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Zim must learn from China

I WAS recently in China as part of a group of local media practitioners invited by the commercial and economic counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Harare to attend a bilateral seminar for Zimbabwean journalists and editors.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

The idea of the visit was to share perspectives and exchange notes on media and other issues with our Chinese counterparts and officials.

The trip, with all its highs and lows, proved to be very useful in many respects. The Chinese treated us very well, but sadly the Zimbabwean ambassador to Beijing Paul Chikawa and his embassy staff were not as welcoming. Our brief meeting with them at the embassy proved to be a monumental waste of time.

Hurried and unstructured, while lacking form and content, the engagement was emblematic of the gross incompetence and chaos characteristic of the Zimbabwean regime. Overall, they lacked hospitality and sounded out of their depth during an intense but brief discussion about what Zimbabwe can learn from China.

Apart from giving us an opportunity to interact with the Chinese media, political and corporate players, as well as visit awesome historical features like The Great Wall of China, a Unesco World Heritage Site, museums, galleries, lush vineyards where the rich and eminent live, the beautiful coastal city of Weihai by the Yellow Sea and the island village of Gu Mu, among other places, the visit gave us a chance to make empirical observations on China’s economic miracle.

For it is a miracle that a country which was largely feudal and an economic backwater a few decades ago, reeling under repression and poverty, has risen from the ashes to become a global powerhouse effectively in 38 years after Deng Xiaoping’s ascendancy in 1978.

China has achieved within three decades the same levels of industrialisation which took Europe two centuries to reach.

Of course, the story of China’s rise is much more complex given its long civilisation, complicated history and authoritarian system. Although the third plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in December 1978 — at which the reform and change agenda was announced — is widely recognised as the critical turning point in modern China’s 67-year history, the foundations of success had been laid during Mao’s era despite concomitant political repression, policy disasters and human rights tragedies.

Deng’s leadership and reforms were the game-changer. The reforms succeeded in triggering phenomenal economic growth, while also vastly reducing poverty and maintaining relative political and social stability. China’s success has allowed it to play an increasingly important role in the world economy and global politics. It is also now a key player in Africa through a mixture of aid, trade and investment.

There are a number of factors which influenced China’s success. The country capitalised on its crises to create opportunities. The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, for instance, exposed the flaws of Mao’s disastrous model and his successors learnt from that. Effective leadership, progressive policies and good governance ultimately made the difference.

China’s new model has moved away from ideology-driven policy-making towards an evidence-based approach under the mantra “seeking truths from facts”, which places a premium on science not dogma.

The country also embraced systematic and sustained reform. Due to China’s geographical and population size, and its social dynamics, a one-size-fits-all approach is unworkable, so a pragmatic and decentralised process based on local conditions is preferred. China has also found ways to reduce or overcome internal resistance to reform, and to fight corruption to move the nation forward.

As demonstrated in Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, top American intellectual heavyweights, it is man-made institutions, which can be extractive or inclusive, that determine the economic success or failure of countries, not culture, weather, geography or ignorance as some scholars previously thought.

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  1. China’s growth is driven by its huge population which was previously poor. It will be impossible for Zimbabwe to emulate China because its population can not support viable industrial growth!

    • Why aren’t we talking about India here, noting that it’s population is also huge? Small nations like Singapore have done extremely well on the economic front. It’s not much to do with the population but determined political leadership

  2. Everyone now is looking at China the big copy cat and nationals who are involved in Ivory and Rhino poaching including the other asiatic countries
    Just dream on dont expect anything for an old man who wants everything for himself and his family and extended families you are daydreaming

  3. You also might want to mention that Asians generally have an iq twice that of ma keffirs who only want to graduate in the arts and do so by regurgitating study material parrot fashion displaying little or no independent thought.Look at Ana Bob nana Gono ma Zimbo geniouses..not to mention Grace Fidza Saviour and other Doctors…

  4. I am disappointed to read all the negative comments above. China has indeed done miracles. They achieved that by looking rationally at their problems and adopting rational solutions. As Mulaya says, the huge change came when they gave up dogma.

    Zimbabwe could do the same. But we are imprisoned by geriatrics who were indoctrinated in the very same system that both Russia abandoned when they saw it wasn’t working. And we are certain to fail unless reality takes over from dogma.

    It was dogma that drove the two most devastating events in our history but our ancient leaders keep their eyes and ears tight shut against any new thinking.

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