By: Nicholas Dweh Nimely
Back from Beijing, China
Apart from reading materials including magazine, books, news on the cable television networks, not many Africans including myself knew in actual terms about the People’s Republic of China (PRC). As a journalist, I was privileged to have been part of an annual journalism seminar held in the PRC by its Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
The seminar of which I was a part was the 10th in a series of annual seminar held for the development of African journalists and it was organized by the China International Publishing Group (CIPG). This event brought together journalists from 10 African countries, namely; Liberia, Egypt, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zambia. The rest came from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Sudan and South Sudan.
It afforded us the opportunity to know much more about the governance system of the People’s Republic of China, the economy and the way of life of the Chinese people. Also, we got very clear understanding about the partnership China is building in Africa and why the PRC still considers the Island Taiwan as its own and there is only one China in the world.
Accordingly, historical facts indicate that the People’s Republic was established in 1949. Since its establishment nearly seven decades, the government has made tremendous strides to improve the livelihood of the people. It is the wish of the government that its people should live in harmony, be wealthy and to live ‘green’ meaning friendly environment.
The government believes that there should be share of development for everyone and they should be open to the world. More importantly, the country should be stable where harmony will be the hallmark for moving ahead.
My experience in China also make me to understand that the PRC partnership with Africa have yielded positive gains, especially with regard to infrastructure development. It will interest you know that China has over the years initiated several projects on shores of Africa which is geared towards helping and supporting their Africans brothers and sisters to develop their country.
Since the coming of China, the last two decades have recorded huge growth for the continent infrastructure development through Chinese Aid. From Monrovia, Liberia the Chinese aid witnessed the refurbishing to a modern international sports complex of a Liberia’s football pitch.
This was soon followed by another gift from the Chinese when the state run University of Liberia was presented a state of the art university campus that can host up to 30, 000 students.
Still in Monrovia, more help continued from the People’s Republic of China when they constructed the Monrovia Vocational Training Center annex with their aid and their desire to help the country in its infrastructure development have resulted to ongoing works at the US$ 60M Ministerial Complex, Annex to the building that housed the Liberian legislature and the loan for the modernization of the country main international airport, the Roberts International Airport.
Not only is China contributing to Liberia’s infrastructure, but also to the country human capacity development through Technical and Vocational Education, for example the Chinese Bamboo and Rattan Weaving Industry, where the Chinese teach Liberians how to become self-empowered through handmade product. The Chinese are also training Liberians how to used bamboo for household furniture’s.
Also, Liberia’s second largest referral hospital in the north-eastern part of the country was constructed by China aid to the country and this hospital currently served the people of Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
The PRC is indeed is a true friend to Africa’s Infrastructure Development due to their presence across the continent. In February of this year, a China-Kenya business group donated almost $40,000 to a project that helps young people better understand wildlife conservation in the east African country.
This project came as a result of cooperation between China and Kenya governments initiated in Higher Education in 1995. More than 30 PhDs and 40 Master’s degrees have been earned at Edgerton. From 2003-2010, two professors from NAU were based at the Kenyan university.
Wilson Muna, director of research and coordinator for the Tafiti Center at the Africa Policy Institute, a Kenyan policy research company, said the Chinese companies’ openness in sharing their knowledge “is an invaluable asset for Africa, as it facilitates knowledge and technological transfer”. Sino-African trade has increased from $10 billion in 2000 to nearly $300 billion last year.
However, there has been huge presence of Chinese companies operating either as construction companies or industries in Africa over the last decade. This has witnessed over a million Chinese, most of them laborers and traders to have worked in Africa over the past decade. For example, China Harbor Engineering Corporation (CHEC), a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company, signed a US $774 million port expansion deal with Guinea’s government .That project which is ongoing includes two general berths, one bauxite ore berth, roads, parking lots and other auxiliary facilities.
