The People’s Republic of China at 70: Policy, Institutions and Development

The People’s Republic of China at 70 Years: Policy, Institutions and Development

Time: 15:00–18:00

Date: 1 October 2019

Venue: University of Johannesburg (APK Campus) Library, Chinua Achebe (6th Floor) Auditorium, Johannesburg, South Africa

Speakers: Prof Martin Jacques, Prof Haifang Liu, Dr David Monyae, Dr Philani Mthembu


China has undergone substantial transformations in the past number of decades. Emerging from a 5,000-year old history of feudalism defined by dynastic rule, the country redefined itself as a People’s Republic declared on October 1 1949 following a tumultuous civil war (that had itself come on the heels of an earlier revolution in 1911), and has subsequently become the second-largest economy in the world and soon set to ascend to being the principal economy in the world. Under the direction of various leaders and the diligent application of policy, the country serves for many as a fascinating case study for analysis. This development has taken place along various junctures and periods, with various experimentations in the economic and political spheres.

Perhaps inevitably, a multitude of opinions are derived from these analyses. Among the points of debate are the causes of the 1949 revolution and the conditions as well as tactics which allowed the Communist Party of China to emerge victorious in the post-WWII context, the role of external collaboration in either slowing or hastening the revolution, the underlying ideological commitment of the revolution and its revolutionaries, the degree to which the country has since transformed itself anew in various points in its post-1949 history and thereby distanced itself from the revolution as originally incepted.

Against this backdrop, the Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS) will convene a seminar under the theme of ‘The People’s Republic of China at 70 Years: Policy, Institutions and Development’. This seminar will seek to delve into core and critical questions of China’s developmental story since 1949 by drawing from different experts and scholars as well as practitioner-scholars their understanding of China’s past and future.


Topics for Discussion

Specifically, the seminar will delve into the following questions:

  1. What was the context of origins of the Chinese Revolution in 1949 and what transformations did it bring about in the Chinese and East Asian landscape?
  2. What patterns of continuity and change can be discerned from the Chinese experience?
  3. What is the nature of China’s development model?
  4. Can the Chinese development model be successfully implemented in other aspiring developing societies?
  5. Using the past as a reference point, what future patterns of Chinese foreign policy can be discerned?
  6. As South Africa made its own transition some 25 years ago, what can comparative analyses between the two countries yield in terms of economic development?
  7. What should the African continent make of recent economic and political changes within China, and how ought it carry out its own response to these?



This speakers in the seminar will lead the discussions based on papers and reports which make use of different research methodologies; for example, the presentations variously make use of  in-depth case study analyses, cross-case comparisons, process tracing and quantitative measurements.


The seminar will generate a policy brief composed of the various inputs from the speakers to be widely distributed to relevant individuals and government agencies in the policymaking space in South Africa and the broader African continent, along with research institutes and think tanks involved in issues of Africa-China relations.