Alternative South–South development collaboration? The role of China in the Coega Special Economic Zone in South Africa

Published date01 October 2019
Date01 October 2019
AuthorLisa Thompson
Alternative SouthSouth development collaboration? The
role of China in the Coega Special Economic Zone in South
Lisa Thompson
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town,
South Africa
Lisa Thompson, School of Government,
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town,
South Africa.
Funding information
National Institute for Humanities and Social
Sciences (NIHSS), Grant/Award Number:
Aid, in the form of financial aid and investment, has become increasingly prevalent in
both bilateral and multilateral partnerships in the BRICS. In Africa, the Forum on
ChinaAfrica Cooperation provides the official framings for forms of development
assistance to the continent, with financial forms of aid available through the New
Development Bank and the ChinaAfrica Development Bank (CADFund). This article
explores how Chinese international development assistance has influenced South
Africa's economic growth and development strategies and is reshaping South Africa
as gatewayto Africa and continental leader. Special economic zones (SEZs) have
become a prioritised form of BRICS development collaboration particularly in terms
of Chinese trade and investment expansionism into Africa through South Africa.
Chinese international development assistance and foreign direct investment in South
Africa in particular are very notable and have been strengthened during the Chinese
official state visit prior to the Johannesburg BRICS Summit in 2018. The article criti-
cally analyses the development policy discourse on BRICS spearheading an alterna-
tive model of SouthSouth international cooperation by examining the Coega SEZ
in South Africa, hailed as the most SEZ in Africa. The article critically examines the
development alternative potential of the Coega SEZ.
BRICS collective development, Chinese trade and investment in South Africa, Forum on China,
Africa Cooperation, international development assistance, participation, peopletopeople
development, social justice, specialeconomic zones
The BRICS alliance is consistently talked up in mainstream academic
and social media analysis as a SouthSouth counterweight to polit-
ical and economic dominance of the United States and Europe in
the global political economy. Despite ideological, value and
geopolitical incoherencies, the dominant approach, termed prag-
matic instrumentalism in this article, emphasises the collective eco-
nomic and political strength that the BRICS states are be able to
leverage globally. The term pragmatic instrumentalism is adapted
from Bond (2015). It is derived from a threefold categorisation of
stakeholder positionalities on BRICS. These are, respectively, the
state and stateaffiliated progressive instrumental, uncritical per-
spectives; the somewhat more reflective but largely pragmatic inter-
national and local nongovernmental perspective; and, lastly, the
An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 2nd International Symposium on Develop-
ment and Governance in the BRICS held at Fudan University, September 2224, 2017.
Received: 20 August 2018 Revised: 16 July 2019 Accepted: 4 October 2019
DOI: 10.1002/pad.1869
Public Admin Dev. 2019;39:193202. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, 193

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