Information gartered says that Conakry Port is the fourth largest port in the West African region after Abidjan, Dakar and Lomé. It is the only port in the country designated for the import and export of oil, food and cement, and is therefore crucial for Guinea’s economy, as well as for the economies of Guinea’s landlocked neighbors such as Mali.
Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) for the establishment of an information and communications technology (ICT) training and practicing center at the country’s oldest institution of higher learning.
In addition, the expansion of the Bola International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the recent agreement signed between China and Egypt for the building of a new Capital in Egypt speaks the uniqueness of China and Africa partnership.
Notwithstanding, the China I saw is quite different from the China I heard about or the China mentioned in the news years ago. With a population of over 1.4 billion, the Chinese are doing pretty well when it comes to ensuring law and order as well as its poverty reduction effort to make its citizen economically strong and financially independent.
The China I heard about is one where freedom of expression is not common, a racist society and one that doesn’t embrace partnership with other countries.
Plans according to the PRC are ongoing to combat poverty by ensuring its alleviation in next twelve years. China is still a developing country, depending hugely on manufacturing industries, internet and finance and agriculture. There is large urban population of 57 percent, while rural population makes up 42 percent.
The country once ‘one’ child policy lasted for three decades and it was intended keep balance the quality and quantity of the population. This policy which has been changed to “two” child policy in 2015 was about human resources development, with focus basically on education of the child. Because less child, and education which are helpful to individual and economic development.
The government has also been concern about the quality of the population, meaning retirement age will be extended to 65 years based on improving living standard and life-span of the people. I have heard over the time past that the PRC was a ‘close’ society and didn’t tolerate press freedom or religious tolerance; but the few weeks I spent there suggest much better improvement.
There are several international news media institutions having correspondents in the PRC, from Reuters to the BBC, just to name few. In every society there are laws governing the media, even here in my country Liberia, so it is incumbent upon journalists or the media institutions to abide by the laws of that country and society.
As a journalist, I have come to the realization that freedom of the press can only be cardinal to the growth of a society, when the media take full responsibility for information it provides to the public and such information should be factual, balance and creditable. The China I saw is one that’s making strides when it comes to the ‘new media’ and freedom of the press.
The China I saw has shown me that with the aid of technology, the traditional media is facing serious challenge due to the arrival of the new media. The evolving of the new media as result of technology have seen over 700 million people in the PRC users of the internet. This is no doubt about the fast and growing trend of the new media, traditional media (newspaper), are transforming into having new media features to maintain their presence.
The China I saw shows some level of religious tolerance. n fact during my time there, I saw Chinese Muslims, Christians and those of another faith call Taoism which believes that nature should be nature. To be true, I never saw mosque, but an area where Muslims offered prayers during their holy month of Ramadan.
Islam, as I was told came to China from Indonesia in the 14th century and through General Thong, while Christianity settled in Eastern China.
Christians also had time to worship on their regular day of worship as well have biblical meetings of studying the bible in togetherness. A keen observation tells me that much effort by the PRC Government is insight to have the society fully diverse in years to come.
The PRC I saw is a place where love, honesty, transparency and hard work are the hallmark for their emerging development. The Chinese from what I saw love their country very much and they speak more good things about their society than ugly things.
I China I saw make me to understand that people see more positive things in their governance processes than those of negatives and they see more prospects for doing what is good. This country (China), like any other is proud of its heritage and the citizens do appreciate their heritage.
I had a great experience in the PRC; Beijing is a very big city with very good weather and many subways including improve roads network.
With a view from my window as early as five o’ clock in the morning, the streets are near crowded, with people either going about their normal day routines, or trying to void the early morning traffic-jam in Beijing that attracts more than five million vehicles daily.
About the Author: Nicholas Dweh Nimley is a professional Liberian journalist with over 12 years of active service to the field of journalism in Liberia. Currently, he works with Liberia Media and Marketing Services (LMMS), publisher of The NEWS Newspaper. He is a graduate of the AME University and holds certificates in telecommunications, journalism, conflict and peace. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org