Introducing Globalisation 2.0: What it means for Africa and China

The Chinese influence in Africa is obvious, especially after the country joined WTO, when a large number of affordable products made in China became available to African consumers, and as China’s economy keeps strengthening, some, “soft influence,” begins to manifest. On a trip I took to Egypt with friends this April, for example, a lot of local people would wave at me and shout, “nee how!” when they saw my Asian face and we even saw a pick-up truck decorated with names of different Chinese banks – in correct fonts, but upside down.

Amid the on-going prevalence of “China threat” and in the wake of a rising Chinese existence in the African continent, President Obama is finally visiting Kenya as a President of the United States. Is the rise of China threatening anyone? Is the Sino-US competition engulfing Africa unilaterally and becoming a full-on confrontation on all fronts? And really, what is driving the escalation of the clashes between China and the U.S.? This small article tries to understand these questions and introduce the answer: Globalisation 2.0.

China proposed the “new model of major power relationship between China and the U.S.” [1][2] a few years ago, as a modified version of the G2 concept. What this proposal means to me is more or less like an official launching of a Chinese globalisation, or rather, a Chinese integration/inclusion – to avoid using the word, globalisation which invariably suggests homogenisation in its rhetoric.

In the short history of mankind, every rising great power would initiate its own process of globalisation. From the Tang Dynasty to Roman Empire, from the British Empire to the one propelled by America we are experiencing this very moment, globalisation has eventually evolved to the form as we know it. The New China is effectively boosting its own version of globalisation now. In such a process and in the ups and downs of history, clashes between the rising and the established seem to be inevitable. However, in this conjecture, the new model is giving a clear stance of China that the country is actively working on finding a way to avoid possible conflicts and to maximise the common ground where everyone’s different interests co-exist.

Now, why the Chinese globalisation is a new one being interwoven into the existing one rather than a sub-process superadded to the Western-led, and to a large extent pro-West, and liberal one – Globalisation 1.0? Some distinct differences may clear up the myth.

China apparently values sovereignty, self-determine, autonomy and independence of its own and others’ indiscriminatingly as it rejects foreign meddling of its domestic affairs. Out of a non-universalist understanding of the world, China has been refraining from introducing radical changes to other societies through means of regime changes. To a great degree, the rashly and unevenly advanced Globalisation 1.0 is believed to be behind the rise of radicalisation across the world and a controlled, concerned, moderated and milder globalisation may bear the answers to the global de-radicalisation.

Suggesting the new wave of China’s contribution to the shifting pattern of global gravity, the alternative nature of Globalisation 2.0 could also be found in the way how China unlocks opportunities and potentials in global regions. Instead of wielding democracy, peddling human rights and patronising international ethics to others, China has been reluctant in overt involvement with issues on the ground. This has allowed room for the greatest common divisor among all the stakeholders – but not the most powerful ones.

This is what is contrastingly different from pushing blindly the liberal capitalist way of doing business in every corner globalisation could reach. China is practising The state-led developmental model on a global scale and has shown that it is possible to do business and develop an economy while respecting local variations without having to resort to liberalisation of the target markets.

As for the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article, is China a threat? It is not a threat for people and nations who are open to a change or simply welcome an alternative, but could well be a threat for the ones who hold onto vested interests too dearly. More importantly, by linking up the forgotten and left-behind regions of Globalisation 1.0, the new initiative is offering some new ways of thinking that are different from the dominating Western narrative.

Now, what about Africa?

I would like to leave some space for debates by closing this humble attempt of peeping into the ever-confusing realm of global affairs with a famous teaching of Mencius from 2,000 years ago, “The one who gains the common aspirations of people wins the world.”

We shall see how China integrates, positions and regulates itself in the global challenges using its wisdom of statecraft tested daily ever since the dragon was hatched – provided dragons are oviparous – to avoid compromising anywhere into a battlefield of political wrestling and to unite all parties as beneficiaries of a multipolar era.

Photo credit: Meng Chenguang (Xinhua News)


Notes:

[1] Shambaugh, D. (2013) Prospects for a “New Type of Major Power Relationship” [Online] Available at: http://www.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/prospects-for-a-new-type-of-major-power-relationship/ [Accessed on: 18 July 2015]

[2] Zhang, S. and Ruan, Y. L. (2013) 中方表述中美新型大国关系的核心内涵和努力方向 (China Explains the Core Connotation and the Direction of Endeavour of the New Model of Major Power Relationship between China and the U.S.) [Online] http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2013/06-09/4917512.shtml [Accessed on: 18 July 2015]

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