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China is yet to Tell her whole story to the World

By Ofwono Opondo

July, 19, 18

When you goggle “China population,” what pops up is “1.379 billion (2016),” people, and so, you naturally hope, not to find ample space, due to human congestion. But China is sprawling with 9.597 million km², behind Russia (17.1m sq km), Canada (9.98sq km), and US (9.8 sq km). Its population density is 147.87 per sq km, and second biggest economy. That size, and organisational discipline, should make China unrivalled in many aspects usually discussed in hushed voices, laced with negative innuendoes.
The West is spreading propaganda to prevent Africa and Asian countries from touching China’s money and influence, claiming it is a debt trap, although there are already plenty of death traps arising from their own misguided policies. They talk as American or Europeans goods lose value when they travel on roads constructed by Chinese money, or their tourists would die, if they travelled on smooth roads and sleep in better hotels constructed by Chinese technology. But, as Deng Xiaoping explained, “the colour of the cat doesn’t matter provided it catches the mice.”
For fifty-six years since China established diplomatic relations with Uganda, trade, investments and tourism, the key propellers of transformation of modern countries were relegated to the periphery. And because Uganda and other African countries were colonial creations, all have remained in imperial bondage to-date. Recent events showed that even the old Egyptian civilisation couldn’t easily withstand the assault when the West instigated the Arab Spring.
Early this month, with a group of journalists, we toured China, promoting China-Uganda, new relations on investments, tourism, trade and global diplomacy, because, we believe, that the extreme poverty, amidst bountifulness, is no longer acceptable. For years, the World Bank, supported by Western donors, has been hesitant in funding paved roads, arguing that Africa, with 30M sq km size, didn’t have enough vehicles to make economic sense.
Having landed in Beijing, we proceeded to meet retired Chinese diplomats, at the China Public Diplomacy Association led by Ambassador Chen Yuming, its vice president. For our purpose, they were mainly those who had served in English speaking countries of Britain, Australia, US, and Anglophone Africa, to pitch Uganda’s case. Next, was at the foreign ministry, meeting deputy director for African affairs because in early September China is hosting the third Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), upgraded to a summit of Heads of State Summit, and President Yoweri Museveni is scheduled to attend.
In 2015, China committed 60 billion USD in Africa’s trade, transport, telecommunication and energy infrastructure development to open the continent and make it attractive, which is beginning to pay dividends. It is hoped that the FOCAC summit, themed, “……………………………………………,” will review many on-going projects, and the way-forward. In 2013, President Xi Jiping, launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying he wants to build a harmonious world through “mutual consultation, joint construction and shared benefits.” The launch, seem to bid farewell to Deng Xiaoping’s dictum of “hide our capabilities and bide our time; never try to take the lead.” The BRI now comprises seventy countries and 4.8bn people with wealth totaling US$ 21 trillion. BRI seeks to expand maritime routes and land infrastructure connecting China, Asia, Africa and Europe, to boost trade and economic growth through policy coordination, facilitating connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and establishing new bonds between people.
We labored to impress on the Chinese officials, and private business people [we met] that while aid and trade were good, what Uganda, and indeed Africa, needed most, was for them to come and invest in our bountiful resources, preferably in joint-private partnerships.
Building critical infrastructures of transportation, energy, water, and cyberspace will facilitate the development of industries, manufacturing, services, job creation, skills and knowledge transfer. One major reason Africa in general isn’t moving fast, has been its failure to adopt relevant technological, entrepreneur and managerial skills, in spite, its long contact with western civilisation.
We left Beijing for Wuhan Hubei Province 1,800km westwards by high speed train G485, with maximum 350kmh but operating at 304 flashing on the dash board above, with little vibration, noiseless, and high class suspension. We watched the racing country side getting disturbed mainly by modern agriculture, industries, and high rise residences spiced by well-planted forests.
In less than six hours we reached Lijia village, a poverty alleviation project, before proceeding the following day from Hankou railway station using bullet train D629 to Yichang, for the Three Gorges Dam completed in 2012 producing 22.5GW., controlling floods on Yangtze river, and each of its thirty two turbines deliver 700MW, slightly above Karuma. They are the ones building Isimba’s 183MW power dam.
From Yichang we took train G556 to Beijing. As I boarded Emirates to Entebbe, I felt Beijing life fading behind, and wondered if I had left my soul at the Three Gorges Dam, Hubei province, where my last night was full of picking duck, eating duck and chicken heads, necks and feet washed down with authentic Chinese beer. I now look forward to travelling the 8,000km in a China MAGLEV, 500/431kmh from Beijing to Moscow via Mongolia one day.