Gloria Emeagwali, Professor of History
I happened to be in China during Mugabe's visit last month, July 2005. I congratulate the Chinese for hosting Mugabe. Why not? Mugabe will learn from his mistakes and gain from his strengths. True enough, the Chinese must also be chided for not doing enough to solve the impasse in Darfur .My suspicion is that they do not want to jeopardize their newly evolving relations with Khartoum. They must sort out the complexities of their new relationships in time.
For the entire two weeks of my extensive travel in Beijing, a trip which had nothing to do with Mugabe's visit, the Chinese were rather warm and welcoming.
Taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, sales persons, guides, Chinese tourists from other parts of China, ordinary Chinese pedestrians- they all exuded very positive vibes.No supremacist body language or racist iconography. One felt at ease and relaxed. Not for a moment did co-travelers and myself feel the glare of hostility and arrogance.
So on what basis should one exercise a positive attitude toward the Chinese? The hostel incidents of a few decades ago should be forgiven- though not forgotten- and we must find a way to benefit from this current stage of international politicking. Terms of trade, agreements and treaties must be closely watched and evaluated. We cannot afford another decade of unfulfilled technology transfer deals. We cannot continue to remain primary producers and exporters.
Nor can we allow this beautiful continent to become a graveyard. We need the Chinese
to help us find a cure for AIDS. It is in their interest to do so. They may be the next target.
If it is true that AIDS is the product of biological warfare or genetic engineering, then we
were the first target and the disease a very convenient one for certain interest groups within and outside the continent. On the other hand, if the disease is a perfectly 'normal' one, we still need their help.
The third option is to say that the disease does not exist but commonsense tells me that something strange is happening when villages of orphans and their grandparents are showing up in certain regions.
Multipolarity not unipolarity - is the answer. African regimes now have another opportunity to evaluate different options and negotiate shrewdly.Yes, ties have burgeoned since 2000, as pointed out by Macartney. This development is quite welcome. Somewhere out of the abyss of neo-apartheid expansionism, Western condescension and paternalism - and the Chinese
acquisition of superpower status will Africa find its way.
Professor of History