“The Red Boat that changed the fate of a nation: A perspective from Africa”
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I recently had the opportunity to visit Nanhu Lake in the city of Jiaxing in the dynamic Zhenjiang Province. For the Chinese nation this picturesque city is far more than just a scenic attraction, it is the birthplace of the Red Boat spirit and of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC ).
Early in August 1921, the first national congress of the CPC was held on a modest tourist boat on the Southlake of Jiaxing City. Here the birth of the CPC was proclaimed, one of the most significant and epochal events in Chinese history.
The Red boat strongly reflects the inspiration and symbol of China’s revolution. No wonder so many of China’s great leaders travelled to the birthplace of the CPC, over the years urging the Chinese people to “forge valiantly ahead along the revolutionary road opened up by the Nanhu Lakes red boat” and vowing to stay true to the Party's original aspirations and serve its people.
This was in keeping with the CPC’s belief that with the creation of the People’s Republic of China, the country truly “belonged to the people” and the adage that “Don’t forget the people or you will be forgotten by the people”.
The Red boat accompanied the Chinese people down its revolutionary route, equipped them with a powerful spiritual force which has helped China to make remarkable progress, overcome challenges and to achieve the impossible.
It ensured that the Chinese people have truly become the masters of their country and have taken control of their destiny.
The Red Boat spirit and Zhejiang province “unique entrepreneurial spirit” reflect remarkable commonalities and synergy which jointly put China on its road towards a “moderately prosperous society” as well as the “national rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, unified and together.
What are the key elements of the CPC’s system that led to China’s phenomenal success?
For 70 years China has upheld a philosophy of people-centred development, directing all its efforts towards fulfilling the people's aspiration for a better life.
The Chinese Government and its people have resolved difficulties through an imaginative approach of opening up and reform, innovation and removing institutional obstacles which hinder development.
The ability of China to define policy with a strong focus on long term planning, effective implementation and to take its citizens with it in unity, has led to an unprecedented level of internal political stability.
The Chinese model which provides for ongoing government reform to ensure efficiency, accountability and productivity.
Furthermore a key element in China’s achievements, is its policy of meritocracy, in terms of which only the best qualified candidates are appointed to key positions in government at all levels.
China’s remarkable progress in science, technology and innovation.
Among these count significant achievements such as satellites, manned space flights, digital economy, high-speed rail, green economy and renewable energy etc all of which continue to provide significant momentum to economic and social development.
In fact, I wish to add that in my lengthy diplomatic career I have worked and lived inter alia in Germany, Great Britain, the USA and Japan and have seldom experienced the same breath taking intensity and scale of economic, technological and social progress, as I have witnessed In Zhejiang Province and other parts of China, since my arrival in 2019.
Consistent economic growth ,achieved under the leadership of the CPC, has turned China into the world's second largest economy enabling the country to carry out the most successful poverty-alleviation program in the history of the world.
China, through its huge economy, political stability and unwavering commitment to multilateralism will continue to play an ever increasing and significant role in global affairs whether its economic, health, trade and investment, technology and innovation, climate change and peace and security.
In this process China will continue to challenge the West's outdated and fading hegemony in economics and governance. China will also remain strongly committed to defending the interests of the developing world.
In this context, however, the oft repeated message by President Jinping remains highly relevant: “ China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world, nor can the world as a whole maintain peace and development without China."
The Communist Party of China will celebrate its 100th anniversary of its founding on July 1.
From the humble beginnings of its Red Boat birth, the CPC has grown into a movement of great stature.
There will be celebrations across the length and breadth of the People's Republic of China characterised by great joy, a deep-seated pride, unashamed patriotism and a deep sense of gratitude.
In all my travels in this remarkable country, it is obvious that the Chinese people have ample reason to celebrate because the government has indeed kept its word and the country and its people are thriving.
President Xi Jinping is expected to continue to embroider on the country's phenomenal economic and social achievements over the past few decades and allude to China's goal to fully realise its "dream of renewal” by transforming the country into a “modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious” by 2049.
Given the long-standing, traditional and fraternal ties between China and Africa that stretch back over many decades, the African Union and African countries will celebrate with China and convey its sincere congratulations to the CPC on its remarkable achievements.
The CPC's achievements and the rise of China have had far-reaching implications for Africa.
In fact , the rise of the CPC and China has been of immense benefit to Africa and its people. The CPC has been actively cultivating friendly relations with African countries since the 1955 Bandung Conference .in Indonesia . The CPC provided material and ideological support to Africa's liberation and decolonization movements over many decades .
As the relations between China and Africa have grown from strength to strength , China has become Africa's largest trading partner, with trade between the two sides reaching $208 billion in 2019.
China also continues to strongly support Africa's efforts to contain the pandemic. China with its successful growth path is also a potential role model and has been working with Africa to explore development models for countries on the continent that suits their own national conditions.
Over decades the CPC has displayed a growing sense of friendship and solidarity towards the African continent. Strong links continue to be forged between the CPC and African political parties and regular dialogues are being held which are welcomed by Africa.
Through these inter-party exchanges the CPC and the African political parties continue to promote greater mutual understanding which add momentum to cooperation and solidarity.
Africa knows that CPC stands ready to work jointly with African political parties to promote the building of a community with a shared future for China and Africa.
In fact, Africa and China friendship, solidarity and cooperation remain stronger than ever before.
Africa and China, in fact , find themselves on the threshold of a new and exciting era of friendship and collaboration which will be further enhanced during the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting, scheduled to take place in Senegal later this year.
Nowadays, China’s development has entered a new era with increasing economic, social and security challenges which imply that China’s leadership and development are increasingly facing arduous tasks.
The world is, amongst others, facing ongoing economic, health and security challenges accompanied by unfortunate manifestations of weak global leadership, populism, a renewed Cold War mentality of encirclement as well as power and bullying politics.
It will require enhanced vigilance, leadership, unity and strength of all sectors of Chinese society to address these challenges!
But as renowned scholar and colleague, Martin Jaques, recently wrote: “The CPC's extraordinary success is because it found a way during its 100-year history of combining a huge reforming capacity with a profound rootedness in Chinese society and culture and ‘To govern and lead a very different kind of country will require the CPC to continue its constant process of change and reinvention. The fact that it combines pragmatism with the great Chinese tradition of thinking long-term will stand it in good stead .”
Based on the CPC and China’s remarkable achievements, its capacity for governance and the unity and resilience of its people, it is predicted that it will remain prepared for these risks and challenges, will meet them head-on, resolve them and give the Chinese people even a greater sense of fulfilment, security and prosperity.
* Gert Grobler is former ambassador and currently Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Africa Studies at the Zhejiang Normal University.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.