Lesotho Times

Who should be scared of the Chinese?

THE first people of Chinese descent I ever met in my life ran a tea-room on the edge of The Old Bricks, in Harare Township, on the road to the city of Salisbury. It was during the early 1940s.
Similarly, the first people of Indian descent I ever met grew vegetables on the edge of the Mukuvisi River, again on the edge of the Old Bricks, the first African “location” built in Zimbabwe in 1938.
I made friends with one of the gardener’s sons. I have always wondered whatever happened to him.
Perhaps, years later, he returned to India, got very educated later became an MP after their independence from the British in 1947.
The children of the people who ran the Chinese tearoom probably ended up, after The Long March and Mao Tse Tung’s victory, as officers in the Red Army or political ideologues in the Communist Party of the People’s Republic.
In Southern Rhodesia, they were all a class of above us.
But they were not white and were thus relegated to a class a notch or two above us.
Today, as I commute to work in a crowded omnibus, the sons and daughters of the Chinese tearoom owner are probably millionaires, having made their fortune in the booming real estate business in Shanghai or Beijing.
The Indians are most likely chief executives in the telecommunications business in New Delhi or Calcutta or Mumbai, which I once visited as Bombay.
India is forecast to become the third or fourth largest economy in the world in the next 10 or so years.
China is, of course, the second largest economy in the world. No-one is in any doubt that soon it may overtake the United States as the largest economy in the world.
My country is struggling to feed its people and create jobs for the estimated 80 percent able-bodied adults. Its economy is in dire need of a saviour.
The British, who “owned” Southern Rhodesia for 90 years, are way behind both India and China, economically.
The question might sound silly. But it’s quite legitimate: “What happened?”
For one thing, blaming it on God or Allah is insane. Even blaming it on Nature would be asinine.
What about laziness, lack of initiative or imagination? Or complacency?
Or the idiotic notion that people who started off with nothing could never achieve an economy to rival the biggest in the world?
For Africa, the lessons of India and China ought to be valuable
The operative word is “ought” for one good reason. Since 1957, we have ignored many lessons that could have made our own independence as meaningful and as glorious as those of the two Asian giants.
They too, like us, had their birth pangs. But they overcame them — how? Sheer grit, I believe.
Most Africans will be outraged at the suggestion that we lack grit. But look at the poverty and disease.
People with an abundance of grit would confront these two nemeses head-on.
What we have plenty of — according to many of us who love to be honest with ourselves — is greed.
India is the biggest democracy in the world. Its economic success must owe a lot to this political dispensation and its gutsy recognition of the evils of greed.
There are still elements of it, but they seem to be in harness.
China remains the largest Communist country in the world. Strangely, some people say it owes its economic miracle to Communism. Balderdash! In that case, where did the Soviet Union go wrong?
China’s success must be a blend of communism and good old Capitalism with a capital C.
But if the Chinese experiment is to be emulated by Africa, is there any guarantee we, in general, would not mind the denial of human rights or the absence of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, or freedom of worship?
A new colonialism?
Many African leaders would gladly follow the Chinese example. But the so-called Arab Uprising has provided its own sterling lessons for many Africans, particularly the young.
If there is no true democracy, there can be no real economic development for ALL the people. Wealth created on the half-broken backs of people without any rights is filthy.
Bill Saidi is a veteran journalist based in Harare

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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