It has become very clear that China is an emerging superpower and the country is inching forward to this status by the day. In view of the just-ended Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), we need to sift carefully on what are Chinaâ€™s military intensions on the African continent because superpowers always come with their guns blazing.
The one frequently asked question on this relationship is whether China is advancing herself on Africa as yet another colonial power in disguise. The Chinese have often answered this question with much veracity and denying such allegations.
History is always the best judge in all circumstances of life and one thing about this study of the past is that it consistently doesn’t lie. We may alter and fashion it to suit our version of events, but truth is truth and does not occur from a laboratory or an assembly line.
There is a distinct difference between China as an emerging superpower and the characteristics of an imperial power. History has been characterised by different world powers who used military power to advance their commercial interest. Starting with the Greeks, they entirely depended on their military power to conquer and subdue the world as they knew it at the time. At a later stage, they were removed from this position of comfort and prestige by the mighty Romans.
The Romans stretched their boundaries even further. What characterised them as a colonial power was the vastness of their territory and the control of world business and commerce. The Roman empire on the other hand thrived because of the use of the Hellenic language which they adopted as the official language. Their commercial progress depended largely on the fact that their military was keeping their subject people in check all the time. This was at a time when slavery was commonly practised around the world. Otherwise slaves do easily revolt if they do not see the existing threat of the military.
After the collapse of the Roman empire came the Ottoman empire which was later pushed out by the British who literally controlled almost one half of the world. The British equally used military power to subdue their subject people while advancing their business interest. They were always kept in check with the threat of the use of maximum force. At the same time they spread the English language and this made life easier for the Americans to take a foothold as a new world empire. Truly speaking, the only thing that ever became a threat to American imperial power was communism. With communism gone and the Cold War over, the only remaining challenger to American power is China’s expansionism.
The interesting aspect is that China’s expansionism is not driven by militarism. The Chinese are an interesting lot because they have their strange way of doing things and successfully too.
In the current era of globalisation, China has found an intuitive way of conquering the world and particularly Africa. At the conclusion of FOCAC in Johannesburg, it became very clear that China wants a permanent business marriage with Africa. They are building very strong ties with the world’s most promising continent in as far as business is concerned.
The presence of H.E Xi Jin Ping on the African soil was a loaded statement and it was quite symbolic for him to come to the continent of Africa and make promises. And there is a lot in their pipeline, it seems.
As mentioned earlier, China is the only world power which has not come to the motherland with military muscle. Other world powers such as France, Britain, Canada and the United States have in the past conducted military exercises on different parts of the African continent including Botswana. To my knowledge, China has not shown the same interest. Globalisation demands that China should conquer the world using completely different methods. It seems the use of the sword to conquer has come to an end and China is redefining novel ways of doing things.
At the just ended FOCAC, China has promised peace and prosperity to the motherland. I believe China needs to rethink their strategy in participating in Africa’s peacekeeping missions. Fewer overseas countries are taking a keen interest in participating in such exercises and China should come to the party. In a post FOCAC press conference with China’s Ambassador to Botswana, H.E. Zheng Zhuqiang promised peace and security among other things.
China has always made a disclaimer that they would not want to interfere in the internal affairs of host countries. But the issue of peacekeeping participation cannot constitute interference in internal matters of host countries. China needs to have that assurance that their financial investments are well secured. I am sure they would not want a rebel general emerging from the bush and confiscating a mine they have invested in.
China has come to do serious business with Africa at a time when the continent is experiencing a change in governance and experiencing calm. The days of dictators are over and democracy has set in. Therefore, it is important that China has to be a partner in maintaining the newfound peace and stability.
“I believe that industrial capacity cooperation between China and Africa meets the urgent need for Africa to realise independent and sustainable development and meets the objective need to safeguard world peace and prosperity.” It is the peace and prosperity that I have underlined in the Ambassador’s speech.
I reckon that if Africa experiences industrial prosperity, there will be little appetite to fight for unprocessed resources. Take the Democratic Republic of the Congo for instance, for decades, they have been fighting over mineral resources. If China brings in the much-needed financial investment, then the returns will be higher and will be far-reaching among the population. The DRC, like most countries in Africa are in dire need of infrastructure development. This is where the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would fit in the whole puzzle of China’s investment in Africa.