What many people particularly in Africa don’t seem to appreciate is that Contemporary China is just above 70 years, having been created in the year 1949, after 4 years of war of liberation. On 1st October 1949, Chairman of the central government Mao Zedong; proclaimed the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China.
Modern China therefore is not much older than many independent African countries as the era of independence lies in 1950/60s. The rise of China in 1950s, when so many countries in Africa were agitating for independence explains why practically, every Movement that agitated for independence was literally branded Communist.
Unlike post-colonial Africa, however, once liberated; China did not rush to join the master’s clubs. It took more than 20 years for China to become a member of the United Nations, it became a member in 1971. China became a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at the end of year 2001, six years after WTO was created and 33 years after its predecessor the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). So most African countries joined these international organisations well before China.
By 1990s china was becoming a super power, an economic might and a country no one could ignore. By 2019 it was the second world supper power!
Africa is not a single entity, it could have been if at independence the leaders had the determination of China unfortunately that did not happen and therefore, since Africa is not a single entity, it is difficult to discuss it as one size fit all. In the absence of this possibility, therefore; for the sake of this discussion I will take a few prominent African countries to represent the rest of us.
Ethiopia for example, was never colonized, Egypt was granted full independence in 1956; Ghana got independence in 1957, DR Congo, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast got independence in 1960 to mention just a few. All these countries had and still have a lot of natural resources. A number of them; have a very large population, yet 60 years down the line; they have very little to show off, some of them are actually a worse off than they were at independence. Yet in the case of china within 40 years of liberation it had gained global prominence.
So where did China go right and where has Africa gone wrong and what lessons can we draw? It all goes down to few minimum but related qualities. Effective political organisation, Leadership that is result oriented and people centred political governance, discipline at all levels and strategic planning.
The original meaning of politics is based on one of the world ancient civilizations: The Greeks: where both collective activities and individual desires and interests; lead to decisions that are based on every or all these collective interests. So originally, “Effective political organisation” was for every one’s benefit not for the tyranny of the majority. It involved accepting the majority decisions but also taking into account the minority concerns. Western democracies that are promoted can easily be turned into the tyranny of the majority, as has been shown by the rise of populist national movements in Europe and of late in United States of America.
Effective political organisation, as a result serves its own people. And that is exactly where China’s peoples’ Revolution was different from African independence, and therefore, a source of lessons. Once most African countries got independence, interests of the ruling class and their henchmen took the path of the winner takes it all; instead of building effective political systems that would survive the politics of the time. As they say : Politicians think about the next election, States Men think about the next generation. Africa has spent close to 60 years building politicians, who compete on destroying what the previous politicians have built. Every Chinese new leadership builds on the previous one, trying to outperform the predecessors instead of destroying the preceding acquiesce wholesale.
On 1st October 1949, when Chairman of the communist party Mao Zedong; proclaimed the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China, he did not copy and paste any political system; not even the Russian Stalin- Leninist communist model. He and his party crafted the communist model that they believed would work for China. China picked what it believed was working for China and quickly removed itself from the USSR arm pit. And what did we Africans do? The newly independent states all and sundry decided to either be pro West (read America and former Anglo-Franco colonialist), or pro –East (Read Russian led communism).
Due to the lack of Effective political organisation at independence and the years that followed, African political organs and leadership spent so many years trying not to build an African systems and developments but to please their alignments or former colonial masters. As a result, West and East sponsored coup d’états preoccupied post-colonial Africa, because African post-colonial leaders did not develop a clear political organisation based on African vision, values and needs.
Before I leave this interval let me come back to “Effective political organisation”. Western models (Europe and America) have always accused China of being a dictatorial One Party State, based on their comparison between Western electoral system and the Communist Party approach to providing leadership on what is good for the Chinese people. But do these Western countries really have multi-party systems as they claim? Look at USA. Isn’t it just Democrats and Republicans? Where is the room for new entrants? Indeed in his book “ stupid white men”, the American film producer Mike Moore refers to the American system as : Democrat-Republicans, that is two sides of the same coin.
Africa-China Review Editorial