Leadership transitions: Washington, Beijing and Africa

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THIS week, the two leading world economies; the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China would begin the process of leadership transitions.

In the case of United States, the incumbent President Obama might win a second term in office, but inspite of his pledge for policy continuity especially on domestic affairs, there would be a considerable shake up of foreign policy and Africa would count less, as Washington focuses on its stated priority of the Asia pacific and the Middle East.

In the case of China, President Hu Jintao would be stepping aside after completing a two term tenure paving way for the emergence of the 5th generation leadership with Mr. Xi Jinping at the core.

The first generation leadership since the founding of Modern China in 1949 has Chairman Mao Zedong at the core, second generation has Deng Xiaoping at the core, third generation with Jiang Zemin at the core and the fourth generation has President Hu Jintao.

While the U.S elections, arguably the world’s best known political event would hold on the 6th of November, the 18th congress of the communist party of China, the main vehicle for political transition in china will open on the 8th of November, in Beijing.

While the winner of the U.S November 6th poll will take office on the 20th January, the new leadership emerging from the congress of the 90 million member Chinese communist party would take office in March during the convocation of the country supreme  legislative organ, the National Peoples Congress.

While the two major parties in contention in the United States were created by a consensus of the ruling elite, the Chinese communist party created the modern China through a bloody struggle that ended foreign domination and local feudalist oppression.

Through revolution, reconstruction and reform, the Chinese communist party built a previously backward nation though, with outstanding civilisation of more than three thousand years, into a formidable and fairly prosperous economy.

The 18th congress of the party and the transition to a new leadership is as important and significant to the Chinese as it is to the rest of the world. The U. S. election in November has such equal significance for the Americans especially and even to the wider world.

President Obama characterised his first term as a work progress that would require another fresh term of four years to complete and consolidate its key features. He argues that he inherited a nearly bankrupt country, de-spirited at home, and exhausted with long and unpopular wars abroad.

His challenger Mr. Mitt Romney plans to deconstruct the big government, he claims the Obama administration is building.

His platform is essentially to cut taxes across the board, roll back state Medicare and other social safety nets for than more 47percent Americans he notoriously jabbed as existing on the margins as social parasites.

His outlandish plan to create 12 million job in four years is drawing a considerable sneer from Americans but his message ‘re-inventing the country’ is striking sufficient resonance from the across the country as his improving polls indicates.

His foreign policy platform remains unclear even as his reference to Mali as terrorist haven only reinforces dominant Washington’s view of Africa as a mere security concern.

China has been traditionally engaged in Africa from the earlier time of the founding of Modern China especially solidarity of the continent for its anti-colonial aspirations.

HOWEVER, in contemporary times and especially since 2000, when the Forum for China-Africa co-operation, FOCAC, was founded, Sino-Africa relation has reached new heights.

FOCAC founded under the watch of President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji became a major architecture of contemporary global life under the leadership of President Ju Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Providing the institutional basis for the steady development of China-Africa co-operation, the FOCAC process has within the past 10 years under the leadership of President Hu-Jintao and his African counterparts nudged up the co-operation between the two sides.

China has become Africa’s largest trading partner and Chinese presence in Africa and African Presence in China, especially in the coastal city of Guangzhou has become a key feature of dynamic co-operation existing along the formal inter-state relations.

The new leadership of China that would emerge from the 18th congress of the party would almost certainly accelerate the pace of comprehensive Sino-Africa co-operations.  Africa’s China policy is a major component of Beijing foreign policy and its diplomatic global outlook.

The five yearly congress of the communist party of China is the most important political event in China with world-wide significance.

This year’s 18th congress with 2270 deputies elected from local party branches all over the country would deliberate on key issues that would sustain the momentum of growth and development leading to 2020 when the country is expected to attain the status of a fairly prosperous nation.

In the past 10 years under the watch of President Hu-Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, almost all Chinese are now covered by medical insurance, the most comprehensive ever health insurance scheme.

On the contrary, the ambitious President Obama healthcare insurance barely covering half of all Americans are under intense attack from his Republican challenger.

President Hu- Jintao’s most enduring legacy may well be his socialist country-side programme, under which the bulk of rural China was opened up and transformed to shining cities with enabling infrastructures and facilities.

The 18th congress of the party and the Chinese people in general would pay an unending tribute to Mr. Hu as a great innovator who has ensured that the fruits of economic growth from the reforms are well spread out to all Chinese.

At his inauguration at the 16th congress of the party in 2002 as the General Secretary of the party and leader of the country, he was dismissed by Western media as a wooly technocrat and party apparatick.

Inspite of the Western media tag of Vice President, Xi Jinping as ‘a princeling’ for his father, Xi Zhongxun, having fought along Chairman Mao Zedong in the war to found the Modern China, is most likely to continue in the tradition of innovation and creativity.

In the single week of November, two most important countries in the world will launch into a breathtaking political event that would determine the trajectories of their policies, both for their nations and the rest of the world.

Africa, holding the world largest reserve of precious natural minerals or wealth, is already a world legendry phenomenon both for its famed poverty and predatory political elite and for its numerous opportunities and immense possibilities.

For ill or for good, Africa savours an unusual attention from the world and the events in the two world’s most leading and important nations must not escape scrutiny in Africa.

Africa leadership transitions are notorious for banging heads, if they occur at all, except in some few places in the continent and the import of the ace-political gatherings in Beijing and Washington must not be lost as every lesson the world can offer, can enrich our experience to re-set Africa on the path of participatory democracy and development.

Mr. O CHARLES ONUNAIJU, a journalist,  wrote from Abuja.

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