In 2005, renowned economist Thomas Friedman made a declarative pronouncement that the world is flat!
He did not mean it in scenic reference, as many who pass by the Kopje in Harare would rightfully deduce him as foolish.
Friedman meant that with increased globalisation, the world has become much more of a level playing field in terms of opportunities.
The notion may be a bit exaggerated as there are existing structural impediments that remain unevenly apportioned to developing countries; notwithstanding for the diligent nation, modern global commerce offers unprecedented possibilities!
China is one such diligent nation.
On recent record, it is arguably the best of those. Ever since an ideological shift that sort to open China to the rest of the world, no other country has experienced similar economic growth. It is then great fortune that Zimbabwe has been able to form a cordial relationship, better yet, formed a kindred attachment with China in certain worldly outlooks.
In our close interactions with China, we must take the opportunity to assimilate desirable perspectives that have driven its wildly successful economic strategy.
We must inquire the kind of mindset and inclinations responsible for China’s economic trajectory. The foremost virtue we can adopt is that a country’s fate is determined from the excellence it develops from within. To advance economically, Zimbabwe must be systemically disciplined and functionally well-structured.
China took these steps by engaging in a war on corruption! A country has to decide on a means of economic management which must systemically function. China chose a form of state capitalism and it understood that for the system to be a success, it must be clean! Corruption, for any chosen form of economic management, is intolerable!
In China’s perspective, corruption is a cardinal sin and treacherous to the aspirations of economic progress. Thus, within its governance structures, China has groomed what is almost vile disdain and shame towards corruption. China retains an understanding which we do not have – that when corruption becomes systemic it is culpable of creating poverty, hunger, uncontrolled disease, and social misery!
This strong perception towards corruption is pivotal for the excellence of China’s economic management. Zimbabwe should make it a priority to inculcate this understanding of corruption because the system will never work with corruption.
We must perceive the systemic consequences of corruption in the same way that the Chinese do. Secondly, whichever form of economic management we decide on, it must be a workable system with attainable results.
Zimbabwe has prolonged refutative economic narratives, whilst spending little time forming strategy for a customised economic system that attends to our aspirations.
This is not to downplay the need to rebuke worldly injustice and inequitable exchange. However, we have almost groomed a culture where we applaud those who articulate what we should not like, yet they offer no crystallised economic system that functions towards what we do like!
China has always been conscious of inequities in the global economic architecture. Through enhanced economic aptitude, however, today China is the global creditor of choice. More impressively, the IMF has just decided to make the Remnibi an SDR currency.
This is all whilst China is fighting in conspicuous monetary aggression from the US, unfairly pressuring the over valuation of the Chinese currency.
What remains unsaid is that the main cause of Japan’s two decade long stagnation is its currency appreciation, of which it had no choice but to maintain it due to trade retaliation threats by the US if the Yen weakened.
The Chinese have been victim to similar onslaught, yet without grooming politicians of defiant posture, or ones who regurgitate refutative narratives, China sort after the economic aptitude to bring about tangibly victory.
Thirdly, the Chinese say “when you lose control of the tension between pursuing methodology and questioning it, then you’ve lost commitment and instead have become fundamentalist”. While it is commendable that we have been unwavering in pursuing our empowerment ethos, we can learn from how the Chinese take great care in evaluating progress of implementation. Land reform is over a decade old, yet it has taken the bold awareness of Dr Amai Mugabe to open discourse on the need to more equitably allocate land amongst ourselves.
Many who have been in positions of influence have lost the impassioned drive for fair land distribution as they accumulated huge tracts of land and inputs for themselves.
Thus 15 years on, what is our evaluation of the land reform process?
For almost six years now, the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation, and Economic Empowerment has been fine-tuning indigenisation laws. It has become a process that seems unique to Zimbabwe and a source of mystery on how to effectively execute such legislation. Yet many countries have done it before, and numerous others that began after us are realising dividends before us!
China follows five year plans which are guided by the success of implementation, consistently conducting meticulous assessment of the process. Zimbabwe has not had similar tenacity to improve our processes, let alone having the bravery to question whether they are effective or not.
A bonus consideration is on our attitudes towards the emerging global super power that is China. It would be disingenuous to overlook that some stakeholders in our economy and society have been skeptical of Chinese intentions for Zimbabwe in the long term, especially demanding greater transparency of the conditions underwriting our economic dealings.
It is easy to label them as detractors and pessimists. However, these concerns are well justified and at the very least understandable, though they are not properly explained.
The skepticism is two-fold.
Firstly, we are not yet proven deal-makers as many prior projects have frequently stalled or struggled to bring about the broad economic benefit that we may have hoped for.
Secondly and more importantly, the skepticism is more a reflection of our own experiences dealing with foreigners than it is an assessment of any evident mal-treatment from our Chinese counterparts.
Just like the rest Africa, our experience with global super powers has been economics of extraction and political espionage, both serving foreign interests.
Perhaps it is unpleasant to say, but by now those injustices should be accepted as fact.
Interestingly, however, to paraphrase former US Secretary of Treasury Larry Summers, who recently noted that while China is becoming the latest global superpower, the world lacks shared understanding regarding goals for the evolution of the Chinese economy.
“Clarity is required on whether China’s quest to succeed economically will support global prosperity and be a driver of positive social and political progress. To solve these tensions, dialogue must be shared on the short and long-term interests of this emerging super power.”
For Zimbabwe, I would suggest greater cultural interaction and understanding of Chinese ideology and aspirations beyond our diplomatic structures. While political camaraderie and engagement may have tangible benefit, cultural and socio-economic interactions will develop mutual sentiment of cooperation and trust.
I hope that as a nation we can agree that friendship with one is not a measurement to our friendship with others, granted allegiances do matter in political economy.
While we should keep China even closer and share perspectives that lead to economic prosperity, Zimbabwe must still seek worthwhile friendships from all over the world.
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