Thursday, March 16, 2017

China, the Asian Giant That Thrives on Unity of Purpose
March 16, 2017
Lovemore Chikova
China-Africa Focus
Zimbabwe Herald

When I arrived in Beijing, China, for a 10-month programme in February last year, one of my hosts asked me what I thought about the country. I fumbled something to the effect that most of what I knew was from “book” knowledge, with the main source being news supplied by Western media. One of the Chinese officials on the programme, Mr Pan Xiaoguang, assured me that my views would have totally changed by the end of the 10 months stay.

I did not believe him simply because I thought there was nothing really new for me to discover in China.

Perhaps this sort of arrogance was driven by that I had been to Beijing, the capital of China, on several occasions before, albeit for a few days at a time.

The visits were mainly part of the media cooperation and exchange programmes between China and Africa, with two of them as a student of the Confucius Institute.

But I would soon discover that indeed I had a superficial knowledge of China.

This time I was back in Beijing for a longer period under an institute called China-Africa Press Centre, which is part of the China Public Diplomacy Association run by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The institute is part of the fulfilment of the aims and goals of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation, and it takes in journalists from Africa and affords them a chance to learn and work in China for 10 months.

This latest programme offered me enough time and activities to know China better, and it totally changed my perception of the Asian giant.

The programme involved visiting several provinces and cities of China, unlike in my past visits when I stayed in Beijing.

The ever lasting impression of China that I got is that it is a nation that is progressing rapidly, yet is humble enough to maintain the tag of a developing country.

Almost everywhere you go in China, there are skyscrapers, which signify booming business in the Asian country.

China is well advanced in technology, with technological hubs found in almost every city.

China is establishing major national infrastructure projects for science and technology, setting up technological innovation hubs and platforms for sharing research and development resources.

Its major technological innovations include high speed trains, building one of the world’s largest single aperture radio telescope and a 500-metre aperture spherical telescope.

Last year, the Asian country developed a plan for completing all science and technology programmes by 2030 and supported Beijing and Shanghai cities which are building themselves into global research and development centres.

In cities like Shenzhen, you are told that it was just a fishing village a few years ago, but now there are multinational corporations operating from the city.

The major reason for this rapid development is the adoption of the reform and opening up policy in 1978.

The then President Deng Xiaoping made it clear the Chinese were fed up with poverty and it was time to open up for world capital to come to China.

This resulted in the designation of several cities as special economic zones, and what we see today in China is mainly because of this giant step.

In welcoming investors from all over the world, the Chinese did not depart from their principles, hence the expression “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

There is no doubt Chinese society is still undergoing vast changes up to this day.

One other aspect of the Chinese you discover by staying a little longer in that country is that they are a hardworking people, prepared to put up those extra hours on a task.

It is taboo for the government to initiate a project which passes the timeframes.

In fact, I soon discovered that the Chinese have a strict work ethic, which has translated to the progress being made in the Asian country.

China has a population of nearly 1,3 billion and I had often wondered how so many people manage to travel within cities and between towns and provinces.

Well, the country has a well organised transport system, which relies on speed trains, buses, taxis and airplanes.

Unlike in smaller countries like Zimbabwe, sections for domestic flights at airports in China are always clogged by the Chinese.

In big cities like Beijing, with a population of 22 million, the transport network system is so smart that one may forget the city has such a huge population.

There is a network of underground railway lines, which they called the subway, which links the whole city.

The subway is the major transport system in Beijing, apart from public buses, with both systems being efficient.

I am one person who had always doubted the ingenuity of the Chinese, but my experience showed me that they are a very smart and advanced people, with solutions to almost every problem that confronts their nation.

There is unity of purpose among the Chinese, from the youth to the elderly.

With the Communist Party of China accounting for only 87 million members out of a population of nearly 1,3 billion, one would think that all the other people have nothing to do with government-oriented programmes.

Yet, all Chinese people sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to developmental programmes.

There is no antagonism; because the project would have been initiated by the CPC, everyone pulls in the same direction.

Once the project is proposed, it becomes a national issue and everyone relevant to the job at hand plays their part wholeheartedly, despite not being members of the ruling party.

China is a land of abundant opportunities and the government ensures that everyone gets their chance, be it in education, arts, science or any other field.

Many people think that China is a “closed” society.

But my stay revealed a more open society, where young people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams in whatever field, including moving along with fashionable trends.

I discovered that the Chinese are very proud of their country in every aspect, with a very huge sense of nationalism sweeping across the nation.

Once they encounter a foreigner, those who can speak foreign languages are quick to ask if you have visited some of the historic sites either in Beijing or outside.

If you are in Beijing, it’s common to be stopped on the streets and asked: “Have you been to the Great Wall?, Have you been to Tiananmen Square?, Have you been to the Forbidden City? or “Have you been to the Summer Palace?”

All these are places with historic relevance to China’s nationalism and Statehood. Coming from a small country such as Zimbabwe, the sheer numbers of people on the streets of Chinese cities are overwhelming.

Yet, with so many people out there at the same time, one rarely encounters petty criminals like pick pockets!

In fact, there is so much safety in China that one can walk across the city at any time without fear of being mugged or murdered.

I will continue with the story of my experience in China in the next instalment of this column; this time focusing on other issues like food and social life.

No comments: