The Sunday News
Taking a stubborn position in the world is, perhaps, for individuals and countries, a way of being alive and being in the world.
A fundamental position that China has taken in the present world system is to project and protect what it calls “Chinese Characteristics.” Chinese economics and Chinese politics are all punctuated emphatically with the paradigm of “Chinese Characteristics.”
In a world where to develop and progress for countries means imitating the West and submitting to Euro-American neo-liberal power; it has been stubborn, rebellious and decolonial for China to stand true to its Chinese character.
In a world that has been westernised, culturally, socially, politically and otherwise it is a durable country that can keep its character the way China has done.
China has been exemplarily Chinese in a world where it saves life to be westernised and can cost existence itself to be otherwise.
A capital lesson that China can give to Africa and African countries is that a country can modernise without westernising.
To be modern and prosperous, otherwise, does not mean that a country has to be an imitation or an appendage of the West.
Understandably not such a fan of China, Slavoj Zizek has portrayed China as a paradox. In short what Zizek is saying is that China has been Machiavellian in the world, difficult or even impossible to understand because it works through opposites.
China’s rise after its decline in the world has been based on the ability to survive the world system by navigating and negotiating the West.
By keeping being China while relating with the whole world economically and politically has been China’s historical game.
The African question is; can we be part of the globe and still remain Africa? Can we globalise without losing ourselves?
Otherwise, how can Africa remain true to itself in a westernised global world? China is living and powerful proof that there is life beyond the West in the world.
Most of the hatred and fear of China, the sinophobia, from the West arises from that very fact where China has economically and politically proven that a non-western world is possible and might after all be better.
Africa and China: A machiavellian Future
It is Kishore Mahbubani again who noted that the future of the world will be Machiavellian.
What he meant is that the future of the world will rely on a change to the order of things and a shift in power relations.
China has the liberatory potential to change the order of political and economic things in the planet that encompasses Africa.
Already, here and there under the sun, China has been able to determine economic and political temperatures.
There is presently a Chinese political and economic climate worldwide, even in the belly of the beast, deep inside the USA.
The relationship between Africa and China or the future of Africa and China needs to be pragmatically pondered.
Chris Alden is one scholar that has invested much time and ink in the Afro-China international relations.
It has been his observation that China needs Africa for its resource security, access to scarce resources that Africa has, new markets and investment opportunities in the continent and symbolic diplomacy that includes development assistance for African countries.
In that way, strategic relations with Africa are good for China.
Fair enough as long as China does not pursue these interests in Africa through imperialism and colonialism. Africa, Alden observes, also needs China. African countries need trade and investment opportunities that the titanic Chinese economy offers worldwide.
Fragile regimes, endangered and failed states that have fallen out with the West frequently find a shoulder to lean on in the Dragon from the East. Yes, some African states use China for their regime security and survival. Infrastructurally and otherwise, China has proven to be a real development partner for Africa.
There are African and Chinese cultural and other values that may clash which need to be negotiated and navigated for the relationship to be truly Machiavellian.
From Jiang Zemin through Hu Njintao up to Xi Jinping Chinese administrations have pledged to Africa reliable friendship, sovereign equality, non-intervention, win-win development and co-operation.
China has stood for Africa in the United Nations and severally supported African liberation movements in their fight against western settler colonialism, with weapons, military training and finance.
For me as a decolonial scholar, one of the telling statements the Ambassador Lin Songtian made at the Spring Festival in South Africa marking the beginning of the Year of the Rat was that: “I want to stress that no matter our colour is white, black or yellow, we are all important members of the big family of mankind and live together in a global world.”
That might just be a diplomatic statement. Or a politically correct statement to make. But if brought to life and made real, it can bring to realisation and fruition a much more liberated and truer world than the present.
China, I think, has the responsibility to walk that talk and Africa has the duty to relate honestly and intelligently with a willing companion that has known how to fall and how to rise in a slippery world.
It came from the considered mind and mouth of the esteemed Chinese diplomat that: “Only when we are open and friendly to each other, live in harmony, pursue win-win cooperation, and work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind, can we share a fair, just, democratic, peaceful and prosperous world.”
The hegemonic global media and mainstream world academy does not teach of a China with such grand aspirations. Hegemonic Euro-American propaganda and constructions, in the media and the academy, portrays a tyrannical and evil China just like it defines a backward and dark Africa.
True China and true Africa must, against all propaganda, stand up in the world.