China President Xi Jinping recently paid a state visit to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his northern neighbour with whom he shares a 4300-kilometre border.
Their seven-course meal caught my attention; it included quail, Kenya’s most famous bird. Where did all those birds go?
There is more than meets the eye to the visit amidst the war in Ukraine and the indictment of President Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The West is worried that China could give Russia lethal aid (read weapons). That would turn the tide of the Ukrainian war in more than one way.
With the West giving Ukraine weapons, the war would put the West against the East (China) but indirectly. If that happens, it will not be the first time.
China played a role in the Vietnam war, which has remained a blot in the American national psyche.
China has rarely been drawn into global conflicts despite its military power, which has been on the rise. Could the West be insinuating that to preempt China’s involvement?
What we can’t rule out is that China and Russia are friends. And they have been for a long time.
On my last visit to Beijing, I saw evidence of that friendship in the City’s architecture. And I do not recall a recent China-Russia war.
Why cement that friendship now? The timing was telling, coming just after the indictment of president Putin. It was a coded message, life must go on for Russia.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
President Xi has just got his third term. Clearly, the two men are the most powerful in their respective regions. Russia since Peter the Great has had one eye on Europe and the other on Asia, which gives her some geopolitical advantage.
The West is rattled by this meeting. A coalition of Russia and China is hard to beat not just on the battlefield but ideologically.
China has a head start in Africa and the rest of the world because of its economic prowess. Like Japan before, China has followed the trade route in its global reach.
Beijing’s military influence is muted. Russia has followed the military route in Syria, Afghanistan, parts of the Sahel and nearer home in Chechnya, Abkhazia, Georgia and other regions.
That combination of military and commercial orientation is hard to beat.
Presidents Putin’s and Xi’s meeting had echoes of the Cold War. Will Russia and China become the counterweight to the West? Will countries now choose who to follow, the West led by the US and its allies or the Russia-China axis and their allies?
What side will Kenya take? Politically and culturally, we have traditionally been pro-West. We vote regularly and get our inspiration from the West through churches, media and travel.
We even have relatives in the West. We give our children western names like Kennedy, Michelle, Ian, Jayden, Cathrine (also Russian) and many more.
Our economic models are western-oriented but with a scant understanding of capitalism.
It was never about money, it was about pursuing your interests to the benefit of society. You make profits as society benefits. Capitalism was never about individuals being parasites in society, the epitome of corruption.
You sell the best bread, you make money as society benefits from good health. You are the best leader, we pay you as the society becomes better, with more freedom and enterprise.
If you are a great mason or tailor, you make money as you give us better buildings and clothes.
But in the last two decades, we turned East for economic inspiration. Very little cultural inspiration.
How many Kenyans have joined Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism or any eastern religion? Few talk eastern languages like Mandarin or take their names. Do you know of any Watanabe Kamau or Ng Nafula?
It seems this duality will continue with the new regime. But early indicators are that we shall shift more to the West through multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
The number of President Ruto’s visits to the West is another indicator. Will the Russia-China alliance act to ensure their influence is not eclipsed by the West?
Will they use hard influence like war or infrastructure from roads to railways? Will they use soft power like foreign aid, media or even movies or even scholarships? Remember the airlift education scholarship initiative?
It’s too early in the Kenya Kwanza regime to say with certainty if they will face East or West or how wide their eyes will open.
But no geopolitician or economist can ignore the emerging Russia-China alliance.
If they can ride on BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China and South Africa) their impact could be felt across the globe. Can we add K to BRIC to become BRICKS with K for Kenya?
Clearly, the Ukraine war has an end game - a new world order. Others fear it could become a disorder. What do you think?