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Decoloniality: Did somebody say China?

08 Dec 2019 at 11:47hrs | Views
The name "China" invokes mixed reactions from a mixed bag of many different people from varied interests and locations in the world.

For others China represents the alternative to Euro-American imperialism. Some governments, tired of Euro-American economic and political arrogance give to China the status of an all-weather friend that is willing to help with finances and other interventions in any sector of the economy and the polity.

Much like Russia, China is remembered for its contribution to the liberation of Africa from western colonialism.

Even then, in the academy, the polity and economy of Africa as a continent there are scholars, politicians and business players that see China also as its own eastern version of imperialism and siphoning ways.

In the West, mainly, China is imagined and constructed as the enemy of democracy and development that represents darkness and backwardness in the world. Which part of the image of China is reality and which part is western propaganda?

That is subject for academic and political debate. Intellectually, however, beyond academics, it may be profitless to take sides in the debate.

Yet anyone that cares about life in the world today should at least think about China. China is a global intellectual, political, economic and cultural reality that can be ignored at the very expensive price of denialism and ignorance.

To ponder China is indeed to think about the present world.

Enter the Dragon: What does China say about China?

My favourite quote from Chairman Mao Zedong has always been: "There is great disorder under the Heavens, the situation is excellent!"  This Maoist statement has meant different things to different people with their own experiences and agendas.

For me it has meant that disorder and chaos in the world are an excellent opportunity for thought and action. Yes; tragedies and disasters of all depths and heights can be an opportunity for invention.

True to that wisdom, China as an Empire that has had its rises and falls, and is currently experiencing a rise seems to have taken the present disorder in the world system as an excellent opportunity to rise politically and economically.

Falling and rising is a lesson that has been the greatest gift of China to the world, I think. China has come back from the dustbins of history.

It is also Mao during the Cultural Revolution that told the people that: "Don't wait for someone else to tell you what to do, you have the right to rebel, think and act for yourselves, destroy cultural relics, denounce and attack not only your elders, but government and party officials, swipe away the repressive state and organise yourself into communes!"

Somehow, China seems to be doing all this in the world system, causing havoc and challenging norms, pulling down the gods themselves and rising above everything else.

The present leader of China, Xi Jinping has spoken a lot about the relationship between China and Africa, about a China-Africa world. His favourite sayings in many of his speeches are: "Responding to the call of times," "the tree with the deep roots is the one that bears rich fruits," and "the ocean is vast because it ignores no rivers."

For me these few among the many statements that Jinping likes are indicative of the mindset of China. Responding to the call of times refers to being timeous and relevant to the situation in the world, being there in place and in time.

Deep roots and rich fruits refer to entrenchment and maximum harvesting of rich profits at a given opportunity. An ocean that does not ignore rivers is a China that relates to all, big and small, and that also eats everything from ants to elephants. All these aphorisms refer to a China that knows its place and power in the world. China thinks deeply about China in the world, not isolating itself but getting involved in the world.

On 3 September 2018 Xi Jinping addressed himself to Africa and African leaders and provided what I call the rhetoric of China's policy in relating with Africa.

The logic of China's approach to Africa is found, in my view, in the aphorisms of Mao and Jinping some of which I have noted above. Jinping said to Africa: "We want a win-win economic and political partnership, we want mutual happiness, cultural prosperity for all, common security and the harmony of man and nature."

All this was said as China practices its socialism, which is state-capitalism or capitalism with a Chinese face, as it has been called.

And China has prospered in the world. It is the tree that has deep roots, the ocean that ignores no rivers and it responds to the call of times.

China has modernised without westernising, and that must be what infuriates the Euro-American Empire. China scares the West. China relates with the West. And China gets involved than boycott.

What must Africa Do: The Triple Heritage Thesis

Sloganeers will say let's look to the East where the sun rises, and give our backs to the West where sun sets. But the condition of our world is much wider and deeper than the most powerful slogans.

