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Why the U.S. Should Be Worried About South Africa’s Increasingly Close Ties With China

Chinese Foreign Minister and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a recent meeting in Durban, South Africa. Photo via Chinese embassy in Pretoria.

On its own, South African Deputy President David Mabuza’s week-long trip to Beijing, which starts today, will probably not generate a lot of headlines. 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. 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.

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