By Elias Mhegera, Beijing – A Chinese academician Prof Prof. Li Anshan has called for diplomatic adversaries to his country to revisit the long history of unshaken diplomatic ties and people to people co-operation between Africa and its China counterpart.
The call was part of the message to the ‘world’ by a distinguished historian and Chinese scholar in African studies Prof. Li Anshan when lecturing a team of 20 African journalists who are visiting China for a span of ten months after being hosted by the China –Africa Press Centre (CAPC), in Beijing.
But even if it was not for the sake of diplomacy and the history of mutual co-operation, but the fact that the trade volume between China and Africa reached over 300 bin USD in 2015 this means there is a high demand of smoothening the trade exchanges through mutual reciprocity.
Prof Li revisited the long history of African presence to China and vice versa. He recounted the exchanging visits between Africa and China from visits by Ibn Battuta from Morocco who lived in 1304 to 1377 to the Chinese assistance to Ethiopians during their nationalist battle against Italy during its conquest of Ethiopia in 1935–1937.
“Those who feels threatened with the current presence of the Chinese in Africa are myopic, and not well versed with the long-time ties which have now reached an advanced stage,” remarked the don.
He reminded that propaganda against his country which are compounded in the philosophy of ‘soft power’ have been aggravated by the most recent mutual understanding between Africa and China being results of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) particularly the 2012 in China, and in Johannesburg South Africa from 3 to 5 December 2015 being the first in the African soil.
The don disclosed that prior to the FOCAC Summits there were several attempts for Africa to establish long-term relations with China where the Africans would operate as a single entity but these efforts failed because of divergences and the complex nature of Africa’s integration.
But as time went by, calls for such relations became ever increasing to the extent that in 2011 there was the ‘walk of the talk’. Under the new arrangement China appeals to its African counterparts to act as a single entity if the continent was to be revamped from its current economic woes.
He reminds that just like it had assisted Africa previously in its construction of infrastructure, it will continue with the same pace of enhancing people to people co-operation. He gave an example of the construction of the Tanzania –Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) and the Tanzania-Zambia (TAZAMA) pipelines but also construction of the same type in many African countries.
Under the new arrangement an emphasis is not only of governments but people to people as well. Through these efforts there have been many efforts of interaction by individuals and institutions also by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in various capacities.
Through these arrangements there have been cultural exchanges and visiting of artists and tourists from the two parties. One of the groups which have benefited from such exchanges is the Tinga Tinga Art Group of Tanzania whose artifacts have been bought by many Chinese citizens and visitors equally after massive support of interested parties.
Paintings of Nelson Mandela during his prison days, during his presidency and later during his retirement as a peace broker are found in many places of this country. This reporter witnessed a number of such photos in the Silk Market in the downtown Beijing.
“A renowned author Wole Soyinka could not believe his eyes when he saw Chinese students mastering some of his plays when he once visited China for his exchange programmes,” remarks the don.
The don whose doctorate degree was specialized in Africa with a title “British Rule and Rural Protest in Southern Ghana” says China has of recent strived also to look for an entry point of a constructive engagement in conflicts emanating in Africa due to power struggles and excessive use of power as a way of maintaining the status quo.
He as well, cherished efforts being taken by African government in order to maintain gender parity and to cement this goal his country had hosted the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, a conference that marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality.
The recent visit to Hainan revealed that indeed China started relations with foreign nations’ including Africa for quite some time. For instance France had its diplomatic representative as early as 2000 thousand ago when it sent a permanent envoy to the Han Dynasty in Hainan Province.
A longtime of poor communications with the external commercial partners due to language barriers made this vast country to invest a lot in the learning of foreign languages. Today there are Chinese who could speak as many as four languages including their lingua franca the Mandarin language.
The quest for bridging the communication gap, coupled with the intention of the status quo in the Francophone to defend themselves from the Anglophone expansionism as reflected in a wave of ‘civil wars’ in almost all former strong homes of the French language overseas necessitated for the protection of a ‘third party partner’ hence China became the ‘necessary evil’ that the threatened had to accommodate whether it is wholeheartedly or not.
Now there is the much cherished FOCAC whose history indicates that it was in the Wanning City of the Hainan Province whereby from November 10 to 11 of 2011 delegates from the two parties namely Africa and China resolved that opportunities and challenges in their trade interactions should be studied and ultimately be resolved.
On its part Africa was a victim of unresolved long-term economic shambles coupled with the overburdening of debts from the World Bank, Western allies and other global partners, while China which had a lot of investment in Africa was facing difficulties emanating from a number of issues including poor infrastructure.
Thus FOCAC has become a new initiative to resolve the old traumas of economic hurdles within the African Continent. But even at other fronts Chinese organizations and associations have been of enough assistance when the African governments had failed to fill the gap. To this effect, the China’s Network of NGOs for International Exchange (CNNIE) has contributed a lot for operations in the treatment of eye cataracts.