The aim of the study was to investigate the perspectives of key informants from both countries on the nature of current relations between the two countries and on how the relations may be enhanced. The study was shaped by a conception of international relations which considers both state and non-state actors as playing an important role, which recognises a wide variety of issue areas within bilateral relations and which posits that bilateral cooperation can be actively promoted.
The study was structured around three research questions. The first question sought to identify respondents perceptions of the most important dimensions of Botswana-China relations. The findings show that economic issues were viewed as fundamental, whilst development assistance and formal political/diplomatic exchanges constitute important components of the state-to-state relationship. Additionally, relations at the level of ordinary people form a dimension of interaction between non-state actors that was significant for Chinese respondents.
The second question asked for views on the current state of Botswana-China relations. The analysis of responses shows that the identification of positive elements in the relationship was far outweighed by the perceptions of problems and tensions. Hence the language used to characterise bilateral relations ranged from negative descriptions like dismal to half-hearted remarks like lukewarm. It is notable that there were no responses which were unreservedly positive. It is concluded that there are a variety of problems within the bilateral relationship. Additionally, for many respondents there was a perception that the relationship has declined during the current Presidency and specifically since 2013 when the President and senior members of the Botswana Government became publicly critical of China.
The respondents’ perception of deteriorating relations validated the study and gave significance to the final research question on what practical measures can be taken to strengthen Botswana-China relations. On the basis of the findings, the study has produced recommendations that will be useful for policy-makers and stakeholders in the Botswana context, and which may be relevant to other African countries.