China’s progress and reform since the late 1970s has displayed a model of peaceful and independent development, especially for African countries that are in the developing stage as China was 30 years ago according to some experts.
Dr. Francis Chigunta, a senior lecturer with the School of Humanities and Development Studies at the University of Zambia, said in a recent interview that Africa and Zambia can learn from the Chinese leadership’s single-mindedness and commitment to economic reforms.
“They have shown us that it is possible for a poor country to transform itself as long as the leadership is committed and is following concrete economic reforms supported by strong state institutions,” he said.
China’s experience has been remarkable, particularly since starting from the 1970s, and the effort has re-oriented the global economic system.
The reforms introduced in China by its leaders have propelled the country from being a poor nation to a superpower, Chigunta said.
China has tremendously influenced the global economic system and economic power is now shifting to the East. China has not only become a global power but has been able to lift over 300 million of its people out of poverty, Chigunta said.
China has strong state institutions that have been able to formulate strong policies and implement them effectively.
“What we see in China is the emergency of economic paradigm shift in which state-owned firms are properly managed and are functioning effectively,” he said.
The expert dismissed the West’s accusation of China pursuing neo-colonization in Africa as “hypocrisy.” “When did the West become friends of Africa?” Chigunta asked.
“They colonized us for years and got our resources to enrich their countries. The coming of China to Africa is good and Africa should learn from Chinese on how to work hard,” he said, adding that China was providing “cheap capital” for African nations and building infrastructure on the continent.
Chigunta also called on China to help build the capacity of African nations through technological and skills transfer.
“It is not enough for China to just bring money to Africa,” he said.
Dr. Fred Mutesa, a former scholar at the Humanities and Development Studies Institute at the University of Zambia and now leader of the opposition Zambians for Empowerment and Development, said one lesson Africa can learn from China is that the leadership of a nation should have a long-term vision for the country.
That vision should be about ensuring stability, self-sufficiency and security of the nation, so that a change in leadership would not entail a derailment from a set course of action, Mutesa said.
“We expect a great deal of continuity of development programs but with minor changes on strategies aimed at accelerating development. This is what we have seen happening in China over the years,” he said.
“There is something we can learn from China and that is it is important to see yourself at least 100 years from now,” Mutesa added.
A nation should ask itself what it will contribute to the world in various realms such as economy, science and technology and international relations, and plan a course of action to achieve that.
Colonization assertion is mostly being advanced by Western powers who feel threatened by the growing influence of China. It is up to Africa to take advantage of China as a growing economic power and forge relations with the country, which will be mutually-beneficial to both parties, Mutesa said.
Langton Sichone, a Zambian economic and political analyst, said that globally, China is being appreciated in terms of its development in the last 30 years.
“China has been able to develop due to the hard work and resilience of the Chinese people and one thing which we can learn from that is that we need to be resilient if we are to achieve any meaningful development,” Sichone said.
China has also invested heavily in its education and currently has many professionals who are being used in various areas of production, which Africa and Zambia in particular should learn from.
Africa must invest in education if it wants to see any meaningful development, Sichone said.
“The other thing we must learn from China is that China’s development has been gradual over the years,” he added.
The Chinese government and people have been learning lessons over the years and made improvements that have catapulted them to the top of the world, Sichone said.
“China can help Africa by inculcating a culture of hard work and persistence and ensuring that we don’t change programs anyhow,” he said.
The analyst said China has not altered its development agenda despite a change of leaders.
“The problem we have in Africa is that we like derailing development each time there is change of government,” Sichone said.