Sep 17, 2015

I love China, but I'm Afraid of Betrayal


Ninety-nine per cent of my time watching TV is spent on Chinese Central Television, CCTV. This has changed my fundamentally Kungfu Image of China, helping me to appreciate the much-talked about Chinese prosperity and seeing how modern, China is. In addition to this, I have also come to watch, closely, the relationship between China and Nigeria. I can say that what obtains between China and Nigeria is reflective of the relationship between China and Sub-Saharan Africa, by-and-large. 

Each time Nigeria has a new leader, the West try to get as close as possible, showing its willingness to support his administration and help harness the growth potential there is in the country. It is believed that prosperity in Nigeria would serve as a train, conveying prosperity to the rest of the continent. While western nations play the umpire, China stands watching, hands folded. This is referred to as The Non-Interference Policy. I find this policy position itchy.  

Sadly, the Nigerian political climate is designed to give political leaders disproportionate power over the common man. This power is largely abused to the detriment of the common man. This is why common people need the voices of the most powerful nations of the world to nudge our leaders and compel them to be humane in their official personas. The Non-Interference Policy is synonymous to a neighbor who prefers to fold his hands and watch while an inferno consumes your house. The implication of the Non-Interference Policy of China to Nigeria means that if China was to be the only powerful nation, the excesses of our leaders would have been boundless. I think that the Non-Interference Policy takes away fidelity from the big Asian. 

Across Nigeria, Chinese goods have largely displaced goods from all other oversea nations. The Sino goods are attractive, ‘affordable’, but of abysmal qualities. So abysmal are their qualities that one could describe Chinese goods as The Dracula, day-by-day sucking the nation of its blood until it is utterly drained. You buy an item today, two weeks later it begins to malfunction, compelling you to buy again. So you live your life buying one item a hundred times, when you should have bought a better quality five times during a lifetime.  Most of the goods hardly come with warranties, compelling one to belief that the manufacturers are conscious of the unpredictability of their goods. My impression is that whatever China offers Africa in foreign aid is usually withdrawn by Dracula trade in just days.

There is a place in Lagos called China Town. It is home to Chinese Small Scale Businesses in Nigeria. Sadly, they flourish on piracy of intellectual property of struggling Nigerians and the rest of the world. I have listened to news from Ghana about Chinese “investors” illegally mining gold and causing problems to the Ghanaian nation. In Nigeria and Ghana, we don’t hear about Americans violating intellectual property rights or getting involved in any form of dealing that hurts the host nation. 

When China talks about its policy of sitting on the fence, the impression it creates is that it intends to set a new record ahead of the West, whose policies are loathed only by the looming figures of Nigerian leaders, but embraced by ordinary Nigerians. The Chinese authorities have a window with which it communicates with the rest of the world. This window is the CCTV. CCTV works to educate the rest of the world about the Chinese nation and its people, but also to educate its own people about the rest of the world.  I, however, see signs that give Africans reasons to vacillate each time China opens its arms. This is because there seems to be a conscious and frantic effort to ensure that Chinese people are not properly educated about black Africa. CCTV camera lenses seem to focus only on dirty corners of the continent. Abuja, for instance, is a modest but sparkling city. Each time CCTV broadcasts a report from Abuja, though, I do not see that brilliance that has made the city the pride of Nigerians. Often, I am left sad. Based on CCTV footages of the city, one would conclude that Abuja is an indistinct city.

If the Western Press had failed in giving its citizens a balanced photo of the continent, it is expected that the Chinese nation would learn from it and avoid repetition of the same mistakes. Sadly, though, CCTV (and, by implication, China) seems to view this mistake as one that must be made if a nation must become powerful.
It has often been said that dirty corners makes and sells news. But CCTV is not an organization that was set up to generate income for the Chinese nation. If it is so, then the aim of educating the people within and outside of China will not be attained.   

One phrase that has become popular in China these days is “soft power”.  Soft power is the influence that one has by virtue of his appeal and persuasion of others. This is what makes America the most powerful nation on earth. The idea of soft power is a relevant topic because the Chinese are aware they need it if they most change the global political order that makes America the most powerful nation on earth. If there is distrust of China in Africa, perhaps China would rise to become the most powerful economic nation, but not the most politically powerful. 

I envy Chinese prosperity. It would, however, be incomplete if Africa feels it was unfairly drained of its resources and reputation. After all, Africa is the cradle of mankind.

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