China’s prag­ma­tism wins over US ide­al­ism

Botswana’s dra­matic shift in at­ti­tude to­ward Bei­jing a lat­est ex­am­ple

Global Times US Edition - - BIZUPDATE - WANG CONG

In the sum­mer of 2014, for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama, fac­ing crit­i­cism that the first African-amer­i­can pres­i­dent was ig­nor­ing Africa and US’ in­flu­ence in the con­ti­nent was squeezed by other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly China, con­vened the first Us-africa Lead­ers’ Sum­mit.

He had a clear mes­sage for 50 African heads of state: The US has a bet­ter model for African de­vel­op­ment and African na­tions should en­sure that Chi­nese-built “roads don’t just lead from the mine, to the port, to Shang­hai.”

Since that meet­ing, much has changed. Obama has been re­placed by a com­pletely dif­fer­ent pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump, who has stirred con­tro­versy over com­ments that some ar­gue bor­der on racism, telling US law­mak­ers of color “to go back to their coun­tries” and de­scrib­ing African and other coun­tries as “shit­holes.”

Still, much has re­mained the same. The US con­tin­ues to fail to un­der­stand the real needs of African na­tions in their pur­suit of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and con­tin­ues to smear Chi­nese in­vest­ments in the con­ti­nent with dra­matic yet un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims such as “debt trap diplo­macy” and “neo-colo­nial­ism.”

But one un­de­ni­able truth emerges that China’s prag­matic ap­proach to­ward Africa – marked by win­win co­op­er­a­tion with no po­lit­i­cal strings at­tached – is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity. The US model – less re­al­is­tic co­op­er­a­tion but full of po­lit­i­cal pre-con­di­tions and ide­al­ism – has been cast aside.

This re­al­ity is on vivid dis­play in Botswana, a small south­ern African na­tion known for its mas­sive re­serves of di­a­monds and mag­nif­i­cent nat­u­ral at­trac­tions. Since tak­ing of­fice in April 2018, Pres­i­dent Mokg­weetsi Ma­sisi has over­turned the hos­tile ap­proach to­ward China adopted by his pre­de­ces­sor and moved to re­pair diplo­matic woes and strengthen ties with China.

Speak­ing at the open­ing of the Global Expo Botswana (GEB) last week, Ma­sisi ar­gued that emerg­ing mar­kets like China are “dis­rupt­ing global poles of power and com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity” and that Botswana needs to adapt to this global “re­ori­en­ta­tion of power, cul­ture and ways of do­ing busi­ness.”

At the GEB, some lo­cal busi­nesses in areas such as on­line game de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing ap­proached me, ap­par­ently mis­tak­ing me for a Chi­nese busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tive, to dis­cuss their com­pa­nies.

At the Cresta Lodge Ho­tel in Kasane, where most guests are from Europe, Ja­pan and Sin­ga­pore, one em­ployee asked me “Why don’t they come here?” re­fer­ring to Chi­nese tourists.

While some Western of­fi­cials and me­dia out­lets try to tell the world that there is too much Chi­nese pres­ence in Africa, of­fi­cials and peo­ple from all walks of life who I en­coun­tered said they want more Chi­nese busi­ness.

China should heed th­ese calls to fur­ther step up co­op­er­a­tion with Africa and not let noise de­rail a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial path for­ward.

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