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UJ: Dr David Monyae explores Chinese engagement in Africa

Whilst Trump will be busy building a wall, China is building alliances with more countries across the world, writes Dr David Monyae.
Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University Of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece entitled “WEF looks to China for answers“, published on the Sunday Independent, 22 January 2017.
The disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in late 1990 led Francis Fukuyama to boldly assert in his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man: “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of the post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
Twenty-two years after Fukuyama misread history, President Donald Trump has entered the White House and Britain is leaving the strongest regional integration scheme – the EU.
The world faces a spectre of anti-globalisation, nativism, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny.
In her article which appeared in the Shanghai Daily on January 18, Ume Farwa succinctly captured what is happening in the US and most Western countries.
She wrote, “Western countries now find themselves unable to hold onto social and political values at home, which they carry abroad. People’s rebellion against the forces of globalisation and support for national sovereignty imperils the US-led liberal international order.”
These forces against globalisation voted Trump into power, a man who is the antithesis of the US and Western nations’ attempts to universalise liberal democracy.
Attempts to build responsive and responsible leadership through international diplomacy and co-operation is confronted by strong opposition forces in favour of anti-globalisation, anti-regional integration, protectionism, isolation and human rights.
The very fundamentals of liberal democracy that favour economic globalisation are weakening.
In his farewell speech, former president Barack Obama warned Americans that, “If the scope of freedom and respect of the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedom will eventually be threatened.”
Similarly, here at home, thousands of employees might lose their jobs due to the US dumping chickens on our markets.
Like their counterparts over the world, South Africa’s millennials are rejecting the status quo that impoverishes their parents and hinders their access to quality and decolonised knowledge.
It is within this context that the global elite (captains of industry, government officials, academics and members of the civil society) gathered this week in the Swiss Alps for the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos under the theme of Responsive and Responsible Leadership. In an unprecedented move, WEF delegates looked to the East to China instead of the western champions of globalisation and liberal democracy to rescue global multilateralism.
In its report, WEF openly acknowledged that reforming the nature of capitalism would be needed to combat the growing appeal of populist political movements around the world. More importantly, WEF noted that while getting higher economic growth levels is necessary for the world economy, it remains insufficient to bring back the stability required to rescue the process of globalisation.
Globalisation is leaving the developing world, especially Africa, behind. In his opening address, President Xi Jinping evoked Charles Dickens’s, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity”, to underscore the contradictions globalisation is presenting the world.
He characterised economic globalisation as a “Pandora’s Box” that does not need to be abandoned due to the problems it creates. In his boldest statement demonstrating China’s willingness to take global leadership, he said, “China will open our arms to people in the world to the express train of development.”
Whilst Trump will be busy building a wall along its Mexican border, shredding Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership and other major trade deals, China is building alliances with more countries across the world.
China has embarked upon an ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative and the 21st Century Maritime Route (Silk Road) involves more than 61 countries.
The Silk Road is gaining momentum. China is opening up new markets in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkan countries, Africa and the Latin America. Already, a goods train has travelled 12000km from the Chinese city of Yiwu in Zhejiang Province to the British Isles going through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and then arriving in London.
Africa will stand to benefit if it can strategically link its own African Union Agenda 2063 vision with that of China within the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation.
The Silk Road reaches Africa through the Port of Mombasa in Kenya, an ideal epicentre for North-South Corridor co-operation to ensure the Africa-China trade boosts much-needed economic activity.
South Africa and Africa respond accordingly to a fast-changing world.
It is critical to strengthen the AU’s African Agenda by utilising the African Peer Review Mechanism, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
While strengthening its relations with China, Africa should continue to cultivate its multilateral relationships with some of the Western nations that benefit its growth objectives ie, Germany, Canada, Australia and others such as Japan.
Africa must contemplate how best to benefit from China and the traditional western partnership to quieten the growing discontent with globalisation at home. Failure to do so may result in Davos itself becoming obsolete.
Monyae is a political analyst and co-director at the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute.
*The views expressed in the article are that of the author/s and do not necessary reflect that of the University of Johannesburg
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