Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Vox Popoli: The US model is not inevitable

The Chinese model is looking increasingly desirable to third parties as the USA disappears beneath a tide of debt, immigration, and moral degradation:
Anthony Kpandu took a delegation from his party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), to China last year to train with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Kpandu is in charge of special working groups at the general secretariat for the SPLM, the liberation movement turned government party that helped South Sudan gain independence from Sudan in 2011. Wearing a button that says, “I love SPLM,” a paisley tie, and a loose tan jacket, he reminisces about his trip to China in detail, down to every day’s itinerary.

They visited the Central Party school in Beijing, toured industrial zones, drank various types of green tea, and walked part of the Great Wall. Kpandu’s favorite part was Shanghai, with its glittery commercial district, Pudong, high-speed Maglev train, and sprawling airport. “It was magnificent. You can’t believe it, but it’s there. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says from his office in Juba.

In the 1970s, China actively tried to export its communist revolution to Africa, one of Beijing’s few diplomatic engagements at the time. Now, Beijing is promoting a more subtle movement: support for China and and its model of development. Instead of relying on Chinese emissaries in African countries, Beijing is bringing thousands of African leaders, bureaucrats, students, and business people to China.

It’s a campaign that achieves several goals at once. The trips help solidify political and business ties between China and its partners on the continent. Like other development partners, China gets to help build capacity in African countries. Most importantly these exchanges cultivate partners on the continent who are more likely to be sympathetic to China and its way of doing things.

China has been hosting these trainings and exchanges in Africa since as far back as the 1950s when it first established diplomatic ties with Egypt. Over the past decade, the trainings have grown in both volume and profile. Kenya’s Jubilee party, created before the country’s contentious election this year, received trainings from the Chinese Communist Party in China. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front also takes inspiration from the the CCP while South Africa’s African National Congress regularly attends workshops in China and has modeled some of its party trainings on the CCP.

China is particularly interested in the next generation of African elites. Last year, Beijing announced it would invite 1,000 young African politicians for trainings in China, after hosting more than 200 between 2011 and 2015. Thousands of African students are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in China on scholarship programs funded by Beijing. As of this year, more Anglophone African students study in China than the United States or the United Kingdom, their traditional destinations of choice.

I have to admit, if I was a young African nationalist looking for a successful model to imitate, it certainly wouldn't be either the EU or the USA. Like most empires in decline, Americans don't understand that they are already living in a polity that is well past its peak. They will be lucky if they manage to salvage an American rump state out of it before the 21st century ends.