China’s development model: Lessons for Uganda and Africa

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By Allawi Ssemanda.

Dear Editor, during a symposium on the implication of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) under the theme, “Forge Ahead on the New Journey and Work Together for A New Era,” Chinese ambassador to Uganda Zhang Lizhong introduced Chinese path to development to Ugandan think tanks and journalists describing it as the major engine that saw China transform from a poor developing country to become the world’s second largest economy.  Ambassador Lizhong explained that as a developing country, China decided to not to move with the so-called common model of modernisation and embraced path of modernisation with Chinese characteristics.

Following a Chinese development path with Chinese characteristics, China ‘has united and led the whole country, and the people in solving many challenging problems that were long on the agenda but never resolved, making many achievements that concerned the nation’s future. As we completed the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieved the first centenary Goal, China’s economic strength, scientific and technological strength, comprehensive national strength and international influence continued to grow. In 2021, China’s economic aggregate reached 114.4 trillion-yuan, accounting for more than 18 percent of the global economy,’ ambassador Lizhong emphasised.

With glaring achievements China has registered which includes being the first country globally to eliminate absolute poverty at a record time, arguably, such a path is way to go for developing countries like Uganda which is still grappling with poverty and key social service delivery.

Following Chinese path to modernisation with Chinese characteristics, China under leadership of CPC has been able to “accomplished the arduous task of eliminating extreme poverty. We have built the world’s largest education system, social security system and medical system, Chinese people’s lives have improved in all respects,” stressed ambassador Lizhong.

Upon that background and recalling the failed structural adjustment programs (SAPs) which International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed on Africa, it looks clear that China’s path to development if considered may be the magic bullet for African countries to attain development and modernisation, more importantly, modernisation with “African characteristics”.

But how does China’s path to modernisation look like? What are some of its characteristics? Does it really suit African countries needs or, is it best model for African countries?

In his report to CPC’s 20th national assembly, Sectary General Xi Jinping highlighted what he described as systematic exposition of the unique features and essential requirements of China’s modernisation:

Firstly, the Chinese path is the modernisation of a huge population of the more than 1.4 billion people in china; Secondly, China’s path is the modernisation of common prosperity for all. Explaining that the immutable goal of China’s modernisation drive is to meet the people’s aspirations for a better life, Beijing stresses that China “will endeavour to maintain and promote social fairness and justice, bring prosperity to all, and prevent polarisation.” China argues that achieving common prosperity is a defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics and involves a long historical process; thirdly, China’s emphasises that “while continuing to consolidate the material foundation for modernisation and improve the material conditions for people’s wellbeing, we will strive to develop advanced socialist culture, foster strong ideals and convictions, and carry forward China’s cultural heritage.”

The other key characteristics of China’s development path are; the modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature. Here, China commitment that its modernisation “lies in building a beautiful homeland for man and nature to live in harmony.” Lastly, China’s path to development stresses modernisation of peaceful development. Ambassador Lizhong argues thatChinese path to modernisation emphasises mutual benefit and win-win cooperation with other countries including Uganda, promotes the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and strives to contribute to peace and development of mankind. China will not tread the old path of war, colonisation, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries.”

From the above, we learn that in pursuit for her development, China put her national interests first; focused on internal political concerns; and maintained firm strategic resolve with determination to never yield to coercive power as the country sought its development.

Also, from China’s path to modernisation, Uganda and Africa in general can learn that you don’t loose your identity in order to modernise. China blended modernisation to its traditions. For example, despite modernisation the country is going through, to date, family hierarchy in China is respected. It is the same rational spread throughout other institutions in context of respect.

Put differently, Chinese development path has Chinese characteristics that “to developed as a country and people they have to drink from Chinese traditions in order to tap modernity. Not to just take modernity for its sake which would leave their country at risk of losing their identity through socialisation.

For Uganda and Africa in general, in Chinese development model we have an opportunity to learn from them but we must ask questions like; Yes, we need to be modern but what is it that it speaks to our minds and our hearts in this modernisation? What is in that is Ugandan/African? This way, Uganda and African can study from Chinese model and pick lessons from what can work for Uganda or Africa to develop.

Good enough is that China does not force other countries to take what they do not believe in. At the Embassy’s symposium, ambassador Lizhong explained that “China’s modernisation goes beyond copying others” stressing that “it is an independent path to development. For modernisation, there does not exist a single definitive model. Copying mechanically is not the solution. China’s modernisation is socialist modernisation pursed under the leadership of the CPC. It has broken down the stereotyped thinking of equating to the modernisation with Westernisation, proving irrefutably that developing countries are capable of independently treading the path to modernisation that works.”

Personally, if asked, western or Chinese modernisation? I definitely would say as Africans we can choose to learn from Chinese model and we blend it with African characteristics.

Allawi Ssemanda is a senior research fellow at the Development Watch Centre.



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