By Field Ruwe
“Nǐhǎo, nǐhǎo ma? wǒ hěnhǎo” translates “hello, how are you?, I’m fine,” in Chinese Mandarin. That’s how my recent email from a young Zambian began. “I’m attending Chinese classes at the Confucius Institute,” he wrote. “We are now learning the Chinese national anthem. Last week our teacher taught us what the words meant in English: ‘Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves! … With our flesh and blood, let us build our new Great Wall.’”
“Oh my Lord, help us,” I muttered and read on.
“I actually prefer Chinese to English,” the young man wrote and ended with the words “Zài jiàn” (goodbye).
For a moment I was silent. The words “The British Empire” whizzed through my mind like a bullet aimed at the bull’s eye.
“We are colonized,” I said.
Mario Balotelli’s words “Why always me,” rang in my ears.
“Why always us,” I said. “Where are all the intellectuals to save us? All the engineers, scientists, economists, lawyers, doctors, trained in Zambia and abroad, where are they?”
They have failed us. The presence of the Chinese in our country is clear testimony. They have failed to prod into the underpinning reasons for Chinese investment in Zambia. Our intelligentsia can’t see the blurring line between Chinese investment and neo-colonialism.
Where is Caleb Fundanga when you need him?
He and others are perched on the electric fence watching history repeat itself. They hopelessly gaze as the Chinese colonize us in a way reminiscent of British colonization.
Back in 1890, Cecil John Rhodes knew that there were no Zambian intellectuals and made King Litunga Lewanika to sign deceptive mineral concessions with the British South Africa Company (BSAC). Similarly, Hu Jintao thinks there are no intellectuals in Zambia and he has made our gullible, poor and desperate government to enter into frivolous contracts scribed in fine print, and now China is fast becoming our colonial master.
It is the price we are paying for our own maladroitness, inertia, lack of innovation and invention, lack of determination, disorganization, dependence syndrome, greed, corruption, tribalism, witch-hunting, arrogance, empty promises, blame shifting, finger-pointing, rotten egos, and debauched politicians.
We may wear designer suits, dwell in mansions, keep millions of Kwacha in the bank, drive Mercedes Benz, carry brief cases along Cairo Road, walk with a swagger—we are powerless, we are led, not by State House, but external forces.
We have been led for a long time. First it was the slave traders, followed by Cecil Rhodes and the British, then the Americans and the Russians, IMF and the World Bank, and now it is the Chinese. Crudely put; we are the doormat of the world. They all come and wipe their dirty feet on us, and we let them.
Let me ask you this—do you at times in your private moment ask yourself “Why am I treated this way?” “Why am I always on the receiving end?” Do you perhaps get so angry and cry out “What wrong have I done to deserve this!” Be honest with yourself.
Answer: It is because you have failed to rise to the challenge. You have nothing to prove that you are good enough. You have made yourself a dependent of the world—a destitute. They told you, you were not good enough and you believed them. You believe them up to this day. They know it. That’s why they dominate you.
Another reason: They know we are very poor. Our political ravens have wrecked our economy, pride, dignity, and confined us to perpetual poverty. Yes, you heard me, we are the penniless people.
In fact we are so poor China is feeding us with Beijing chickens, and dressing us in oriental garb. We are now learning how to speak Mandarin. Soon our children will carry names like Jinjing Kambwili, Xiang Haatembo, Yuan Nawakwi, and Zihan Scott.
“No kidding, we are Zambinese.”
In all fairness, let me tip my hat off to the “Beijing Boys” at the Ministry of State Security (MSS) for a job well executed. Years of planning by their central institution of the Chinese intelligence network have come to fruition. Under the guise of economic growth and poverty alleviation, China has immersed us in an irreversible symbiosis. As it is, we are sucked up into their quest for great power status.
Here is how we were duped: In 1964, Zambia became the first country in Africa to sign diplomatic relations with China. A Chinese embassy was opened in Lusaka and in it was the Investigation and Research Office (IRO) for intelligence collection run by staff from the Central Investigation Department (CID) Eighth Bureau commonly referred to as the Institute of Contemporary International Relations (ICIR).
ICIR work took off in 1965 when Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith declared UDI and cut off our access to the sea. China saw the UDI as an opportunity to start a gradual sneaky process of “colonization.” On September 6, 1967, the governments of China, Tanzania, and Zambia signed an agreement to build the 1,870km TAZARA railway on an interest-free loan estimated at $1billion payable over 30 years.
The Chinese were looking at the TAZARA railway the same way Rhodes “dreamt” of his Cape to Cairo Red Line; to penetrate the interior of Africa and exploit the continent’s mineral and natural resources. Whereas Rhodes intentions for colonization were immediate, China waited until the Cold War was over. It was only after communism had collapsed that it shifted to a market oriented economy and embarked on its mission; to colonize Zambia and other sub-Saharan countries.
