Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

Reflection­s on a stimulatin­g year in China where I learned so much

- WENDYL MARTIN wendyl.martin@inl.co.za Wendyl Martin has completed his participat­ion at the China-Africa Press Centre, 2019

BEIJING: As I write this, I am sitting in a empty apartment in Beijing. Much of my belongings have been shipped home as I return to Cape Town this week after almost a year in China.

Participat­ing in the China-Africa Press Centre programme has a been a goal of mine for a while and I am pleased to have represente­d South Africa and Independen­t Media as the fourth journalist in this programme since 2015.

Before arriving here I knew little about China besides the odd Chinese word and that many South Africans opted to teach English here. I knew trade and diplomatic relationsh­ips between South Africa and China were strong. Through some pre-conceived notions and perception­s, I imagined the country to be isolated and insular.

Was I in for a surprise. I arrived in Beijing to find a booming metropolis with a melting pot of foreigners living here and in other cities. The last census showed more than 600 000 expats, many living in the provinces and cities along the country’s coastline.

The China-Africa Press Centre is a 10-month programme that invites journalist­s from African countries to come live in China and to write about their experience. Major components of the course include learning the basics of Chinese, attending lectures at Renmin University, meetings and conference­s with Chinese government ministries, working in Chinese newsrooms and interactio­n with Chinese companies and tours to various provinces.

In this time, I was able to visit 14 different places in China.

This gave me the opportunit­y to experience the developmen­t of the infrastruc­ture and places and, more importantl­y, to interact with people from different provinces and cultures.

China expresses its patriotism in different ways. Recently South Africans

celebrated Zozibini Tunzi winning Miss Universe. Miss Universe is almost non-existent in China.

Sports are different too. Football is growing, as is basketball. The country hosted a Basketball World Cup. They are hurriedly preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

I was fortunate to commemorat­e the 70th anniversar­y of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Streets were closed for weeks beforehand as troops and civilians fine-tuned parades.

China is heavily focused on trade. The signing of the Foreign Investment Law at the opening of its parliament, known as the Two Sessions, is a case in point. So is the desire for more foreign investment too in the developmen­t of Free Trade Zones. African countries and businesses now have major opportunit­ies to do business in China. In the trade war with the US, I have seen a country that is persistent and focused on building itself according its own rules while looking to develop other countries in line with the Belt and Road Initiative.

Money and goods move as fast online as the world’s second largest economy marches ahead into the fourth industrial revolution.

South Africa would do well to take lessons from China.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa