South Africa

South Africans love the United States – but government prefers Russia and China

More than a third of South Africans would choose to work and raise their families in the US while a tiny fraction chose Russia and China out of a choice of six nations, a stark contrast with the government’s foreign policy, a survey showed.

The survey of 3,200 registered voters was carried out by the Social Research Foundation last year and released on Tuesday, in a week when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are visiting South Africa.

The South African government has drawn criticism from some opposition parties and civil society groups for its decision not to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and plans to hold a naval exercise including Russian and Chinese ships next month.

Just over a fifth of registered voters surveyed chose the UK, 11% Germany and 9.4% Cuba, a country with which South Africa’s ruling party has strong apartheid-era ties. Only 1.4% chose Russia, and 0.8% China.

“Across lines of party affiliation, race, and income level in the region of 6 to 7 or more out of every 10 South Africans would prefer to live and work in a Western liberal democracy,” the foundation said in a statement. “The data jars somewhat with South Africa’s foreign policy.”

The survey didn’t take account of the language preference of the people in the survey. English, the official language in the US and UK, is widely spoken in South Africa.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, China is South Africa’s biggest trade partner, with the US and Germany in second and third place. The UK is sixth, and Russia is 33rd. Cuba is South Africa’s 150th biggest trading partner.

South Africa, along with Russia and China, is a member of the BRICS group of emerging-market economies.

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