China is South Africa's largest single trading partner, according to the World Trade Organisation. The ANC's 2015 discussion documents say that bilateral "trade volumes … have far surpassed the value of USD $400 billion [in that year]," and the party is keen to grow this figure.
Alison Bradley, a South African China specialist, told CNBC via telephone that the ANC sees value in the Middle Kingdom as an "economic model to emulate."
In its 2015 discussion documents, the ANC lauds, "the rise of emerging economies led by China … herald[ing] a new dawn of hope for further possibilities of a new world order."
Reflecting this, China and South Africa inked $6.5 billion of deals in December last year, just ahead of a China-Africa cooperation summit in Johannesburg.
Despite an enormous trade imbalance between the two countries, some South African companies have profited from investment in their Chinese counterparts. For example, South African media firm Naspers found financial success – and was catapulted to the status of largest African company by market value – by investing in Chinese internet sensation Tencent.
"China views South Africa as an entry way into the continent," says Bradley, adding that "to understand their relationship, you have to look at all of Africa. It's not a bilateral, but a multilateral relationship from China's perspective."
For the ANC, China presents an alternative way of developing an economy and lifting people out of poverty without fracturing a political structure in the process. This is particularly pertinent considering the ANC's disappointing local election result in early August, which is contributing to its loss of power in major cities.
China's successful state-owned enterprise businesses model could also be of interest to ANC policymakers, who in their 2015 discussion documents accept that domestic nationalized industries have issues that need to be to be addressed "as a matter of urgency." Ratings agencies cite South African state organisations such as energy firm Eskom and South African Airways as potential risks.
Martin Plaut, a South African fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, is skeptical, arguing that China and South Africa's tie "isn't a long-term, real relationship." He describes China as a take-no-prisoners business partner, citing its decimation of South Africa's clothing industry in the African market over the past two decades, in which "South Africa wasn't even a competitor as China was so much better at it."