Knowing All about Hunan

Understanding China's success from an African perceptive

Updated:2019-11-27 14:31:19

 The International Department, Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC), from Nov 8-18, invited a group of scholars and journalists from different African Think Tanks for a study tour in Guangzhou and Central China's Hunan province. The purpose of the study tour was to deliberate and understand the outcomes of the fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee.

As a delegation, we were privileged to attend the Wanshou Lecture on the major outcome and significance of the fourth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The theme was: "Governance, Cooperation, and Development: The importance of experience sharing". We also attended a seminar on the achievement made during four decades of reform and opening-up in South China's Guangdong province and the outlook on the "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area", among other symposiums.

The highlight of the study tour was when we visited: PCITECH -- a professional provider of artificial intelligence technology and products in China, providing face recognition, structured, knowledge graph and intelligent big data technology and services to the world; the Guangzhou Haige Communications Group -- a hi-tech enterprise group integrating research and development, manufacturing, marketing and service, providing communication, navigation equipment's for all services and arms; the Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park; and Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai -- an international air conditioning enterprise which also has integrated R&D, manufacturing, marketing and service.

In Hunan province we visited: CSHT-- International Science &Technology Business Platform and Overseas Home Sino-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation Center; Changsha Intelligent Manufacturing Research Institute; Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric Co. Ltd and Guangming village, which is a pilot poverty alleviation program. Lastly, we went to Mao Zedong's Memorial Hall in Shaoshan.

The different visits were just but a glimpse of China's success story and a physical understanding of what it means to transform from an underdeveloped country to what is now the second-largest economy in the world, the largest manufacturer, and largest trader in goods, second largest consumer of commodities, second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), and the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves.

However, the fundamental question that we African countries had, is how did China manage to pull itself out from the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment, and end up at the top of the food chain where it controls a GDP growth of 9.5 percent a year, against a global average of 2.9 percent?

From the study tour, two key factors stood out as the main drivers of China's success story.

First, China's success comes from its strong and unique political system. Unlike a majority of the global countries that have embraced democracy as a political system, China's system is socialism with Chinese characteristics. The measures taken to improve the system as stated during the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee are primarily focused on strengthening the Communist Party of China, which has been the bedrock of transformative change in the country.

Critics claim that China's political system is based on dictatorial tendencies and more so the Communist Party of China. They also allude that China is a one-party state. However, nothing is further from the truth. Other than the CPC, China has 8 more political parties. Unlike in Africa where the political parties that are not in power -- "the opposition", constantly fight and discredit any progress a sitting government is undertaking, China's opposition parties have signed agreements to work with the ruling political party to ensure development is achieved.

Also, the governing party herein referred to as the Communist Party of China has developed strong structures within the party that have made it stand the test of time. Today, the CPC is 98 years old. Its structure is well defined and party discipline is adhered to by all, regardless of position or affiliation. To reach the highest level in the Party, three principles are key: Adaptability, legitimacy and meritocracy.

Second, China's "new economic concept" is the magic bullet that will sustain its economic growth. The new economic concept is categorized into five areas. These are: Innovation, Coordination, Green Development, Openness and Shared Benefits.

Here, innovation is the driving force of China's economy. This is seen through the adoption of research and development. Universities and other centers of academia play a vital role in shaping the development agenda in China. Coordination is the strategy adopted to resolve the problems of unbalanced development between the urban and rural regions.

Green development is simply advocating for a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. Openness dates back to 1978 when China's reform and opening up of its gates to the world began. Since then, China has allowed foreign companies to invest in the country and also allowed its domestic companies to invest in other parts of the world, resulting to the massive accumulation of FDI. Lastly, shared benefit is providing economic gain to its people. Evidently, this is seen through China's poverty alleviation program that seeks to eradicate absolute poverty amongst its population by 2020.

In conclusion, China is not seeking hegemony. Its key agenda is development, not just for her people but also for the rest of the world and in particular, Africa. This is manifested through the Belt and Road Initiative.

Dennis Munene is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Africa Policy Institute.