IN the aftermath of the fourth plenary session of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) central committee, the country’s ruling party invited a group of African scholars on how Africa and the world’s second largest economy can deepen relations.
Senior reporter Tinashe Kairiza (TK), recently in China, spoke to the deputy director-general of the research office of the International Department Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) Dong Weihua (DW, pictured) who emphasised that Zimbabwe in particular and Africa in general should craft sound national development plans in order to benefit under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) being spearheaded by the global economic powerhouse. Below are the excerpts:
TK: You recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Republic of China (CPC) at a time you have made tremendous economic progress. What are the key milestones you have achieved in that period?
DW: As you have said, over the past 70 years, China has indeed undergone tremendous changes. Speaking of economic development achievements, many people in the world call it the China miracle. Seven decades is not long, it is just time for one generation. But being able to lift an impoverished country to prosperity is quite a feat.
The reason why we say the 70th anniversary is an important moment in history is because, at this juncture, China is confident to declare to the entire world that with a social system that is different from the West, China has achieved much more than they have achieved with their own system. With regards to the milestone we have achieved over those 70 years, there were indeed several milestones.
TK: Historically, China shares the same colonial history with most Third World countries. What do you think such countries should do differently to assert their economic independence?
DW: Indeed, as you have said, China shares similarities with Africa in terms of being former colonies. However, China’s way of achieving economic independence was developed around China’s own national conditions.
So I cannot say that if other Third World countries follow what China has done, they will succeed. But I would like to share with you what China did.
First of all, the reason why China could maintain economic independence is that the founding of new China was premised on completing the social revolution. In other words, creating a social system that was never seen in the history of China including the socialist system. Coupled to that, we also established our basic economic and political system. So these are systematic foundations for our economic independence.
In particular, China abolished the unequal treaties signed by corrupt Chinese governments with imperialists. Secondly in the reforming and opening up process, China introduced foreign capital and technology.
But regarding industries that are crucial to China’s survival, we maintained our dominance and control. In the social maintenance sector which relates to people’s livelihoods, we never allowed the opening up the sector.
We never allowed those sectors to be privatised, for example the power sector.
TK: On the global stage, China has also asserted its presence in virtually every part of the world. What is China’s ultimate goal as it relates with other countries?
DW: As China continues to develop, its relations with the rest of the world will be shaped by global changes. In the past our focus was domestic economic development. Now China, as it has become stronger, our outbound investment is increasing and I think this is inevitable change considering China’s growth and current status in the world.
In the globalised world, if a country wants to develop, it cannot solely rely on its domestic markets and technology. You must pull all the resources from other countries as well. China adopts its economic policy in relation to its people’s demands. We can say that China has realised that to continue developing, it must relate with other countries in a good way and maintain a positive interaction with them. And only then can China create a harmonious international environment.
During this process, China’s development cannot be achieved if all its neighbours are poor. It cannot be possible if only China has a stable economy when all the countries are under unrest. Only if other countries in the world are rich and stable, will China have greater room for development. And that is a very important goal as China relates with other countries. China is deeply convinced that it can only develop when all other countries are developing well.
TK: One of the key initiatives China is pursuing is its increasing interest in Africa. What informs China’s interest in Africa?
DW: China’s interest in Africa is historical. The relations are deeply rooted in history. When new China was founded, we already had a very good relationship with African countries.
Now that China is rich, we still maintain those good relations with African countries. That never changes. Before the reforming and opening up era, China was very poor and had no abundant resources to help African countries. Now that we are rich, we want to use our domestic resources to help African countries to advance their development agenda.
It is also true that by helping African countries to develop, it will create more room conducive for China’s own growth.
Africa is a continent with the greatest vitality. Economic growth in Africa has maintained a two digit mark for the past decade. And China is the country with the biggest development prospect in the world. So if Africa can join hands with China and establish a new type of South-South Co-operation this might end.
TK: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) speaks broadly about China’s interest particularly in most third world countries. What is in it for these countries under the plan? Do you think Zimbabwe has solid plans to benefit under the Belt and Road thrust?
DW: China has always adhered to one principle. Development must be in line with the national interests of a country. So in order for Zimbabwe to develop through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Zimbabwe must first have a national development strategy of its own. Only Zimbabweans know what they need most.
