In the rich-men's club it's fashionable, and time's expedient, to mollycoddle with the wealthy and the crème-de-la-crème and the top-class even if you do not particularly like them but with China comes something very different; a relish for the humble, the unsung, the disadvantaged. It is as if China really understands and practices the best Christianity has to offer without labelling it by that excellent name.
No rational person accuses China of arrogance.
Nobody accuses China of imperialism and colonialism motivation.
Nowhere is China accused of subverting governments for financial, political or military advantage.
A careful examination of China over the recent decades has shown that she does not follow the western model on anything and is committed to doing things her way and to her own time scale.
No other country in the world combines communism with industrialization in such a clever way as to produce a balanced country where every Chinese citizen is included. In the biggest country in the world not a single person suffers from malnutrition and endemic hunger. You only have to look next door at India to see the difference.
But it is in the treatment and relations beyond its shores that China's model transcends all others.
Let's face it, the Western model is essentially a European model and although it has done some good things, it has been a harbinger of horrors to peoples throughout the world. But far worse it has been a dead weight on the back of Africa; debilitating it, stymieing its growth, undermining its prospects and obstructing its every attempt to make meaningful contributions to African and world development.
Less we forget it is this European model:
1. That gave rise to the immoral and scandalous scramble for Africa when the so-called great powers met and carved up that continent for exploitation and grand larceny.
2. That afflicted that continent with mass slavery, the Atlantic slave trade and the ravages that followed and remain to this day.
3. That afflicted sub-Sahara Africa with Colonialism and dragged them into foreign wars between competing European countries.
4. That ruthlessly suppressed African nationalism and relentlessly pillaged and raped those countries of their wealth and natural resources.
China repudiates this European/Western model since she herself was a victim to its ruthless implementation and knows first-hand the horrors of the slave trade and rampant racism. China will not forget anytime soon the insults heaped on her people when, in a tsunami of xenophobia and bigotry, it was trendy, commonplace and taken for granted that the Chinese were a sub-human species.
I wrote elsewhere on this xenophobia:
"The United States of America has in the past shown itself to be virulently opposed to countries and people of colour from the East, especially China, and the U S Congress has passed legislation that encapsulated its utter contempt for these people. The federal Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 along with a host of State laws and regulations bear testimony to the ill-will generated towards these people. Congressman after congressman, typifying the vast majority of congress, was proud to go on the record as saying things about China that were severely derogatory and inflammatory to the extent that Chinese living in America were routinely harassed, victimized and in some cases killed. This xenophobia was rampant all across the western seaboard, especially California and the record show the extent to which States went to pour scorn on the Chinese. In a landmark case People vs. Hall, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Murray said that the Chinese were, “…a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point, as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions, colour, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference…”.
With statements and sentiments like these now fully a part of China's history, it is unlikely that China will develop amnesia and be indifferent to people who have suffered a similar fate. This may very well be the reason, that for decades, China has reached out to Africa in sincere partnership and fraternity, and has done more to set the tone for African development than all the rest of the world combined.
This is quintessentially why China is different and this difference is not superficial and exploitative but genuine and comprehensive.
A good example of this genuine, comprehensive, warm approach to Africa was seen when a few years ago, China hosted The China-Africa Beijing Summit of 4-5 November 2006.
Here is how one observer described the setting:
"As a major public event, it was taken extremely seriously in China. Many citizens of the capital city declared that the centre of their city had never been more beautiful. There were giant photographs of spectacular African scenery in the metros and of African peoples and wild-life on great bill-boards. Apart from the huge red lanterns, and flower displays, China news channels gave exceptional coverage to high level interviews and information about particular countries in Africa; and posters, hoardings, banners and the media proclaimed ‘Amazing Africa’ as well as the summit’s theme of ‘Friendship, Peace, Development and Cooperation’. Almost 1 million ordinary citizens volunteered as helpers and as additional security on all street corners. The press, in Hong Kong as in Beijing carried front- and centre-page articles, special supplements and leaders on this Forum on China-Africa Cooperation." (Aid within the Wider China-Africa Partnership: A view from the Beijing Summit, Kenneth King, University of Hong Kong & University of Edinburgh)
Some would argue that China is in Africa to access its natural resources, and to find employment for the Chinese and while there is some truth in that, the concomitant benefits accruing to Africa far outweigh these concerns. As long as China is transparent in her aims and objectives, and as long as Africa is vigilant, participative and in full control then the situation will be a win-win for all involved.
But China is not just interested in what she can get from Africa, she is also powerfully committed to forming and sustaining a relationship beyond the material. Most countries in the West regard Africa as a lost cause and that is seen in their derision of anything African, but China is different and takes a diametrically opposite stance. This stance was recently underpinned when China's new president Xi Jinping announced that his first overseas visit after taking office will be to Africa. How delightful that after his elevation to the presidency, and with all the world leaders wanting to be the first to shake his hand, arguably the most powerful man in the world chose to go to Africa.
When a skeptical media, no doubt still mired in the mores of the old Western model, inquired why the new president would choose to go first to Africa the reply was most illuminating: "China and Africa are good brothers, good friends and good partners. The visit by China's new national chairman to Africa fully shows the importance we attach to Sino-African ties," China's Foreign Minister Jiechi Yang told a news conference at China's annual parliament meeting.
So here is China boldly, unapologetically and in the glare of the mass-media publicly asserting her courageous, principled stance towards the most despised continent on earth.
Is China not showing that she understands the laudable principles of Christianity?
Here is what Jesus says, "...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)
James in appealing for help for those despised and belittled put true religion like this, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)
The old-time prophets reminded a nation where their priorities should be, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8)
Well done China for you are blissfully different and you bring to the world the essence of what true service to mankind means. The hope is that you go all the way and show the world that there is a real, huge difference between giving lip-service to Christianity and implementing the hallowed principles of Jesus Christ as encapsulated in this verse, " Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.." (Matthew 7:21)
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