China offers 'free ride'

China has invited developing countries, including Namibia and other African countries, to take a “free ride” on its emerging economy”.

12 September 2019 | Local News

Chinese ambassador to Namibia, Yiming Zhang, said Swapo's adoption of the “ideology of socialism with Namibian characteristics” provides an “ideal consistency” between the two countries' ruling parties.

A 2017 Swapo congress resolution reads that the party has adopted socialism, with Namibian characteristics, which embraces open-market principles and techniques to develop the Namibian economy.

The Communist Party of China (CPC), on the other hand, says its brand of socialism “blazes a new trail for other developing countries to achieve modernisation”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the CPC's 19th congress said its socialism “offers a new opportunity for other countries and nations, who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humanity”.

Speaking at a seminar on 'Socialism with Chinese characteristics and socialism with Namibian characteristics' last Friday, on the fringes of Swapo's electoral college, Zhang said China considers itself as having a “duty as one of the responsible players in the world”, to help develop other countries “to build a community with shared values”.

“We welcome all developing countries, including African countries and Namibia, to take a free ride on China's emerging economy,” Zhang said.

He said China attaches great importance to Namibia because of its “strategic and important location”.

China is also very interested in Namibia's natural resources. It has started to import Namibian beef and fresh oysters, and is interested in its fresh grapes and diamonds, and hopes to increase Chinese tourism to Namibia.

Vice-president of the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD), Zhou Li, said President Hage Geingob's meeting with President Jinping in March last year elevated the bilateral relations between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership and cooperation.

“Bilateral relations between the two countries are at their historic best. We have a similar vision for development, similar goals, and enjoy complementarity in our development pursuit. The Belt and Road (BRI) cooperation provides us with a solid foundation for further and closer cooperation,” Li said.

He said projects under the BRI should be transparent and open, in line with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, in pursuit of “green and sustainable development”.



Local civil society sceptical

Rakkel Andreas, research associate with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), said the existence of a 'socialism with Namibian characteristics' is a myth, since Namibia has adopted a mixed economy and multiparty democracy.

She said the Namibian public's perception of socialism is that it means no more democracy, the rise of autocracy and an end to free markets.

Andreas said Swapo's renewed adoption of a socialist agenda is an apparent echo of the socialist ideology embraced by the CPC.

Key issues to understand in the Namibian context, Andreas added, are perceptions of Chinese people inside Namibia, which she said are usually linked to illegal poaching, the exploitation of Namibian workers, corruption, and xenophobic attacks on Chinese.

She said a declared friendship with the Namibian government should resonate at all levels and not just in Swapo circles or higher political levels.

“Namibia has many different people, with agendas and aspirations that are very different. Whilst the CPC shares a relationship with Swapo, what is it doing to develop relations with other political parties?” she questioned.

Director of Afro Media Consultants, Erika Gebhardt, said she has a problem with 'isms' adopted as a means of governance by government, saying greed and corruption is the order of the day in Namibia.

Gebhardt said soon after independence, despite promises of prosperity and human rights, “the looting began”.

“Our education system spews out thousands of high school dropouts. Children sit on the floor in tents or containers, whilst our timber is exported for a fraction of what it is worth to countries like China,” she said.

Gebhardt said under the current administration, the highfalutin ideals of socialism do “not have a sliver of hope”.

Sociologist and cultural activist, Lendl Izaaks, said a socialist arrangement would mean cultural homogenisation and the suppression of creativity.

He suggested that Namibians think about and evaluate the current state of affairs in the country, “before being caught up in the promises of a different economic system”.

Izaaks also suggested that art be used as a tool for the development of a “state of compassion”.



CATHERINE SASMAN

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