Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, speaking in 1972 to French visitors, famously said “it is too early to judge”, ostensibly referring to the significance of the 1789 French Revolution. This is used to illustrate China’s long-term planning mindset. However, it emerged later that, either because the discussion was lost in translation or because Zhou may have been hard of hearing, he thought the question was about the 1968 French youth uprising.

South African and other pundits should be forgiven, though, for arguing that it is too early to appreciate the full ramifications of the July 2021 mayhem in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

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