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President Koroma Challenges ‘Old World’ in ‘New World China’

President Koroma Challenges ‘Old World’ in ‘New World China’

Just last week, in his epoch-making speech at the  World Peace Forum  organized by the  Tsinghua University  in China, President Ernest Bai Koroma could have triggered ‘tsunami-like’ waves whose ripples could be now heading for distant shores of powerful nations.   We have to find a way to get the profound words of President Koroma amplified on the global media stage.  Close  watchers of the international stage, especially as it relates to Africa, would ponder on this question: Was it a coincidence, or, a calculated design by  the gigantic China  with its 1.3billion people in a land area of 9,000,000 square kilometers, or  a strategic thrust by the government of Sierra Leone representing just 6,000,000 mile people in a land area of 71,000 square kilometers, that President Koroma’s  speech was being delivered at almost the same time that U.S. President Barrack Obama was touring Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa….’in Africa’?   Was our President’s speech a symbolic ‘peaceful saber rattling’ to emphasize the tenor of President Koroma’s words that a ‘new world order’ has emerged?  Maybe, we could concoct a credible answer when we pore on the profundity and sheer revolutionary essence of President Koroma’s words, and, reflect on its symbolisms.  Here is an excerpt of President Koroma’s speech:

“We are in the same boat.  Plugging…holes in the boat is…wise action”

“We appreciate Tsinghua University for inviting the leadership of a small developing nation in West Africa to contribute to this landmark discussion. In a changing world of converging spaces and technologies, insecurity anywhere could introduce breaks in the chains and networks of worldwide security, which could negatively impact the infrastructures of development, peace and progress everywhere. The impacts of insecurity can no longer be confined; the benefits of security can no longer be monopolized. We are in the same boat. Plugging emerging holes in the boat, wherever they are and however small they are, is a wise course of action. The successful voyage to the destinations of our converging aspirations requires the integration of this wisdom into discussions, mechanisms and actions for international security….”: President Koroma.

Can the powerful nations listen?  Can we make them to listen?   Virginia Gamba, writing on the topic ‘Challenges To International Peace And Security: An Alternative View,   postulates that, ‘horizontally, global violence can be found in the multiplication of criminal organizations and trans-national mafias -operating fundamentally for economic motives and backed by a very competitive and accessible black market dynamic- and by terrorist cells who do not have clear political direction nor goals save that of expanding the deterrent value of violence. As the world of states have been particularly incompetent at addressing these threats, so have these organizations been evidently successful in generating the environment of insecurity in which we all move today….’  Al Qaeda!! Boko Haram…..  The world is quite aware of these ‘global threats’.

What is ‘global security’?

President Koroma went to talk about ‘global security’ and ‘peace’?  What is ‘global security’?  It has become over the past twenty years increasingly difficult to define ‘global security’.  A leading Western intellectual, Edward Kolodziej, compares concepts of  ‘global security’ to the proverbial Biblical ‘Tower of Babel’.   Another intellectual, Roland Paris, is cynical; he writes  that ‘global security’, like beauty, becomes what it is ‘in the eyes of the beholder’….. No matter the diversity of what ‘global security’ is – from food security; environmental security; trade security; health security; finance security; religious security –  there is now a global consensus that it is important; that is it multi-dimensional.   US President George W. Bush used the concept of ‘global security’ to justify suspending civil liberties (bugging the phones of US citizens; jailing for many years non-prisoners-of -war in Guantanamo Bay without right to legal counsel), making war (in Iraq, and Afghanistan), and expending  a huge quantum of the United States $1.7 trillion (!!) annual military budget to wage wars.   Walter Lippmann  in his book,  ‘US Foreign Policy’ (1944),  views security as the capability of a country to protect its core values, both in terms that a state need not sacrifice core values in avoiding war –  and can maintain them by winning war.  These are relatively ‘old concepts’ of ‘national security’ which largely evolved after the Second World War – with the United States and the former Soviet Union emerging as the biggest bullies on the ‘global block’; and, all other countries aligned behind one or the other of these super powers, directly or indirectly.   Now, what the ‘old world’ has been watching over the past twenty years with trepidation is the arrogant and timid strut of the  ‘new kid on the global block’.    China!!

‘The new kid on the block’ is…’a very old wise kid, indeed’

The ‘new kid’ is, paradoxically, literally, a ‘very old wise kid’: China has a civilization that is over 5,000 years old (China was already civilized when nearly all  European were literally savages, living in caves).  China invented the printing press, gun powder, paper….when people in the British Isles lived in thatch houses, in tiny fiefdoms, ruthless predators across village boundaries, believing  in witchcraft for every human aberration.   China floundered; was conquered; and, started re-emerging with Moa Zedong marched into the capital cities to establish the Communist People’s Republic in the 1940s.   After about after a century of convulsive political life, and hundreds of thousands of lives massacred in internal purges, stoical industrial and social growth, China is now again in the sun…..  President Koroma has, apparently, been chosen by China as the leader in Africa to recognize, and, ‘fight for’  China’s  right place in the global stage.

