China’s ‘Win-Win’ Cooperation with Global South Signals Shared Vision

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China’s ‘Win-Win’ Cooperation with Global South Signals Shared Vision

By Abubakar M. Zirabamuzale

The term North/South divide, so often described by economists and scholars alike as the “Brandt Line”, has been around for 40 years now.  Initially, it didn’t seem to mean much since it was coined by the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt in his famous Brandt commission report.

Today, with the tectonics of the global order—multilateralism—fast changing, the North/South divide is polarising often carrying wide-ranging overt political connotations including extrapolation and exhibition of the global south as the poorest region.

The global south comprises of the 55 countries that comprise Africa, Latin America, and Central and South East Asia. Rightly so, the poorest countries in the world today lie within this axis occasioned by among others, decades of colonialism by European powers after which came decades of civil wars, internal strife, and back-to-back coups propelled by the same powers as part of the Cold War contest.

During the same 40 years since the Brant Line was coined, a lot has happened. The Cold War ended 30 years ago.  Along came the rise of China, the world’s second largest economy after the US, and the rise of loose multilateral cooperation groupings such as the BRICS+—acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa and other 6 countries admitted to the grouping during this years BRICS summit in South Africa.

In the same vein, Africa, once written off by the British magazine, The Economist, as “Dark Continent” and later shifting position to “Africa Rising” is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, from Nigeria to Ethiopia to Tanzania.

Amid these fast-paced developments, countries in the global south as they have come to be collectively known, have been soul searching for feasible development models on which to model their respective paths to the much-sought economic development. There is a consensus that the Western (American/European) model isn’t working, after been first imposed on developing countries especially in Africa.

In early November, more 300 delegates, economists, scholars, business representatives, policy experts and alike from 50 countries of the developing world gathered in the Chinese city of Xiamen for the Global South Think Tank dialogue to further discussions on the place of the global south in the world today. China, which fended off colonialism and went on lift nearly 1b out of abject poverty by the turn of last century, has translated word into action of holding hand of many countries in their own development quest.

The dialogue under the theme “Global South: Working Together To Advance Modernisation” was jointly hosted by the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, the Fujian Provincial People’s government, and the Chinese Council for BRICS Think Tank Cooperation.

I was among the attendees at the forum opened by Mr Liu Jianchao, Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee. Several high-ranking officials in and out of China gave key note addresses too, underscoring the need for “win-win” approach to the development of the global south, which Beijing has long committed to.

Mr Jianchao highlighted that the Chinese President, also the General Secretary of the CPC, Xi Jinping clearly pointed out that China is a member of the Global South. He stressed; “China was born in the South, cares about the South, takes root in the South, and has always shared the same destiny with the southern countries. In the face of the ever-changing international situation, China will adhere to the development concepts of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness,” Jianchao quoted president Xi.

Ms Paula Makonyane, the First Deputy Secretary General of the ruling South African, African National Congress (ANC), underscored that the destiny of Africa is closely related to the destiny of the world, especially the global South. “We are willing to learn from China’s experience in depth, work hard to resolve limitations in policy implementation, and achieve lasting peace, security, and sustainable development,” she noted.

Specifically, China has not just offered the global south billions of dollars for key infrastructure such as roads, railway, fiber optic lines, hydropower dams, and technical assistance in establishment of economic free trade zones including industrial parks, it also went a notch higher to push Sino-Africa trade to grow to corresponding levels.

Available records for example indicate that by 1990 China-Africa trade was estimated at Shs3.6 trillion ($1b) but by 2000 had surged to Shs36 trillion ($10b). By end of 2017 according to China’s ministry of Commerce, the China-Africa import-export trade had risen to Shs626 trillion ($170b)—in effect becoming Africa’s biggest trading partner.

Sadly, studies conducted by us (Sino-Uganda Research Centre) have found that people in Uganda positively view China but most lack enough information and knowledge to understand the importance of China. Many China-funded projects are relatively unknown and yet they exist almost everywhere in the country. This points to a communication gap which can be bridged by think tanks. I invited the Chinese Council for BRICS Think Tank Cooperation to  urgently attend to the need for China to win the information war through thorough research that exposes truth and defeats false notions by working collectively with other like minded think thanks like us.

Key also was the call for China to further promote world peace and development through technological transfer to the group members. The good news is that China is already leading calls for inclusive development and supporting peace and dialogue as means of addressing misunderstandings as indicated in Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiatives respectively.

As such, there was wider consensus at the forum and officials reiterated that such “win-win” cooperation was key in realising a shared vision—gathering strength for the realisation of modernisation and shared future for mankind.

Zirabamuzale is a journalist and researcher at the Sino-Uganda Research Centre


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