the latest incidents in the rapidly rising tensions between the two superpowers.

The significance of the deteriorating relationship is more than just diplomatic. In fact, the United States and China are dismantling years’ worth of engagement as tensions grow. This ranges from political to economic engagement.

As they do so, the two countries are setting the stage for a new era of confrontation

According to the research firm Rhodium Group and the National Committee on United States-China Relations, a non-governmental organisation, the value of newly announced Chinese direct investment projects into the U.S. fell to $200m in the first quarter of 2020. This is a drastic decline from an average of $2 billion per quarter in 2019.

With the divide swiftly growing, the rivalry between the two countries is being described by many, as a new Cold War in the making.

Knowing the link between SA and China, with this new major issue developing, how will we and the world be affected by a new Cold War?

A British Academic at China’s Chongyang Financial Institute, John Ross, warns that a “hostile narrative” between the two countries will unavoidably impact global markets.

He emphasises the threat of a new cold war is not just about the US and China, even though they are the main actors in the whole act. During a recent No New Cold War Webinar, he explained it was a threat to the whole of humanity.

A number of factors are contributing to the tensions between the two superpowers.

As Donald Trump trails rather badly in the current America polls as the country’s elections near, his national security officials have apparently intensified their attack on China. They have done this by targeting its officials, diplomats, and executives.

Furthermore, there are reports that the US will put more limitations on people-to-people exchanges with China. The US believes that China is taking advantage of the US’ “open” educational and social systems for China’s own good.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has also added fuel to the fire, brushing aside international concern about the country’s rising authoritarianism to consolidate his own political power. As well as cracking down on basic freedoms, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong. Through his actions, he has hardened attitudes in Washington.

South Africa and China have had a strong relationship for a number of years. In fact, in 2010, China was South Africa’s largest trading partner.

Now, with the current economic situation in South Africa, as with other African countries, South Africa must be strategic and tactical in how they respond to the US-China tensions. By failing to do so, the country will be sacrificing their own interests.

There are three sets of challenges and opportunities for the African continent during the current climate. These are technological frontiers, global supply chains, trade integration and economic cooperation.

Currently, African countries should seize the opportunities presented by deepening tensions between China and the US. Opportunities which can see the continent chart its own future.

In order to do so, us Africans will need to be more proactive and adaptive in this uncertain global environment. This will require a great deal of courage and can potentially protect South Africa from the growing tornado brewing between China and the US

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