Friday, 23 March 2018

How Will Recent Political Events in China Affect Africa?

Image: Courtesy.
On Saturday March 17th 2018, China’s legislature – the National People’s Congress - approved the reappointment of Xi Jinping as the nation’s president with no term limits. This political event was a follow up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China  (CPC) held in October 2017 during which Xi was confirmed as the General Secretary of the CPC for a second five-year term.

Apart from Jinping’s confirmation as CPC’s General Secretary for another term, the 19th National Congress also immortalized the Chinese president by indoctrinating his ideologies – the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era - into the party’s Constitution.

Lately, there are grand intentions to also incorporate the Xi Jinping Thought into the national Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

Xi Jinping’s speech delivered to the 19th National Congress of the CPC highlighted key principles which his administration seeks to pursue and strengthen.

The immortalization of Xi Jinping’s ideologies, the Xi Jinping Thought, follows a precedence set by the CPC to indoctrinate the policy agenda of the party’s revered leaders as the ultimate guiding principles/ideologies of the ruling party.

Previously, the CPC adopted the Mao Ze Dong Thought as the guiding ideology in 1945 during the party’s 7th Congress though its ‘leftist mistakes’, as documented in the Educational Philosophy & Theory Journal, were corrected during the 12th Congress in 1982.

At the party’s 15th National Congress in 1997, the Deng Xiaoping Theory of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics was established as CPC’s guiding theory. This had been preceded by the indoctrination of the Deng Xiaoping Theory into the party’s constitution during the 14th Congress held in 1992.

Additionally, Jiang Zemin’s Theory of Three Represents was incorporated into CPC’s constitution in 2002, and Hu Jintao’s theory, the Scientific Outlook on Development was ratified into the party’s constitution in 2012.

It can be observed that Mao’s and Xi’s policy agenda are classified as “thoughts” while Jiang’s and Hu’s policy frameworks are described as “theories.” As noted by Zoe Jordan, a Thought, in view of CPC’s constitutional doctrine, “incorporates a body of related ideas into a shared worldview whereas a Theory reflects a mandate relevant to a specific era or relative state of thinking”.

Thence, it follows that Xi Jinping is considered the second most powerful leader of the People’s Republic of China after Mao Ze Dong.

Generally, Xi’s Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era endeavors to strengthen the Deng Xiaoping Theory that has guided China’s development, internally and externally, for close to four decades.

Externally, in terms of foreign policy and strategy, Deng’s ideology fronted a China that focuses on self-advancement without exhibiting aggressive tendencies to shape international affairs. As written by Son Daekwon, Deng Xiaoping stated that, “keep a low profile and bide your time”, and also remarked at one time that, “By no means should China take the lead.”

But with the New Era premised on the Xi Jinping Thought, China is poised to rejuvenate her ambitions as a global power and leader based on Xi’s speech at the 19th Congress as quoted by Daekwon; China will actively pursue a more nuanced global role as “constructor of global peace, a contributor to development of global governance, and a protector of international order.”

Therefore, what does this mean for Africa?

Africa in Context of China’s New Era Ambitions
For Africa, Xi’s intention of a globally powerful and rejuvenated China is not as threatening as it is to the West. The West for a long time discredited China’s model of economic development and political system but China has consistently proven that democracy and market fundamentalism, as known to the West, are not prerequisites for structural transformation and development.

However, as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue out in the book “Why Nations Fail”, democracy is not a necessary condition for kick-starting the process of development, but it helps in sustaining the virtuous circle of economic prosperity for eternity.

With the inroads that China has made in Africa over the past decade having been based on “development” and “non-interference” with the political affairs of African states, that perhaps is bound to change with the re-invention of Xi Jinping’s global politico-economic ambitions.

China’s economic conquest of Africa outfoxed the foreign policy strategy that the West has pretended to champion for ages; promoting the establishment of democratic institutions. But one wonders why the West led by the nosy USA has had a penchant of supporting autocratic regimes in Africa.

That doesn’t mean that China’s foreign policy strategy is the most preferred, unless by majority of African leaders who exhibit autocratic tendencies. China is well known for not prioritizing the rights of individuals and her political history supports this statement.

Formalization of the Xi Jinping Thought and invention of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era imply that Chinese engagement with African states may shift from one anchored on “development” and “political non-interference”, to a foreign policy strategy where the Chinese seek to alter the political architecture of African countries.

What escapes most people’s minds is that China cannot hotly pursue the world’s superpower status through economics alone. It has to tilt the global geo-political and geo-economic scales by influencing the political order of a significant number of countries in the world like what the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

Africa is likely to witness a resurgent China that will be exporting her political ideologies to the continent. This doesn’t augur well for most Africans who have relentlessly pursued the ideals and values of democracy.

In regards to Africa’s political trajectory, majority of African countries will nonetheless embrace the Chinese political model and ideologies. As a matter of fact, Africa’s political space is marked by a low level of democratic capital and a high level of democratic deficit.

This creates a favourable political environment for the African states to retrogress from establishing democratic institutions, and to embark on building and strengthening a political trajectory that fashions autocratic institutions.

And with majority of African governments being tied to China’s development agenda through the so-called cheap Chinese government loans, the assured long association between Africa and Beijing will certainly create fodder for the latter to export her political ideologies to African states.

It won’t be a surprise that a few years from now majority of African states would have drifted away and departed from the idea of democracy while gladly and blindly embracing the notion of autocracy with the so-called benevolent dictators roaming wild in the continent.

The West Responds, Africa Suffers
Former colonial masters and thereafter passionate neo-colonialists, but nonetheless colonialists, the West continues to influence social, political and economic activities in Africa. Long before China officially bagged Africa as her overseas neo-colony, Western states largely controlled the affairs of African countries though they still do so at the moment.

From granting African states cosmetic independence to shuffling them like cards during the Cold War; to wrecking and crippling their economies through the nefarious and nebulous economic policies known as structural adjustment programmes (SAPs); to orchestrating coupe d’états, and advocating for democratic institutions while at the same time supporting dictators, Africa has seen enough of the West’s experiments.

With China’s emergence as Africa’s new neo-colonial master, the West changed tact in Africa as evidenced by the covers of The Economist magazine in a span of ten years; in 2000, it was “The hopeless continent”, and in 2011 it was “Africa rising.” Was Africa rising because of China?

The Economist’s cover title of “Africa rising” came two years after China surpassed the USA as Africa’s largest trading partner, and so the title was one way of informing the Western governments that they should be more aggressive in Africa as the Chinese had taken over. It wasn’t about Africa rising!

Daggers are drawn! With the invention of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the West is watching particularly the USA. USA and her allies will intensify their activities in Africa.

China’s entrance into the so-called New Era already began with Xi’s global ambitions; first, through his politico-lingual invention of the Chinese Dream, and secondly through the ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR).

Response by USA plus her allies to China’s New Era ambitions may negatively affect majority of African states. USA and the Western league at large will use any means necessary to counter China’s move. They will increase their support for despotic and dictatorial regimes in Africa if need be as long as it proves to be an effective strategy in countering China.

Africa is set to witness an increase in the amount of aid from the West as a counter measure strategy to China’s New Era ambitions. As it has been the norm, whether the aid will be directed to address the fabricated goals or will be embezzled or even unaccounted for won’t bother the West as long as the geo-political objectives are achieved.

So, with China’s bold entrance into the New Era theatre and with USA’s much expected response, Africa will gain in terms of aid and infrastructural development but will also lose; drifting away from the idea of democracy, intensified economic dependence, loss of political independence, proxy wars and economic stagnation.

Will African states find their footing amid China’s renewal of her global ambitions?

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