President Koroma lived up to China’s expectations in his speech at the Peace Forum: “We are here because we believe China is the biggest driver of our changing world. From issues relating to trade, investments, security and possibilities of prosperity for most of the world’s people, China moves many of the actions and responses of most of the nations of the world. This changing world is, in the main, also China’s world, and we are heartened by the fact that China has committed its role within it to a Peaceful Rise….”

A China Empire being built not with ‘blood and iron’?

Few would dispute the reality that China is on the march to building a ‘global empire’.   And, it does appear as if Africa is the bridgehead for the new ‘Chinese empire’.   What the Chinese leaders and strategists are saying, and what African leaders like President Koroma are hoping for, and what the Peace Forum in China which President Koroma addressed symbolized, is that for the first time in the history of humanity …. forging a  ‘new empire’….’conquest’ of other peoples…would be through peaceful means.   Is Africa  just being naive in this expectation of a ‘peaceful empire’?  Or being short-sighted?   With a 5,000 year history, China is not naive about its emerging role in the world.

A  December 2011  report by a leading arms publisher, SIPRI,  titled, Arms Flows to Sub-Saharan Africa“,  revealed that by 2010 China was the number one exporter of arms to Africa, ahead of Ukraine and Russia. Between 2006 and 2010, China gained 25 percent of  Africa arms market compared to 9 percent between 2001 and 2005. China’s growing influence in the market is fuelled by its desire for natural resources and its willingness in a global recession to offer military aid or cheaper deals in exchange for natural resources rather than cash. Some analysts however believe the role of the Chinese has been overplayed by Western powers more keen on hiding their own involvement in the often shady business. “I think there has been a certain amount of scaremongering from the West towards China,”  stated Paul Midford of the Norwegian University for Science and Technology .

China still is a relatively poor cousin compared to the only ‘Gulliver-like super power’ in our world today – the United States.  Global defence spending was about  $1.8 trillion last year.  The U.S’s expenditure was about $1.3 trillion – compared to about $600 billion of Chinese military expenditure.   Compute the GDP and GNP of the U.S. as against China, take into account the per capita living standards in both countries, and, one can safely say that China’s 175% rise in  military expenditure over the past couple of years means that it is taking military security much more seriously than the Americans.   It does appear as if China has learned the doctrine of the US immediately after World War II: peace and  progress under the umbrella of a formidable military machine.

China’s Power being Fuelled by Science and Technology

David Shukman Science and environment correspondent, BBC News ,  had publishing this chilling (for the West) reality of China’s new power: “China is on course to overtake the US in scientific output possibly as soon as 2013 – far earlier than expected…..That is the conclusion of a major new study by the Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy. ….The country that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing is set for a globally important comeback…”

According to Shukman, ‘An analysis of published research – one of the key measures of scientific effort – reveals an “especially striking” rise by Chinese science.  The study, Knowledge, Networks and Nations, charts the challenge to the traditional dominance of the United States, Europe and Japan. …..The figures are based on the papers published in recognised international journals listed by the Scopus service of the publishers Elsevier. ….In 1996, the first year of the analysis, the US published 292,513 papers – more than 10 times China’s 25,474. ….By 2008, the US total had increased very slightly to 316,317 while China’s had surged more than seven-fold to 184,080…..Previous estimates for the rate of expansion of Chinese science had suggested that China might overtake the US sometime after 2020…..’.

What lessons  are Sierra Leone learning from China?

President Ernest Bai Koroma took a heavy weight delegation of cabinet ministers and key State House officials to China.  It is expected that they would come with a ‘Father Christmas-type’ bag of goodies for us in Sierra Leone.  I hope the goodies would include lessons on the ‘mind of China’; lessons on how China has made such accelerated scientific, technological,  economic and power growth –  when 50 years ago, most of China was at the same developmental stage of countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria.   One big lesson that should be stark to President Koroma and his delegation is that Sierra Leoneans, indeed, Africans, have to  escape from the dungeons of their ‘village-doms’ – tiny countries carved for them by European colonialists who wanted to perpetuate the Atlantic Slave Trade – in other to be taken seriously as peoples on the global ‘war arena’.   Either to better exploit Africa, or, as a genuine emancipator of African peoples, China in donating $200 million to build the new African Unity headquarters in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia…stands ready to give support to Africa to more speedily unite itself as one strong political and economic entity.    President Koroma’s revolutionary words about the ‘Old Powers’ who need to  “end notions of dominance”, and to free themselves of thoughts ‘zero-sum’ games in international relations, and his rich imagery of the ‘tsunami’ of the global space…..needs more elaboration for comprehension.    For now, we in Sierra Leone should be heartened that our President has stepped into that lofty pedestal of the most iconic African  and global leaders – …like Kwame Nkrumah,  John F. Kennedy….Nelson Mandela…..

Oswald Hanciles

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