In Summary
  • Historically, China was always engaged in inner struggles to preserve its identity and unity. Every dynasty suppressed and subdued dissenters who were considered to be a cancer to the empire.
  • But China is currently advancing rapidly on an intent of supremacy, and there is no doubt that they are fast getting the upper hand…take it or leave it.
  • The new China is a country with a purpose, an agenda, and clear goals. The force of numbers and their discipline in following an ideology makes them adept at advancing their projects.
  • Those who see China as a goldfish within a bowl are in for a surprise.

It was 9am in a hot and humid Beijing – at 34 degrees Celsius and a feels-like of 40 degrees. The sky was bluish and the air was cleaner than usual for it had rained heavily the whole night.

As soon as we got our bags, a taxi was waiting to rush us to the conference venue. Nobody spoke English but everybody knew who we were and where we were supposed to go. We had no option but to put our trust in them and be taken wherever they thought we should go.

An hour later, we were already settled in the beautiful auditorium of the prestigious Beijing Foreign Studies University. Chinese courtesy and finesse with visitors is unmatchable. They were aware that our trip had been long and tiring. Everyone told us the equivalent of ‘pole kwa safari’ in Chinese and offered us materials, food and what not.

Analysing the AfCFTA in Beijing

This was the first Africa-China workshop on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), organised by the prestigious Beijing Foreign Studies University. Kenya was well represented by Prof James Gathii with his wife and daughter, Mukami Wangai, Ndanga Kamau and myself. Tanzania had a large delegation, headed by Ambassador Sani Mohammed of the African International Law Institute, and so were Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia and Gabon.

Justice Abdulqawi Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice, delivered the keynote, and Justice Fatsah Ouguergouz, from Algeria, former Vice President of the African Court of Peoples’ and Human Rights, was also present, among other high-ranking personalities.

The discussions were engaging and pragmatic, in Chinese and English, with simultaneous translation when necessary. The tempo vertiginously fast. The Chinese are accurate, pragmatic and swing speedily to the next thing once they get things done. They have no time to waste and do not get distracted by feelings or long introductions.

Quite a few Chinese participants approached me without any introduction and gave me their business cards straight away, expecting me to reciprocate. I had run out of business cards by the end of the first panel discussion.

Scaring and fascinating

It is fascinating and scary to observe China when you are in China. The new China is a country with a purpose, an agenda, and clear goals. The force of numbers and their discipline in following an ideology makes them adept at advancing their projects.

A good friend and an unconventional thinker, Rajadurai Jeyapaul, told me when he knew that I was traveling to China, “the world must understand that China is on an unprecedented expanding mode, in all directions. China is engaged in a new type of war. It is cultural and economic. The Chinese art of war is psychological, all-round, comprehensive, where several ways and fronts come into play simultaneously. They believe in defeating the enemy without a physical fight.”

For Rajadurai, Germany’s unification in the late 19th century brought about structural changes in Central Europe. In a few years, the German Empire reduced other European nations to an embarrassing passive status. Europe became a bipolar system with no diplomatic flexibility.

History may repeat itself. This time between East and West. China is advancing rapidly on an intent of supremacy, and there is no doubt that they are fast getting the upper hand…take it or leave it.

China’s history is captivating and mysterious

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