EMELDA MWITWA, Lusaka
OVER 2,000 years ago, Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, stated that “one should make friends with people who are upright, sincere and well informed”.Based on this principle, the Communist Party of China (CPC) stands ready to make friends with other political parties across the globe.
Over the years, the party has maintained regular contacts with over 400 political parties and organisations in over 160 countries and their circle of friends continues to grow.
China’s dream to build a community with a shared future for mankind and a better world is anchored on Confucius’ philosophy.
And true to this ambition, Chinese President Xi Jinping last December in Beijing the first conference of political parties dubbed “CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting’’.
Mr Xi delivered a keynote address as General Secretary of the CPC and proposed that the high-level meeting be institutionalised as a platform for political dialogue with broad representation and international influence.
For this reason, the African debut of the high-level meeting was held in Dar es Salaam last week, and among the 40 governing political parties in attendance was Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
The African thematic event was a prelude to the Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
The FOCAC summit themed ‘China-Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation’ slated for September this year, will usher in a new chapter of cooperation with fresh opportunities for development between China and Africa.
At the Dar es Salaam thematic event, notable among the political parties in attendance were the PF, ANC of South Africa, the Frelimo Party of Mozambique, MPLA of Angola, SWAPO of Namibia, Zimbabwe’s ANC and the host Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
African political parties and the CPC engaged in in-depth discussions around the theme and compared notes on governance experience.
They shared ideas on how best to develop the China-Africa cooperation, and in a way setting pace for the September FOCAC summit.
The theme for the Africa thematic event ‘Theory and Practice of CPC and African Parties in Exploring Development Paths Suited to Specific National Conditions’, resonated with the theme for the forthcoming FOCAC high-level meeting.
The obvious question by critical thinkers is, perhaps, why is the CPC courting governing political parties in its quest to build a community with a shared future for mankind?
Political parties are expected to play the role of political guidance in building this dream community for China and Africa.
After 40 years of what it terms the successful road to socialism with Chinese characteristics, China is now forging ahead with a new round of economic reforms and opening up measures to build what it calls a great modern socialist country by the middle of this century.
What dialogue is all about
Africa is not being courted in this dialogue as a weak link in global economics, but rather a potential economic power. Africa has taken strides in exploring development paths with unique features suited to specific national conditions.
“Africa has become one of the world’s fastest growing regions with the greatest potentials. It is dedicated to achieving ‘economic liberation’ through active exploration of an independent road to modernisation.
“It is of great significance for the CPC and African political parties to engage in in-depth discussion on exploring development paths and share experience on development, not only for the deepening of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, but also for the building of a community with a shared future for China and Africa,” the CPC says in one of the brochures that were distributed at the Dar es Salaam summit.
The meeting facilitated exchanges among African parties and their respective exploration of development paths.
This level of dialogue between the CPC and other political parties is expected to free people from the quagmire of poverty, create peace and security in the world, and also to build a green, clean and beautiful world according to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
What China wants
The call to build a community with a shared future for mankind was made by Mr Xi in 2013. His call has gained increasing support on the African continent and China is taking more steps to pursue this kind of cooperation with other countries.
For example, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that President Xi has proposed aims to bring about this envisaged community with a shared future for mankind.
BRI, which is China’s foreign policy that aims to bolster infrastructure connectivity and trade between the Asian country and other countries, stands on five pillars – trade without hindrance; financial integration; people-to-people connectivity, policy harmonisation and infrastructure connectivity.
In April this year, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced that China had secured deals worth US$390 billion with allied countries in BRI between January and April this year.
“China and countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative inked trade deals worth US$389.1 billion in the first four months. It represented a growth of 19.2 per cent year on year,” Ministry of Commerce spokesperson, Gao Feng was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
And the Economic Times of India, quoting the same statement, reported that China’s non-financial investment in those countries increased by 17.3 percent from the same period a year ago to US$4.67 billion.
Critics see BRI as China’s courted plot to dominate world trade. However, Mr Xi says the initiative is aimed at achieving policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity, building a new platform for international cooperation, and creating new drivers of shared development to benefit more countries and people, China Daily reported in April.
“[The initiative] is neither the Marshall Plan after World War II nor an intrigue of China. It is, if anything, a plan in the sunshine.
“What we uphold is seeking shared growth through discussion and collaboration,” China Daily quoted President Xi as saying.
And in its dialogue with political parties, the CPC says there is need to end poverty and build a world are common prosperity through high-level cooperation.
On December 1, 2017 at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High Level Meeting in Beijing, Mr Xi observed that hunger and poverty remain widespread whereas there was a huge gap of development between the North and South.
And people in many parts of the world were living in harsh conditions despite the level of material and technological development in the world.
“ If one sticks to the logic of zero-sum game or winner takes all, or resorts to practices of wheeling-and-dealing or beggar-thy-neighbour, one would only end up blocking his own way forward while shutting the door on others,” President Xi said, emphasising a deeper level of cooperation among countries.
What’s in it for Africa?
The Dar es Salaam Africa thematic event was graced by minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Song Tao, and Tanzania’s President John Magufuli who officially opened the meeting.
Mr Song said in the past 40 years, his country has successfully blazed a development path that has lifted more than 700 million out of poverty since the inception of economic reforms and ‘opening up measures’.
And from 2012 when the CPC revised and adopted a new constitution at its 18th National Congress, Mr Xi, who is secretary general of the party, intensified efforts against poverty alleviation.
Since then, over 10 million people are being lifted out of poverty annually, a development Mr Song refers to as a miracle in the history of world development.
So, apart from bilateral cooperation of individual African countries with China, they are also expected to learn something on how to come up with unique development models that could possibly alleviate poverty on the continent.
China’s story is that they have come this far in development because they adopted a development path that suits the country’s specific conditions – what they call socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The lesson for Zambia and Africa is to blaze the path to development with suitable development models considering specific country needs and conditions.
The PF made it clear at the Dar es Salaam summit that this is the route that Zambia will take in its quest to become a middle income and prosperous country.
“Looking at the journey China has travelled to this point, Zambia under the Patriotic Front is ready to learn from what works and what does not work,” a PF member of the Central Committee, Kebby Mbewe, said in his presentation at the high-level meeting.
Through this cooperation, Africa is also hoping to penetrate the Chinese market of 1.5 billion people with larger volumes of goods and services.
President Magufuli actually prodded China to open up further its trade doors to African goods and services.
Notably, the volume of trade between Africa and China is said to have grown to US$250 billion from US$10 billion since the establishment of FOCAC. Chinese investment in Africa has equally grown from US$250 million in 2000 to over US$35 billion in 2017.
After all is said and done, the onus will be on China to honour its promise to Africa and other BRI allies.
President Xi has promised that: “No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.”
This is exactly what Africa will be expecting in the long term of the China-Africa cooperation.
EMELDA MWITWA, Lusaka