We are living in the end times, said Slavoj Zizek, we cannot afford not to think beyond the shallow and the narrow.

Thinking decolonially, I want to insist on the thesis of the Triple Heritage that was excellently popularised by Ali Mazrui, and that was originally generated by Kwame Nkrumah in 1964. Africa became a home for its own African civilisation.

The Western civilisation came and settled in Africa, and so did the Eastern civilisation. The three civilisations did not settle peaceably and harmoniously in Africa, no. There were genocides and epistemicides of conquest. Enslavements, colonisation, displacements, dispossessions and exploitations. There was what Samul P. Huntington called "the clash of civilisations."

Nkrumah noted that after the landing of the three civilisations in Africa there was no longer any pure and innocent Africa to return to, even if we expel the westerners and the easterners out of Africa.

Africa is now permanently formed of the three civilisations and it should take full advantage of that reality and condition. Instead of regretting and wallowing in victimhood, Africa should re-invent itself with the strengths of all the three civilisations and learn great lessons from their weaknesses.

What does not kill Africa, from the West and the East, should make Africa stronger. And what kills Africa must be avoided. Nkrumah's Triple Heritage proposition for Africa rhymes well with Enrique Dussel's concepts of Planetarity and Transmodernity. Africa should fall where its pieces can be picked up. Stand up and take its place under the sun. Act and stop being acted upon.

Where Should Africa Go?

China has a future that is in the past. It has regained its status as an Empire by keeping true to its roots and also learning how to play the modern game and overcome the West in its own game and home ground.

China has, in short, been Machiavellian. Responding to the call of times is true Machiavelli. China has responded to different calls of different times but remained true to its reality as China.

Ying Zheng became the First Emperor of Qin, China, in 221 BC. He did so by following prophecies and philosophies of ancient legalists.

Right up to Confucius, and later, the state was founded on three pillars, Fa: Law or Principle, Shu: Tactics and Arts, Shi: Legitimacy, power and charisma. Carrying these three principles China has managed to navigate and negotiate the world, not only to survive but also to prosper.

Africa should go to Africa and respond to the call of place and time. It should play the African game within the world game and modernise without westernising. One of the successes of China has been in punishing corruption of public officials with death. Why, because when leaders still from the people, there cannot be a future.

In China a person that has stolen from the people may never stand before the people and be seen by the people, he is hidden in a grave, protected from sight. That is the gravitas of China towards progress and prosperity.

The corrupt, especially leaders, in China are fast-tracked to their cremation, reduced to ashes. Kids grow up knowing that you cannot steal and lead, or live for that matter.

In Analectics 12: 11, Confucius was asked a philosophical question about good governance and his answer was: "Good government consists of the ruler being a ruler, the minister being a minister, the father being a father, and the son being a son."

The answer sounds simple but it is not simplistic. It is about truth and fidelity to roles.

When leaders are not leaders people stop being people and there is chaos. Africa should be true to its reality as Africa and play the game with courage and veracity.

Pretending among leaders and the people may only lead to more pretending and there is no China or Europe and America that will come and help Africa to be Africa. Africa should take its place in the Triple Heritage of the world. "There is Great disorder under the Heavens, the situation is Excellent!"

If Africa cannot identify excellent opportunities in the present disorder of the world order defined by the East and the West, then African youths must change their ways of reading, thinking and speaking.

There is need for new intellectual and political languages, new meanings and new directions. I reserve my comments on what China should do in Africa, China will do China, my submission is that Africa should think seriously about what to do with China in Africa. Thinking about what China will or should do in Africa is not thinking at all, I insist.

Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe writes from Gezina, in Pretoria. This article is a simplified version of remarks made to the Governance and Socioeconomic Development in China and Africa Conference hosted by the China Africa Institute and the Human Sciences Research Council, Sheraton Hotel, Arcadia, 3 December 2019.

Source - sundaynews
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