Chinese lessons for Africa

HARARE - While conducting research on the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua at the American Embassy Public Affairs library in 1999, I came across a very small book entitled Can Governments Learn?

I said to myself, of course governments do learn, I thought governments were experienced in so much as they would not repeat the same mistake or embark on a disastrous course of action done by another country or government.

I was dead wrong, Third World governments are slow learners and some do not learn at all. The small book chronicled how governments in Latin America vigorously implemented structural adjustment programmes one after the other regardless of the disastrous effects experienced by the countries which first implemented them.

All this was in the 1960’s but in 1990 our very own Zimbabwean government adopted the anti-people and disastrous structural adjustment programme as the panacea to our economic ills.

It is sad that some learned PLD holders agitated for the implementation of a suicidal economic policy that has condemned the poorest of the poor to a perpetual cycle of poverty whilst enriching a few fatty cats.

This clearly demonstrated that some among us are highly schooled and not educated.

When Zimbabwe decided to adopt the Look East policy, never mind that the East is looking everywhere, most sceptics did not see the logic in that policy.

Almost all sections of the Zimbabwean populace went on tours or familiarisation visits to China.

Journalists who have been to China have spoken glowingly of its huge investments in infrastructure and how the once poor country now has the biggest reserves of foreign currency albeit with more than 100 million Chinese people living below $2 per day.

The opportunity to learn is now especially when China seeks to unveil new leadership at the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

China has learned from its own mistakes which we can also learn from, these stretch from the failure of the Great Leap Forward, emphasis on ideological purity instead of expertise under the revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

Mao’s attempt to assert his beliefs on the party and country led to economic catastrophe and near chaos during the Cultural Revolution.

It also alienated Chinese leaders like Deng Xiaoping who later abandoned orthodox communist doctrines and incorporated elements of the free enterprise system into the Chinese economy which have led to its phenomenal growth up to this present day.

All the rapid economic growth in that country is due to a nurtured hard work ethic something outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao has alluded to “We must aim higher and work harder and continue to pursue development in a scientific way, promote social harmony and improve people’s lives”.

 He also emphasised the need for peace — as a prerequisite for development “pursue peace, development and cooperation and oppose war, eliminate poverty and avoid confrontation in order to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity — this is what the people of all countries long for”.

Hu made it clear that all Chinese nationals should be disciplined and that corruption should be dealt with ruthlessly without fear or favour. If left unchecked it will destroy the country. The zero tolerance to corruption is key to the development of the economy and many countries in Africa have failed to progress economically due to the cancerous scourge of white collar corruption.

Whenever there is an anti-corruption drive in Africa, it is aimed at the less powerful in society.

But in China some leaders who were touted as candidates for the top office like Bo Xilai have been swept aside due to corruption, Chinese premier Wen Jaibao has personally asked the politburo to investigate allegations that his family accumulated at least $2,7 billion from 1992 to 2012.

Looking East means working hard, being disciplined, fighting corruption, stopping the creation of cultic leaders and having public accountability. - Wellington Gadzikwa

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