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A Middle Power Paradox? South African Diplomacy in the Post-apartheid Era

Lee, Donna, Hamill, James (2001) A Middle Power Paradox? South African Diplomacy in the Post-apartheid Era. International Relations, 15 (4). pp. 33-59. ISSN 0047-1178. (doi:10.1177/004711701015004004) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:38120)

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Academic and media discourse on the conduct of South Africa's foreign relations has acquired an almost schizophrenic character in the post-1994 period. On one level, there has been fulsome praise for the country's successful reintegration with the international mainstream. On a second level, however, the new government

has been criticized for its inability to articulate a coherent foreign policy agenda, to prioritize its various international relationships, and for its general failure to bring a sense of order, purpose and direction to a chaotic foreign policy environment. This article, whilst recognizing many of the deficiencies in both foreign policy formulation and implementation in the post-apartheid period, seeks to argue that the new South Africa is - albeit rather haphazardly - in the

process of creating a distinctive and constructive niche for itself in global affairs.

This is the attempt to join the ranks of the so-called middle powers - states seeking to be 'good international citizens' primarily through mediating initiatives and brokering deals - thereby securing many of the benefits which have traditionally flowed to states with the capacity to assume such an

international posture. The article will attempt to locate the study of South Africa's

middle power attributes, and its expectations of and attitudes towards middle power status, within the context of the wider theoretical literature on the subject. It will then progress, via the use of three case studies at both the global and regional level, to discuss South African attempts to execute this particular diplomatic option. The article concludes with a discussion of the problems South Africa is likely to encounter as it develops this option. Here attention will be given to the paradox of South Africa's middle power status. This is that the country has been more successful in its attempt to position itself as a good international citizen on issues with a genuinely global resonance as opposed to those issues addressed within the regional and sub-regional contexts where Pretoria might have been expected to excel. This paradox has potentially serious implications for South Africa's ability to emulate the Canadian and Australian experiences and to stay the course as a truly credible and effective middle power into the 21st century.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/004711701015004004
Uncontrolled keywords: South Africa, Libya, middle power, foreign policy, international relations, Nelson Mandela
Subjects: J Political Science
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Donna Lee
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2014 20:53 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Lee, Donna.

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