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OPINION: The Triumph of Ideas, By Owei Lakemfa

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The China I returned from a fortnight ago, is a bullet train rifling through the universe towards unprecedented development. The Africans had through Egypt and Nubia, evolved and built the foundations of modern civilization. The Greeks who studied in Egyptian universities, had developed Western Thought and Civilization. The British, riding on the steam engine of the Industrial Revolution  had become the dominant power, sailing round the world singing the Scottish,  James Thomson’s 1740 song: “Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves. Britons never, never, never will be slaves.”

Then in the New Age, former British colony, America overtook Britain. Now in the Age of Globalization, China is like a rocket fired  from the Third World, zooming  through the Developed World.

The  ideas which propelled Britain, rested on private ownership of land, capital and means of production. They promoted mass production, labour expropriation  and unrestricted international trade. This constellation of ideas became known as capitalism.

Adam Smith, the 18th Century Scottish philosopher, economist  and thinker is   the ‘Father of Capitalism’ He  argued that since   the right to liberty, belief and property exists, there must be freedom of  trade including: “the liberal system of free exportation and free importation” He howeverwarned that capitalism has serious pitfalls which humanity must check. He explained: “Under capitalism the more money you have, the easier it is to make money, and the less money you have, the harder. Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. The affluence of the rich supposes the indigence of the many.” He identified businessmen as constituting the political leadership and warned that: “The interest of [businessmen] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public … Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

The German philosopher and thinker, Karl Marx built on this thesis of Adam Smith.  He theorized that  the two groups of the rich and poor, were actually, classes; the rich, he characterized as the bourgeoisie (French word for the middle class) The poor, he called the proletariat (From the Latin word, proletarius) meaning people from the low or working class. He agreed with Adam Smith on the character of government   and argued that for a just society, the proletariat must remove the rich and enthrone  the government of the working people. This became known as Marxism. Ninety six years ago, the ruling Communist Party of China  (CPC) was founded on the ideas of Karl Marx whose seminal book, DAS CAPITAL will be one  150 years old on  September 14, 2017.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov  (alias Lenin) led the Russian proletariat to  put the ideas of Karl Marx into practice  by overthrowing the Ruling class in what became known as the Bolshevik Revolution. That revolution will be 100 years on November 7, 2017 (October 25, under the former Julian Calendar)

On October 1, 1949, Mao Tes-tung (Chairman Mao) led  the CPC which  combined the ideas of Marx and Lenin to carry out the  Chinese Revolution.  After years of building its strength internally, China, led by Dieng Xiaping, like the morning flower, opened to the world.

Despite its huge  success and enormous wealth, China continues to run and operate on its core socialist principles including the public control of the commanding heights of the economy. It fixes it foreign exchange and interest rate rather than allow the invisible ‘market forces’ If a Chinese decides to build a bigger house, he forfeits the old one. Currently, it is trying to check  the rising costs of property because it says it could have a negative effect.

In constantly redistributing wealth amongst the populace, China introduced subsidy payment for urban dwellers and has virtually wiped out poverty  amongst its 800 million urban dwellers. The World Bank says in the last 27 years, the country  lifted 730 million people from extreme poverty. China  also has in place,  rural pension which may  help realize the plan to eradicate mass poverty within the next three years. China which has been adopted by the United Nations as the model for poverty reduction  is responsible for three quarters of poverty reduction in the world.

One major means the Chinese adopted in eliminating poverty is attracting villagers in mountainous areas to come down. It does so by building wide,  smooth roads and  basic infrastructure, then inviting the villagers to relocate.  I visited two of the over four hundred villages listed to have so relocated.  Yangguang  in the small city of  Yiwu  was a village in the mountains which was persuaded to relocate twenty years ago. The inhabitants seemed happy by their new environment with ownership of houses that would  shame many in the Nigerian Upper Middle Class. The UN adopted Yangguang as the model for poverty eradication. It took time for the village of Xinxing to be persuaded to come down, it did ten years ago, and speaking with the villagers, you detect an infectious glow.

China’s  political leaders and top civil servants in the directorate cadre and their families are not allowed to  engage in private business or espouse any religion; religion remains strictly the individual’s  private business.  The type of parasitism in Nigeria where   individuals are allocated oil blocs that belong to the country, is not possible in China. I found that many of the business leaders are members of the 89 million-member CPC.

The West and America have for centuries dominated the world. China had teamed up with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa to establish the BRICS in an  attempt to challenge this hegemony. But China has far more ambitious plans;  building a broad economic movement mainly of developing and underdeveloped countries that  aims at  a fair globalization. Proposed  on September 7, 2013 by President Xi Jinping during a visit to Kazakhstan, the Belt and Road Initiative which has attracted many countries, is more a people-to-people  project and aims to connect first, the Asian, African and European continents by train, road and sea. Along the way, it plans  to build industrial parks, promote trade and investment, currency stability system and  bilateral currency swap. Not lost on me is that China is experiencing  over-production, and this Initiative would open more global opportunities for it. China is  already deploying  its bilateral provision  of infrastructure in many countries, to advance its diplomacy.

China is of course not a perfect society; all it has set out to  do, is build a country based on social justice. Africa can follow China’s development path; like the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single  step.”

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