The Great Wall Comes Down

“We have to join hands, dance together, eat and smile together.”

These words, said by Professor Andy Qingan Zhou – deputy director of the Centre for Global Media Studies based at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, aptly capture the aspirations, hopes and dreams of the people of China.
This emerged during my two-week visit of the People’s Republic of China, a visit that was an eye-opener to what China is really like than relying on hearsay that is often bandied around by those who are prejudiced against the giant Asian country.
Even a first visitor to the great dragon, China, will find it easy to understand the essence behind these words, because by nature, China is a hospitable country.
A warm welcome greeted us, despite the ‘great wall’ of differences in race and language that exist between China and Africa.
On touching down in China, the “great wall” of differences immediately fell down and we felt like blood brothers and sisters who had been separated only by distance.
Surely, the Chinese are a cordial people who are keen and devoted to maintaining bilateral ties with Africa.
“Africa brings life to the life of an individual. It is very nearest to natural human beings,” Huang YouYi, in concurring with Professor Qingan Zhou, added.
But apart from this, one thing that immediately strikes you about China is that it is a land of contradictions.  
From a country whose historical background is rooted in communism, one would think that they would never embrace capitalism and emerge as the world’s second largest economy after the United States.
But today, thanks to their promotion of science and technology through the establishment of centres like China Science and Technology Museum which promotes the sector, China has risen to be a superpower in every sense of the world.
Their technology has spread far and wide the world over, to the extent that the United States even contracts some Chinese companies to manufacture products for them.
This has changed the lifestyle of some Chinese people, who are finding it easy to adapt and keep abreast with issues taking place in the global village.
The technological advancements that China has made has even inspired a new philosophy among some of China’s elite class, especially young professional women, who are determined to see their country moving away from the traditional modes of life like relying on bikes for transport, among others.
“It’s better to cry in a Mercedes Benz than to smile on a bicycle,” is the catch phrase among most youthful women.
Yet this is in stark contradiction to the Chinese government’s policy that encourages people to prefer motorcycles and bicycles to ease traffic congestion owing to over-population.
According to the Chinese government, you have to have a certificate licensing you to buy a vehicle.
But this process can quash one’s dream of owning a car because they put you on a waiting list; a process which, if missed, can cost you a life-time’s opportunity of owning a car.
Another interesting contradiction about China is that while it is a technological giant, it has, on the other hand, realised the pernicious hold that technology has, which outside forces can use as the proverbial “Tower of Babel” to destroy it.
“The United States, especially the Western world has found Twitter and Facebook as powerful tools of penetrating into people’s lives and overturn countries like China, but our authorities realised that it was better to create their domestic social networks like Weibo, which the Chinese people can use to interact on their own without outside influence.
“This has reduced the risk of infiltration by these countries into the core of China,” said a student at Tsinghua University.
Baidu is the equivalent of Google, Renren (literally meaning a network for everyone) is an equal to Facebook while Sina is a Twitter-like network and Judou rivals Youtube in China.       
One notable development about China is its great leap in democracy.
It is a country that believes that power belongs to the people, and by the people.  
“Many people think the Chinese political system is authoritarian, and not democratic, but great changes have taken place in China,” political analyst Liu Jun Jie, noted.
He said that no political system was perfect if it disregarded the people.
“Political systems can simulate and a good political system is more dependent and its success is based on the economic situation of that country,” he said.
Jun Jie said this is why the Communist Party, which was launched in 1921, was successful because it respected the basic political four pillar-support system after 1949.
“This basically, was hinged on the fact that all people respect one chamber; all the power comes from the people; we depend on national economy and the local government is administered by the central government,” Jun Jie said.
China – whose population is pegged at 1.3 billion translating to 20 percent of the entire world population – rely much on their manufacturing industry as well as grain production.
“China boasts of a good crude steel production of over US$2.9 trillion of imports and exports. However, we still have a poor and backward people in China because of the staggering population, this alone cannot support everyone.
“For instance, in 2010 alone, China is number two in terms of GDP, but when we want to compare the GDP per capita, we become number 100,” Sun Qi Ming an economic analyst who is also affiliated to the China Economic Reform Development and Opening Up, said.
He applauded the Chinese government for going an extra mile in playing a leading role in advocating for a cleaner environment through the introduction of environmentally-friendly concepts like the introduction of new energy resources like electric cars and solar energy.
While China might be focusing much on technology, they however believe in the utilisation of any land that is available, despite the challenge they face in farming land, with just 7 percent of their land being arable.
“If we start importing grain, prices in grain the world over will skyrocket to higher demand, and hence we encourage Chinese people to make use of their available land and avoid importation of grain,” Qi Ming said.
But why are the Chinese more active in Sino-Africa Corporation?
“China was helped by Africans on its elevation to the United Nations position. In the field of journalism, we are not as rich as Western powers, we are acting through the third person and that third person (US) is not friendly and thereby bringing in misunderstandings.
“With the backing of our African friends, we hope to increase our capacity so that our voice can be heard on the international scene.
“However, China still has some difficulties and challenges but we are confident and determined to do a greater job. China will always be a friend of developing countries,” Cui Weiben, former Chinese Ambassador to Spain, said.
And, if his words are to be taken in another dmension, the construction of a 36-kilometre Hangzhou Bay Bridge, which stretches across the Yangtze River connecting Haiyan, Jianxing in the North and Cixi, and Ningbo in the South, is symbolic of China’s determination to extend bilateral progression between Africa and herself.
But the this long stretch of a bridge should not also overshadow the challenge that Africans face in learning from China in every sphere of their lives, be it language, culture, fashion, science and technology, as signified by the four-metre bridge at Tsinghua University.


April 2013
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