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Why China is still an enigma after 100 years

XN IRAKI
By XN Iraki | July 4th 2021

China seems too aware of the “perils of rushed democracy.” [Courtesy]

The Chinese communist party is celebrating 100 years since its founding. The party had to wait for 28 years to get power in 1949. It has ruled 1.4 billion people ever since.

In the 100 years, the party and the country have gone through a civil war, a cultural revolution, the opening up of China, the handover of Hong Kong and Macau back to China and the end of the Cold War.

A visit to rural China and the big cities like Shanghai gives one a glimpse of how far the country has come.

Despite the age of Chinese civilisation, the country seems to be an enigma to the West and even to us. Can we de-enigmatise’ China?

If you listen to the Chinese leaders’ speeches, there is always a reference to the great past captured by physical symbols like the Great Wall of China. The country gets inspiration from the past.

If she could defend herself from the invaders by building 7000km of the wall, why can’t she do the same today, standing up against the West?

The country has over the years had its adversities, like the opium wars and invasion by the Japanese during World War II.

China might be determined to ensure no repetition of such events. The Chinese link to the past is captured by the museum building binge. We could ask which are the symbols of our great past. Few countries have become great without historical anchors.

What is our Great Wall, Lincoln memorial or statue of Bismarck equivalence? By getting inspiration from the past, China faces the future with confidence.

Never mind that western scholars and policy analysts accuse China of cherry-picking which past to emphasize.

We are not different. We emphasize colonialism but forget great civilisations existed before then. Our neighbour Uganda even revived her kingdoms. Doesn’t the British monarchy still exist?

Each Kenyan society had its social-political system and laws that kept them going for centuries. If you don’t believe me, get proverbs in your mother tongue and study them carefully.

It will surprise you how the proverbs mimic economic laws that have won Nobel Prizes.

Kenyan societies from east to west and north to south had elaborate systems that worked. One Kenyan community even had a two-party system long before democrats and republicans.

Despite the age of Chinese civilisation, the country seems to be an enigma to the West. [Courtesy]

Talk to central Kenya elders. Colonialism systematically wiped that out. No wonder few social-political systems have worked in Africa. They are too alien. Why did we not cross mix then with our traditions? Is that why elders are being crowned?

China did just that, she crossbred her traditions with modernism. Chinese talk mandarin, keep their names rarely get converted into western religions. Chinese who immigrate to the west usually pick an “English” name for their convenience.

That has not stopped the Chinese from landing a spacecraft on the moon. They are leaders in artificial intelligence and other frontiers of science. So much that America has come up with specific laws to counter China phenomenal growth.

Chinese growth is also based on her leveraging on science and technology. Even the leaders are in it. Check the background of most Chinese presidents including the current one, they are mostly engineers or scientists.

President Xi Jinping studied chemical engineering at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Our deputy president has a PhD in science, yet high school science congress winners are yet to visit State House.

Chinese students do not go to the west to study anthropology or political science.

Chinese growth is also based on her leveraging on science and technology. [Courtesy]

They study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and return home.

Chinese seem to know that this science, technology, engineering or math must have a philosophical or ideological anchor.

China talks of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

That we lack a national ideology or philosophy is in no doubt.

Remember the Nyayo philosophy? What came after it? It is no wonder corruption has flourished because we are an ideological desert. One would have thought religion could have taken that ideological space, but we are not a theocracy like Iran.

Western ideologies emphasize individual freedom, which has driven it since Renaissance. China took the opposite direction, controlling the individual lives including the number of children to sire.

It has now relaxed the rule to get the manpower to keep the economy growing in future.

China wants to avoid the European trap of a declining population that has sucked in immigrants.

What makes China so enigmatic is that as her economy grew, we expected democracy to grow too. That has not happened. China seems too aware of the “perils of rushed democracy.”

The decline of Russia after democratisation based on perestroika and glasnost may have informed China’s reluctance to democratise.

It seems to me that China will one day become a democracy but not when we expect it.

What next after 100 years of communist party rule in China? By the way, why did KANU’s dream of ruling for 100 years’ falter? Or Kanulets are still in power?

China wants to avoid the European trap of a declining population. [Courtesy]

China is relaxing and learning from the West. Just like the US build alliances, so is China focusing on “neglected countries”, mostly in Africa and Asia.

She now has a semblance of a green card while running training and education programmes just like the US, after our impendence and end of the cold war.

China is not just exporting electronics but also her thinking. She however lacks the religious conveyor belt that the west used or still uses. By rising together with other countries, China will increase her chances of becoming a superpower, a challenge to American influence and power.

When I found Chinese building roads in my village over the weekend, a village where breakdance never reached, I finally appreciated the Chinese reach.

Finally, China it seems will become a world power sooner buoyed by her perceived success in turning the tide against Covid-19. But she will do that at her own pace, which might frustrate western efforts to slow her down.

Since Kenya might not be a world power till 2100 when Pax Africana starts, we can only watch China rise and learn a few lessons from her.

My progeny is free to refer to this write up on January 1, the year 2100 AD or 80 AC (after Covid-19).

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