China’s passage to Zambia was made ever so smooth by FTJ and his Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) when they depleted Zambia’s assets and further bankrupted the country. In his two terms in office FTJ sold off all state-owned copper mines and a whapping 257 state enterprises to private investors. When the Chinese peeped into Zambia’s coffers they saw that they were empty. The money was gone, and a huge debt to IMF and the World Bank was beckoning. Zambia was as poor as a church mouse.
ICIR got down to work. In October 2000, Li Peng, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress met with FTJ to discuss “bilateral” relations and to “write a new chapter in the annals of China-Zambia relations.”
“In the future,” Peng said, “China will encourage more enterprises from its side to conduct mutually beneficial cooperation with Africa.”
High level hoodwinking spilled into the Mwanawasa government and the face of Zambia began to change. By 2006, thousands of Chinese had arrived and places like Kamwala shopping center had taken a new oriental look.
Zambians began to feel threatened and discontent grew. King Cobra saw this and played the China card in his bid to become president. He turned the presence of the Chinese into a campaign issue and called them bogus “infesters.”
“We are not going to condone exploitative investors,” he declared. “This country belongs to Zambians. Chinese investment has not added any value to the lives of the people of Zambia.”
The PF crowd was ecstatic. All the Zambian traders who had lost business at Kamwala and other markets around the country rallied behind King Cobra and voted in droves. The cobra defeated the Chinese-backed RB.
September 23, 2011, was Exodus Day. Our leader, mighty King Cobra, was going to address the nation and use his executive powers to purge the “bogus infesters” as he had repeatedly called them. At least that’s what we thought. We expected our “man of action” to act, and so did the world—except Beijing of course.
The “Beijing boys” were calm. They knew the cobra. They knew that the incumbent had used the anti-China sentiments as a panic button; that his bitter views on the Chinese were merely for the purpose of drawing support from the disgruntled and desperate miners and merchants who had found the Chinese a menace.
Guess what? They were right. Lord behold, King Cobra’s first emissary to State House was none other than China’s ambassador Zhou Yuxio. In a tone not synonymous with our cobra, he gladly invited Chinese investors to explore various areas of investment in the country. With that, ladies and gentlemen, the Beijing dragon has tamed our cobra.
It is 2012. Our president still cannot read the tea leaves in the cup. In as far as he is concerned China’s investment which exceeds US$10 billion is for Zambia’s economic gain.
“The investment has benefited both Zambia and China,” he said when he met with Luo Tao, the general manager of China Non-ferrous Metal Mining Company (CNMC) group in March. “Every expansion in investment should be for the mutual benefit of the two countries and its people.”
Can someone please tell him that we are being colonized by the most populous nation in the world? A chunk of the two billion Chinese are eager to settle in Zambia for good. Why?
“No pollution. No traffic jam. And the weather is like spring,” Chinese teacher Zeng Guangyu said in a recent interview. “And the peaceful pace of life—it isn’t like China, where we’re always rushing.”
What has happened to our political and economic “meteorologists” who forecast the country’s “weather” conditions, and send warning signs to the head of state? Are they simply showmen in black suits and thick specs?
Today’s economic pundits are not educating the government on what the Chinese heavy investment means to both us and them. They are not foretelling a day when we shall be totally indebted to the Chinese like we are to IMF, and become a Chinese proxy nation—a colony. They are not telling our president that as much as he is receiving “aid” from China in suitcases, he will leave a huge everlasting debt with our children. Most of all, they are not cautioning that in fifty years the Chinese will be the majority in Zambia (three times our population) and we will lose our land.
I wrote back to the Zambian young man: “When I was as young as seven, I learned to write, not in Bemba (the most spoken language of the time), but English. I was too young to understand what was going on around me. My father was telling as about Kenneth Kaunda, “Mwana wa David” as he fondly called him in Tumbuka.”
“He’s fighting for our freedom,” he said.
“Freedom from what?” I asked.
“From colonialism, we’re colonized by the British. They run our mines, industries, everything. We work for them like slaves. The difference is they at least pay us—but poorly though. We have to learn their language if we are to get better jobs. English is the most powerful language in the entire world, my son.”
In my letter I asked the young man a question: “Do you know why you are learning Manadrin?”
I answered on his behalf: “Because the Chinese hope to make Mandarin the most powerful language in the world.”
I asked him another question: “Why is the world not learning Bemba or Nyanja?”
I answered: “Because we are nothing. We are weak, and poor. Actually, we are the poorest of the poor. No one learns the poor man’s language.”
I ended with perhaps the most important question: “What are you and your peers going to do about it?”
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and an adjunct professor (lecturer). ©Ruwe2012