Up To You: Those ‘Surreal’ Geopolitical Occurrences: China in Africa- Russia-Malaysia

Post Categories: Young Scholars' Voices
Wei Yuan Min | Thursday, August 9, 2012, 1:24 Beijing

It is up to you to decide what is real and what is surreal as we, the average citizens and the hope of tomorrow, are witnessing major events happening around us. Below are some simple observations which may or may not challenge what is real and surreal.

I will be arguing from the Chinese perspective on the issue of China-Africa, from the views of  Mahathir Mohamad’s supporters and from those who supports Putin.  I hope that we can all do this. Pause, put down our own pre-conceived perspectives and learn to write and think about the same issue through different dimensions.

No one can be 100% correct or 100% wrong since these are nothing but subjective interpretations ( as you can see from my writings below). Those who are correct are the ones who can see especially something profound and complicating like that of geopolitics, politics and diplomacy by standing at opposite ends. Those who are wrong are the ones who can not.

Africa: Am I concerned about China’s involvement in Africa? Yes. I’m very concerned that the West should be so worried about the relationship between China-Africa. The tone emitted from the West sounds as if “ China can’t be in Africa… China is killing Africa’. They make the China-Africa relationship sound as if it is a new China strategy, something recently thought up by Beijing.

It is true to say that China is just waking up to realize how important it is to replace the focus back on Africa after decades of placing effort in improving relationships and exchanges with the West, however, one does not need to go back very far to realize the long friendship and mutually beneficial interactions between the two parties.

Chairman Mao famously said “ It was our African brothers who carried China back into the UN”. This marked China’s recognition of Africa as a good friend and started the involvement of Chinese assistance in Africa. From UN peace-keeping activities to helping Africa build much needed infrastructures such as railway, mine, dam, refinery, freeway, bridges, tunnels, pipeline, hospitals, schools, hotels, stadiums and other major projects, China’s presence is in no way detrimental.

Like every partnership, there are bound to be disagreements and it is stories like this that will be magnified by Western press. The West cannot simply allow a fast-growing market, rich in natural resources, profitable outlets for immediate exports of much cheaper good and a future arena for high-end product and services to fall into China’s lap. The collective sense of market and political domination from UK, USA and France meant that media distortion and labelling would come into play.

As the primary partners in Africa, France and UK are lagging behind China who became Africa’s largest trading partner. Regardless of whether the Chinese involvement is beneficial or detrimental to Africa’s own development, one thing is for sure that the motives behind the West’s attack on China and their real intentions on Africa is far more negative and sinister. Let’s hope that Africa will not fall victim to imperialism and a repeat of history where homogenous unilateral presence kills traditional values and justice.

Putting Putin on: Hilary Clinton described Putin as a person with no soul and he is certainly one of the most ‘evil’ politicians according to Western Media. The focus on anti-Putin rallies in Moscow, leading up to the 2012 election and blind criticisms reflects the media tactics and true motives. The truth is, Russians, like many other nations, like the idea of having a ‘strong man’ in control.

Uncertainty in terms of its place in the world, self-doubt, lack of pride and losing confidence is not what Russia wants. Perhaps the West and the opposition party will criticise Putin’s Mafioso methodology as being undemocratic but at least he does not bend and change too easily.  He was decisive, tough and quick when faced with national crises and not afraid to let the political end justify the means.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the crisis of the 1990’s, Putin restored stability and progress both politically and economically. One cannot deny the fact that during his presidency, Russian economy grew for 9 consecutive years with its GDP increasing by 72%. Poverty decreased more than 50% and average monthly wage increased from 80 to 640 dollars.

His introduction of fiscal policy, macroeconomic management and various control of taxes such as income and profits helped Russia to affirm its position as an energy superpower. Consequently, price of oil and gas formed a large part of Russia’s exports. He also endorsed infrastructure projects such as nuclear plants and pipelines, which not only increase employment and productivity but also boost confidence in the people.

Russia was no longer the defeated nation where industries were sold cheaply, tainted with corruption, economic mismanagement, soaring inflation and millions of poor citizens. Putin re-inserted confidence and slowly eradicated a sense of inferiority, doubt and shame in the Russian people. So is Putin evil? Should he be hated for what he has done?

Mohamad the tyrant? : In response to the comment that the former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad is a tyrant, my interpretation is that such generalisation is in fact extremely surreal and not a real, objective interpretation. With the expiry of Malaysian New Economic Policy, Mohamad seized the opportunity to outline his vision.

One of his main aims is poverty reduction. He achieved this since by 1995, less than 9% of Malaysians lived in poverty. He also cut corporate taxes and liberalised financial regulations, which was successful in attracting foreign investment. The financial crisis threatened to devastate Malaysia and instead of following the ‘advice’ from IMF, Mohamad reversed his policy and went against IMF.

Instead of cutting government spending and raising interest rates, he increased spending and fixed the currency to the US dollar. The result was that Malaysia recovered faster from the crisis than other Asian neighbours. No politicians can be worshipped by all his subjects in the contemporary time but by labelling Mohamad as a tyrant is too extreme.

To conclude, I’d like to share with you my own interpretation of the word surreal.  It is that under the qualities of surrealism: a mixture of reality and fantasy, the whole circumstance is actually real. The French word ‘sur’ means ON, therefore, ‘sur real = on the real/reality’.  I guess this is one way of looking at it.

 

Wei Yuan Min  (Australian, Global Business Journalism Program at School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China)

 

 

 

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