Saturday 17 April 2021
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‘Tianxia’ takes shape in Namibia

So far, so good for Beijing. There is no doubt that China’s “divide and conquer” attitude in Namibia on political and economic issues is effective.
China’s rise to prominence in the global geo-political and geo-economic space has raised many eyebrows over the past decade, especially when it comes to Africa.
‘Tianxia’ is a concept that puts China at the centre of nations. This strategy is in full swing in Namibia.
‘Tianxia’ has been advanced as an organizing principle for post-Cold War international relations encompassing the rise of China. The ‘Tianxia’ system is defined as a Sino-centric hierarchical relationship among unequal’s, governed according to Confucian principles of benevolence.
The ruling Swapo Party has deep links to China, those links have quickly moved from the political sphere to the economic sphere whereby Chinese firms continue to rake in and repatriate billions from mega construction State tenders.
Don’t be fooled by government’s recent trip to China. For all the positive spin out of the trip, Namibians are cognisant of the influence China has in Namibia. This influence is brought upon by the financial and political support China offers to Namibia and Swapo.
Other gateways to exert influence is abound. China is Namibia’s biggest partner when it comes to infrastructure development. In fact, the arrival of Chinese construction firms in Namibia forced many South African construction firms to the peripheries.
The debate about China’s influence in Namibia is in full throttle.
China’s borrowing tactics is also sketchy. The concessional loans offered to cash-strapped nations-mostly African nations-are dished out regardless of the fact whether the beneficiary has the ability to service the loan.
The concessional loans are formulated in such a way that strategic resources are attached as collateral.
Unlike banks that only offers loans to people who have the ability to repay. A good case in point, several African states that can’t access loan facilities from either the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund(IMF) know they have a partner when it comes to China.
In the end, China’s primary concern is not whether the loan dished out is repaid, but rather the enormous resource gain on offer when a loan holder fails to honor its payment commitments.
Hardly anyone can blame China for trying to win over individual African nations if they are so eager to be won over. AU member states must realise that unity serves them all better. After all, China sponsored the AU headquarters, we all know there is no free meal.
There is no way that dealing with Beijing on a bilateral basis will produce better results than getting Beijing to conduct its business based on African nations’ respective trade laws and regulations. The folly of such an approach should be beyond obvious by now. Maybe it is, but just being ignored.
Virtually non-existent at independence, Chinese dominance in Namibia has surged spectacularly in recent years in an international context of declining FDI globally. While the stock of Chinese FDI in Namibia is minuscule, the flow of money from Namibia to China is shocking to say the least.
The Swapo government, which has led the country since independence, cannot negotiate win-win deals with China and there is thus lessened political resistance to deals that may have been objectionable in better economic times.
Without turning a blind eye to the key role China continues to play in the development of this country, we must remain mindful that China is not the alpha and omega.
As the stark reality of China’s influence increasingdaily sinks in, government officials have increasingly turned into defensive mode in a frantic attempt to cast blame on everyone but themselves. Their chorus that Namibia is a friend to all and enemy to none continues to be sung, but we are clearly more friends to China amongst all our friends.
As Lenin famously asked, “What is to be done?” It is hard to say. We may simply have to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst, recognizing that the future generations may well be the ones who have to pick up the pieces. One hopes that they do a better job managing the country’s international relations than today’s leaders.

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