At a time when turmoil rises from multiple corners of the world with tensions fueling an ever complex international landscape, South African Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele (Cwele) shared his views on the collective strength of the Global South in dealing with global hotspot issues and Western hypes in an exclusive interview with the Global Times (GT) reporter Fan Anqi. Cwele also talked about the BRICS expansion and its contribution to global governance, as well as space cooperation between China and South Africa.
GT: The world right now is experiencing more turbulence and complexities. With the Ukraine crisis unsettled, another crisis emerged in the Middle East as a new round of Palestine-Israel conflict breaks out. How do you think the Global South countries can contribute to solving these crises that are different from the approach of Western developed countries?
Cwele: All of our countries of the Global South stand for peace and development because we know the destructive impact of war, and we feel the pain of the people dying from the conflicts.
We are also seeing division of international aid resources to humanitarian assistance of those affected by the conflict, which is the right thing. But it diverts those funds which were supposed be for development, against the backdrop of food shortage, fuel and energy challenges everywhere.
This calls for the review of the global governance systems, including the role of the UN Security Council – How do we transform it to be more representative, to have a more legitimate voice, so that in cases of conflict, the UN will continue to be the center of resolution to international challenges rather than finding itself to be in stalemate.
For the Global South, we believe conflicts should be resolved through negotiations rather than war. In today’s world, you are unlikely to resolve any conflict through the power of the gun. It doesn’t work that way.
So the issue of diplomacy – trying to get the warring partners to understand each other’s concern, the issues of respect, of the international rules and the UN charter… All these things come into place because conflicts happen when people don’t listen to each other.
The important thing is to listen and hear each other, because it’s misunderstanding or miscommunication most of the time.
Peace proposals should be prioritized more than sending weapons as the latter can only escalate the war.
As we talk about the Palestine-Israel conflict, which is becoming a human catastrophe, we have been consistent that these two countries can live in peace side by side with each other. What is critical is the genuine implementation of the UN resolution.
The other element that adds to the conflict is poverty. You cannot keep the island of development in the sea of poverty and hope that there will be peaceful coexistence.
So the issue of global shared development becomes very important. That’s why, as African leaders we find common expression of what President Xi Jinping put forward – shared future for mankind, the Global Security Initiative, Global Development Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative. These are all the methods to say, “Hey, let’s focus on advancing the whole of humanity. In that way, we can have peaceful rise of the countries.”
GT: Some Western media says that China is “trying to increase its clout in Africa amid rivalry with the US,” that Africa is “an emerging battleground for global influence.” How do you think of such statement?
Cwele: I don’t really know why they think like that, but we certainly don’t see ourselves as a “global battlefield.” We cooperate with anyone and welcome all the assistance from the West and from China that will support us to achieve our Agenda 2063.
But we know one thing, that most African countries were once colonized. We know the experience and the devastating impact of colonization in suppressing our growth, our civilization, even our cultures.
So what has been different with China’s approach is that, it is not the winner-takes-all approach, it is not a dictation. It is a win-win approach, respecting our own culture, civilization and respecting our own problems.
China always says, “Take what is useful in our experience and apply it,” unlike the colonization type where you were forced to accept different cultures, not even looking at your own but worship someone else’s. Relations with China are of mutual respect, not of bullying or manipulation.
What’s more, the key projects China are participating in our continent is not only connecting within a country but also between countries. It helps us to increase our intra-Africa trade, which is still very low at the moment, because the design of the colonizers had been extractive – the infrastructure was coming from the site of production straight to the ports, so that raw materials are taken directly to the home of the colonial.
We don’t see the competition of US and China in our continent, as both are important trading partners. We don’t see them being competitors, but they are complementing each other.
We believe we should not fuel tension. The media should be an important instrument to find pathways to development rather than creating conflicts.
GT: At this year’s BRICS summit, the group announced to invite six new members. How do you think the BRICS expansion will help the collective strengths of Global South countries, in what ways?
Cwele: We had a very successful BRICS summit in South Africa where our leaders took very progressive decision amid the global skepticism of where the world is going. The BRICS expansion is one of the key successes of this summit, and this is just the first step. There were more than 23 countries that were showing active interests to join and more and more are coming. Why?
First, the BRICS mechanism has shown quite a lot of success as a voice of global thought. We stand firmly for shared development and prosperity for all. We stand firmly for peace. We stand firmly for win-win development of mankind instead of win-lose development. This has inspired many countries.
We hope with the expansion we will continue to increase the voice of BRICS to help improve global governance, so that they can also take into account the voice of developing countries.
We also hope this win-win cooperation will contribute to enhancing our capacity to deal with the emerging threats, whether it is climate change, pandemics and so on.
We stand firmly on improving the global trade and economic recovery, and keep the global supply chains open instead of having this renewed nationalism and self-interest, because things like pandemic, they affect all of us. There’s no need for us to be narrow minded because we cannot deal with those problems on our own.
In terms of the payment system, the BRICS are not against any particular currencies as some may think, but we aim to modernize and democratize the system that makes it more efficient and equitable, meanwhile eliminating any potential abuse, any unilateral actions that disrupt the payment system.
BRICS countries are starting to encourage and increase even payment system using their own currencies in bilateral trade, which is proving quite good. Having more countries to trade with their own currencies also helps the system, so that we are not having externalities which affect you when there’s turmoil in the financial systems.
The other aspect of this partnership, having more countries bringing their capital, is that we hope more members will join the New Development Bank. This has also been very attractive to developing countries – access to affordable finance, which is quite critical.
That’s why we’ve been very vocal on the transformation of the current international financial institutions, that they must also take the interests of developing countries, not only take the interests of the big potential lenders or developed countries.
So that is what is attracting countries. More dozens will continue to join the BRICS mechanism. Our leaders took a decision that we should continue to improve the admission criteria, so that it’s not only limited to factors such as economic growth or level of development, so as to accommodate smaller or emerging economies to be able to join the BRICS family.
GT: South Africa has joined China’s International Lunar Research Station, and the two sides will cooperate extensively on demonstration, mission implementation, operation and application, education and training of the ILRS. How do you view the space cooperation between China and South Africa, what are the future potentials?
Cwele: This is part of what our leaders said about taking our relations to new heights. The basis of this cooperation is the science and technology agreements signed between the two heads of state during Xi’s state visit to South Africa.
Sharing of data has been proven to be very useful over years. What we are doing in outer space is to observe the impact of the changes on the air. We can monitor but also understand what has happened in other planets. It’s also very inspiring to young scientists, as they will be able now to have practical cooperation in this regard.
It is not about what we saw from some media who are putting this as if China is competing against the US with Africa. We cooperate with both in space and are trying to enhance the programs to let it have more tangible results.