KAYUMBA: Africa kisses Xi for same reason as Obama, Putin or Queen

Something truly remarkable is happening: Leaders from the “Third” to the “Second” and the “First” worlds have come to the same conclusion, and without holding any trilateral meeting: It’s lucrative to be friends with China.

From Dar es Salaam to Moscow to Washington and London, China’s rulers are the most sought-after guests right now. And, wherever they go, they are met with pomp, topped by the topmost leaders in the land showering them with luxury, care and affection.

Last month, China’s President Xi Jinping was in the United Kingdom where, besides enjoying all the honours any leader of high standing can expect in London — including addressing a joint session of parliament — he was ushered into Buckingham Palace riding with Queen Elizabeth in a state carriage along streets covered in red (China’s national colour).

Earlier in the month, Xi was in the US where, besides conferring with President Obama, as Jane Perlez of The New Times reported, he met with America’s top 10 technology companies (with a combined worth of $2.5 trillion).

After Xi’s five-minute speech, Apple’s CEO Timothy Cook observed: “Did you feel the room shake?”

Chinese leaders have also been courted by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as they have by African rulers.

Never before has China received such attention.

So, what is it that has made the West — a geographical area that we have been told is already “developed,” with values it requires others to adopt — to consort with China, just as Russia and Africa are doing?

The question is especially pertinent considering that the West continues to chide China for alleged human-rights abuse and corruption, besides warning of impending economic meltdown.

For Africa, the question is even more critical in view of then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s warning, on her visit to Tanzania in 2011, that those dealing with China faced “New Colonialism.”

For me, the reason why almost all the world’s leaders are in love with Chinese rulers is their country’s money. Simply put, China is rich and, therefore, its rulers must be courted by whoever wants a cut of their wealth. For wherever they have been, they leave billions of dollars in signed trade and investment deals, just as whoever visits their turf returns with something loved by banks.

For instance, Xi’s visit to the UK saw deals worth £30 billion in trade and investment penned, including a nuclear power plant in which China will have shares.

When Putin visited China in May, he returned home with the largest ever signed bilateral energy deal, valued at $400 billion. And, of course, China has invested billions in Africa, especially in energy, gas, mineral and infrastructure sectors.

Considering that it’s also the largest single US creditor — holding its $1.3 trillion-plus Treasury Bills — you start appreciating why, even if you don’t like some of its policies, you must ride with its leaders.

Apart from the incredible surpluses that have allowed China to invest here and there, you should also know that it has the biggest market — with the largest middle-class, of more than 109 million people, the largest upper class and more billionaires (596 compared to USA’s 537). This makes the country irresistible to businesses and makes its leaders smell sweet despite the stench from the surroundings.

In view of the fact that it also has the world’s second largest economy that is expected to surpass America’s in the not-so-distant future, especially due to having one of the highest growth rates, of over 6 per cent compared to less than 1 per cent in the developed North, you begin get to understand why everyone wants to be in bed with China’s rulers.

The takeaway though is twofold. Africa’s leaders wine and dine with China’s rulers for the same reason the British Queen rides with them: Their investment and trade money. This makes Clinton’s claims of “new colonialism” redundant.

And while we value human rights protection, where a violator is moneyed we will have to live with the fact — that nations will always ignore the former and take the cash and run. It’s the blood that oils economies.

Dr Christopher Kayumba, PhD, is a senior lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication, the University of Rwanda, and lead consultant at MGC Consult International Ltd, Kay Plaza Building, Kimoronko Road, Kisimenti, Kigali. E-mail: kkkayumba@yahoo.com Twitter: @Ckayumba Website: www.mgcconsult.com