But his arrival in the Chinese capital caps a month of small but important milestones that all point to deepening of Sino-South African ties that will likely come at the expense of Pretoria’s ties with the United States.
China is already South Africa’s largest trading partner and one of its most important sources of foreign investment but the relationship is moving far beyond economics as President Cyril Ramaphosa further embraces the “Look East Policy” that his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, began.
South Africa Deputy President David Mabuza arrived in Beijing for four days of meetings with Chinese officials.
Today, Ramaphosa is one of China’s most forceful advocates in Africa, pushing back against the United States on a variety of issues ranging from Huawei to Chinese lending practices.
Even if he is quick to point out that there is “nothing sinister” about South Africa’s relationship with China and others.
When a president with the standing of Ramaphosa feels comfortable to stand up to Washington and endorse key Chinese foreign policy objectives, it creates openings for other African leaders to follow suit.
Now this alignment between Pretoria and Beijing is extending into the military realm as the two countries, joined by Russia, prepare for their first-ever joint naval exercises next month in South Africa.
What ‘Look East’ Looks Like