Xi of China visits South Africa for the second time this year while dealing with domestic economic problems

Xi Jinping
Xi Jiping

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, will travel to South Africa on Monday in an effort to increase Beijing’s influence among rising and developing countries while relations with the United States remain extremely tense and domestic economic problems continue to grow.

A stark contrast to his globe-trotting days of diplomacy prior to the pandemic outbreak is the three-day state visit, which also includes a summit with the leaders of the BRICS rising economies

The last time the Chinese leader travelled outside of the nation was in March to meet with his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin in Moscow. There, the two authoritarian strongmen renewed their strategic alliance against the US and outlined their plans for a post-Western world order.

The BRICS grouping’s first in-person summit since the outbreak will give Xi another chance to pursue that ambition.

More than 40% of the world’s population resides in the countries that make up the bloc: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. They both want a more multipolar world and more influence over international affairs.

“Xi Jinping is not attempting to subvert the US’s dominance of the current liberal international order. His long-term objective is to transform the global order into one that is Sino-centric, according to Steve Tsang, head of the University of London’s SOAS China Institute.

Tsang stated that in order to achieve this goal, “it makes sense for China to engage with the Global South, (which is) much more numerous than Western democracies and mostly authoritarian in its governance structure.”

Chen Xiaodong, China’s ambassador to South Africa, praised BRICS as “the backbone of international fairness and justice” and “an important platform for cooperation among emerging and developing nations” ahead of Xi’s arrival on Friday.

The established structure of global governance looks to be dysfunctional, unable to function, and nonexistent. The BRICS will soon “play a leading role in the international community,” Chen told reporters.

A few days ago, US President Joe Biden met with the leaders of Japan and South Korea in a show of power and unity against the growing dangers from China. Now, Xi is travelling to South Africa.

The US and its two closest allies in Asia strengthened their military and economic ties during the Camp Davis meeting, and China was criticised for its “dangerous and aggressive behaviour” in the South China Sea.

According to Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the BRICS have gained increased strategic significance to Beijing as China and the United States are embroiled in an increasingly bitter rivalry.

Vladimir Putin won’t be present in person, so Xi will be the focus of the BRICS summit, he claimed.

Putin, who is wanted internationally for allegedly committing war crimes in Ukraine, will participate by video from Russia.

“Another multilateral platform through which China can exert influence around the world, especially in the Global South,” was how Nantulya characterised BRICS.

But Xi, who is ten months into his historic third term, is also facing a number of domestic difficulties at the time of the summit.

The long-awaited economic recovery of China following its strict pandemic lockdowns is struggling. Instead, a slew of issues, including a growing real estate crisis, rising local government debt, and deflationary pressure, plague the second-largest economy in the world.

The youth unemployment rate in the nation, which just reached back-to-back records highs, is so severe that the Chinese government has stopped disseminating data on it entirely.

Hear how other nations may be harmed and helped by China’s economic decline.

According to Yun Sun, director of the China programme at the Washington-based Stimson Centre think tank, Xi’s diplomatic charm offensive is severely hampered by the faltering economy, particularly in the Global South.

“When Xi travels to underdeveloped nations, it’s customary for China to offer sizable aid, financing, and collaboration packages. But Beijing is no longer as prepared to do that given the situation of the Chinese economy, she said.

His ability to portray the great power leader he once was is limited by the economy.

The populace in China has grown considerably more wary of their government’s extravagant expenditures abroad.

Xi’s premier international infrastructure initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative, has received a lot of criticism on Chinese social media, according to Nantulya.

“Chinese citizens are wondering why China is investing so much money abroad when there are so many issues at home.”

According to Nantulya, the Chinese government has become considerably more picky about which international projects it funds as a result of the economy’s slowdown.

Xi’s journey to Africa is his first in five years.

His most recent trip to the continent, which coincided with the BRICS conference in South Africa, included a flurry of stops in Senegal, Rwanda, and Mauritius, covering nearly the whole Sub-Saharan region.

Beijing has not yet confirmed Xi’s further stops this time.

On the margins of the BRICS meeting, the Chinese leader will co-chair the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue with his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

The conference has received invitations from 69 nations overall, including all African governments.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here