I think that Zimbabwe and China have lots of space for their co-operation. The two countries have maintained sound relations. The two countries have maintained good relations with each other. So it is convenient that think tanks from both sides may sit together and explore potential avenues of co-operation.
If Zimbabwe needs the help of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC), that help is available towards crafting that national development plan.
TK: Tackling corruption is high on the agenda of the CPC. How do you think sincerely tackling graft can help Africa fix her economic challenges?
DW: As you have said, corruption is high on the agenda of the CPC. Through a series of centralised measures we have recorded success in tackling corruption. It is fair to say that in the Chinese government it has been truly purified of corruption.
Speaking of China’s anti-corruption campaign, I think there are several reasons that are of fundamental importance to tackle graft. Firstly, it is the determination of government and the leader to spearhead the anti-corruption campaign with courage.
The second decisive factor is that whether there are system obstacles in that country, forgive me if I am too straightforward, for the opposition party can only gain support if the ruling party is involved in corruption. So if the ruling party wants to conduct a successful anti-corruption campaign, it must be seen to be truly fighting corruption. So the multi-party political system poses a serious challenge to the self-purification efforts.
We should also have a clear understanding of the corruption phenomenon and try to curb its impact. We must also understand that it is not only a problem to developing countries, it is also a problem to developed countries.
TK: How important is Africa, geo-politically, to China?
DW: I want to correct your question and say China has been very friendly with Africa and we do not have any geo-political needs from Africa. As has been said many times African countries are very important to African development. And African countries also need China’s development. So this solid friendship was founded long ago.
For example, China’s winning of the seat in the United Nations Security Council was achieved through the help of numerous African countries. China highly values its friendship with Africa and is sincere in keeping it like that. China will never use Africa as a tool to achieve geo-political interests because our friendship is built on the basis of mutual respect and benefits.
TK: How can Zimbabwe and other African countries boost development?
WD: There are many areas that Africa can learn to boost their developments and over the past few days we have been talking about this a lot. For example, in the construction sector in China there is a famous saying: if you want to get rich build roads first and this has been very important in China’s development. After places are connected the chances of development are improved.
Other examples are that a country should always maintain political stability, social stability and also the policies should be consistent and they should not change overnight. And also the country should open mindsets and its worth mentioning during the reforming era that China learnt how to swim when it was in the river, which means we suffered losses in the process. But in recording loses, you gain something more valuable.
In the process of reforming and opening up, China endured may pains, there has been a period where a large number of people were laid off as the reform was not so easy. China during this process has accumulated a lot of capital and technology and this laid the foundation of the country’s future take off.
You may feel pain in the beginning, but if you endure the hardships you will enjoy a very bright future.
The economic development is very beneficial in protecting human rights and rule of law. In the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Western world likes to say one sentence, which is, without democracy there is no development.
Africa is the continent with the greatest of vitality and the economic growth in Africa has maintained a two digit growth threshold over the past 10 years or more and China has the brightest economic development prospect in the world.
In recent years, its contribution to global economic growth was about 30%.So if Africa can join hands with China and develop their economy together and establish a new South-South Co-operation that might end the situation where both of us are always at the lower end of the global value chain.
TK: Do you think upholding human rights and the rule of law can help foster economic development?
DW: What is right should be stated. Without development there will be no good democracy. This also applies to human rights. For developing countries, especially African countries, what is most important for their people now is the rights for survival.
The second most important is the right for development and the third is the right to be respected. If they do not have these what is the point of talking about human rights?
So I believe that for developing countries they should develop their national economy first and accumulate wealth.
This will then bring benefits and welfare to the people. It is only then can we truly talk about human rights. I believe that after sustained development, developing countries should have their definition of what is human rights, democracy and rule of law in accordance with their own national conditions. This should not be defined by the West for them.
Human rights and democracy is a good thing. However, you cannot force every country to follow the same script. People in developing countries are the ones who know which system or laws are suitable for them. In future when their economy develops, they can even provide better protection for their human rights for their own citizens.
President Xi Xinping once said if you want to test if a pair of shoes is suitable for you, only your feet know. Whether the system of developing is suitable to your country, only your own people will know. We can learn from the good sides of a good system, but we can never hard copy the so-called entire good system.