THE Communist Party of China (CPC) opened its 18th congress yesterday in Beijing after lengthy preparations, factional infighting and heated discussions among the authorities and public over the direction the country with the biggest population and second largest economy in the world should take.
Report by Dumisani Muleya
Chinese President Hu Jintao, who will be replaced by Xi Jinping, opened the congress which began a once-in-a-decade power transfer, warning corruption “could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state”.
In the process, he threatened to deal with those involved in corruption “whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have”. He was mainly referring to disgraced CPC heavyweight Bo Xilai and other corrupt senior party officials. He could also have been referring to outgoing premier Wen Jiabao, who will be succeeded by Li Keqiang, after revelations his family had amassed a vast fortune during his reign.
Hu’s legacy would be consensus-based and collective leadership in an age in which Chinese society is undergoing rapid, profound and disorientating changes, amid economic prosperity.
It is interesting the CPC’s congress comes ahead of Zanu PF’s conference from December 4-9 and the party’s elective congress next year. While it is difficult to predict political events in a state of flux like in Zimbabwe (Zanu PF in particular), one thing for certain is, come next month Mugabe will seek to extend his leadership of the party by getting endorsement as the candidate in next year’s elections.
It is however not clear whether Mugabe would seek re-election as party leader during next year’s congress. Ordinarily, at 89, Mugabe should retire, but given his ambitions to be president, he might want to cling on.
While Mugabe and his Zanu PF loyalists like to be associated with China, and particularly the CPC, they have clearly learnt nothing from their counterparts since Independence in 1980. China ideologically trained and armed Zanu PF during the liberation struggle, but Mugabe and his party failed to pick up any useful lessons from their handlers.
All they enjoy doing is going to Beijing, Shanghai and other glitzy cities, only to come back with bags full of largesse and trinkets, not political and economic ideas.
Clearly showing he has no vision, Mugabe has failed to emulate former CPC luminary Deng Xiaoping who picked great ideas during his visits to Singapore and the United States to transform China into an economic powerhouse.
Mugabe and his hangers-on have been all over the world, but learnt nothing useful from there. They have only brought back manuals on political repression and poisonous propaganda from countries like Iran and Cuba, not to mention North Korea where Mugabe has been.
As Nelson Mandela once said, Zimbabwe is suffering from “tragic failure of leadership”. The country’s toxic leaders have virtually ruined the country and that’s Mugabe’s legacy.
However, what is disturbing though is not just Mugabe’s leadership and policy failures alone, but that he doesn’t seem to have any regrets and thus won’t quit.
Mugabe ought to have learnt from his Chinese role models how to run a party and a country. Even if the CPC is ideologically handcuffed to the past and is repressive, it has at least managed to ensure consistent leadership renewal and economic prosperity in the past 34 years.
By contrast, Mugabe has been at the helm of Zanu PF for 35 years and his reign has mainly spawned dictatorship and economic failure. Whatever his achievements, they pale in comparison to his monumental failures.
Although it’s too late for Mugabe to change course, Zanu PF — whose provincial chairpersons recently returned from ideological drilling by CPC and training on massive mobilisation — might still reinvent itself if only it is willing to now learn something from China. The ongoing CPC congress provides that opportunity.