Which lodestar to follow? South African public opinion on China and other international partners

  • Floor Keuleers


South Africa’s international orientation is said to be shifting, with the post-1994 focus on democracy and human rights increasingly complemented or even replaced by pragmatic relations with fellow BRICS countries. This article asks how ordinary South Africans perceive the different international partners their country might turn to, with a specific focus on China. It analyses the 2015 wave of the Afrobarometer Survey, which uses nationally representative samples to grasp the views of citizens across the continent. The article is structured around three questions. 1) How is China’s engagement with South Africa seen by South Africans? 2) How do South African evaluations of China measure up to their views of other development partners, both ‘old’ and ‘new’? 3) And how does this compare to views in other African countries? The article also brings South Africa’s internal dynamics into the equation, looking at patterns of age, race, and political affiliation.