Once again Gambia is engaging with Mainland China, but China’s track record and ambitions should set alarm bells ringing in the minds of our political leaders and elites.

A famous prime minister of England once said “a week is a long time in politics”, meaning that  things change rapidly and like in football  it is essential to keep one’s eye on the ball. Mainland China is the coming world power and perhaps the last. They have a general policy of engaging African countries through generous “aid” and development agreements which appear very tempting. Their long term aim is to settle their OWN  people and secure their sources of raw materials and food at the expense of the local population. This is becoming apparent in countries in Central and East Africa. Closer to home, look at the way they have violated our waters by fishing close inshore and exhausting our fishing stock. Do we benefit? Very little. 

The China that Gambia engaged with in the 1970’s and built  the “Friendship Stadium” at Bakau is very different from the one today.  Then they wanted Gambia’s vote at the UN against Taiwan and Jawara was able to play one off against the other quite successfully. Jammeh played Taiwan for all he could get, manipulating their desperation to maintain their vote and influence in the UN. Today, China is on the verge taking over Taiwan and has marginalized it on the world stage. They are now playing for world economic and military domination and the West cannot stop them. They have begun to occupy islands in the South China sea and build military bases there, notably on an island belonging to the Philippines. China sees only its own interests and can afford to ignore the rest of the world having the size, money and military power. 

The Chinese are  now building a railway from their country to Europe. The first train of about a hundred (?) containers arrived in UK last month. On the surface it appears to be a good development, but the countries through which it passes are reporting disturbing results. For example, some Polish farmers believed that they could now export their dairy products to China. In reality Chinese trade barriers prevent this. The Chinese are only interested in exporting and transiting their own products. China rarely imports other countries goods. Over the past 60 years they have ignored international copyrights and simply copied other countries products and sell back as cheap counterfeits. China copied Peugeot and other car makes, manufactured them at home then sold them under Chinese names on their domestic markets. Even Rolls Royce cars! Maybe Jammeh’s are Chinese copies, but I doubt it!  Who could stop them? Which court? Which country?

The most disturbing thing is that the companies awarded contracts such as our ports have no regard for the governments on the ground or the local people, using bribery, coercion and force. The Chinese have only one interest. Whether as investors, business partners or in diplomacy. Their own! Dealing with the Chinese is a one way traffic, to their advantage. They are very skilled, patient and determined negotiators. Gambians think they are smart but have a nasty lesson coming from the Chinese who can and will back up and protect their interests by military force if necessary. It’s also worth remembering that as a culture, the Chinese have no regard for human rights or even human life. Even in their own country human life is nothing and human rights don’t exist. Hong Kong is a prime example. You vote for their candidate or face the consequences. End of story.

Yes they have massive resources to invest, but as proved by the building of the stadium, and construction company. They use little local labor, preferring to bring in all their own people. Having over 1 billion people to employ and feed they are sending them to Africa to set up businesses, farm and SETTLE. They import all they need and buy little from the local businesses. Their staff will send their money home using Chinese banks which they will set up as soon as they’re established. They will train Gambians to speak Chinese and serve their interests at low level or  in figure head positions but they will be closely monitored and controlled. Mistake no mistake, they will not tolerate corruption or incompetence for long. Eventually they will control the government and manipulate it to fit their ambitions. Not as partners or affiliates but as political masters backed up by military force. 

All this is classic empire building and one might ask how does this differ from the US, Russia and any other Western power? The Europeans have always had a humanitarian element to their empire building preferring to put in institutions such as democracy, education, health care and eventually independence in various forms. The Chinese have no such intentions or culture. It’s all about pure exploitation and domination hidden under a cloak of diplomacy and “aid”. A bit like Jammeh really, except that they pay their bills and play for the long term. A very similar mentality but on an unimaginable scale. The USA, Europe and Russia are powerless against the economic and military might of China today and in the coming decades. 

Gambian thinking would be if this is the case then let’s join them and enjoy the cake. Like life under Jammeh that cake can have a very bitter taste. It was far wiser and more beneficial to award the ports contract to Senegal with whom we have common interests and values. We should be  very careful of dealing with the mainland China…..and not be tempted by their offers of aid. If accepted there will be a very high price to pay in the long run. Ask many far eastern countries. On another note, the Chinese governments fear and suppress religion. Whether Christianity or Islam. They are atheists or kaffirs and as a government see all forms of religion as a threat. In the long term tiny Gambia will be no exception. Their probable solution? To settle huge numbers of their own people and all the elites will have to join the Communist Party. (Perhaps it would suit Halifa and Sidia). This is the purpose of most empires, especially China with one billion people to feed and employ. England and other Europeans expanded to America, Canada, Australia and subdued the local people and took over. Africa suffered a similar fate, especially East and South Africa. West Africa was saved by the climate and mosquito, but the Chinese don’t care about these things. Far fetched, a dream? It’s already happening as I write. Do the research, read the papers, watch documentaries on Chinese goals and expansionism. It’s accelerating fast. 

Gambia, Gambia, Gambia. Gambia who sold its children to slave traders for beads, alcohol and guns. Gambia who mortgaged our development and children’s futures to unpayable debts. When will we learn? As the Creole say “pikin timap, e see yar. Big man timap y see yanda”. ” A child stands up and sees what is in front of it. An adult stands up and sees a lot further”. 

The core problem is that traditional African thinking is reactive. Wait for a problem to appear then try to solve it and if that fails find someone to blame. The modern world requires observation of political and economic trends then anticipating them with pre-planned strategic options. This is why we fail so badly on the world stage and fail to advance but it need not be so!! We have many competent intelligent Gambians but they are not welcome. Roll on the gravy train. Let’s ” join the getah and drink the milk”. Who cares about the cows or the rest of the people? What has changed since independence? If you want to change the present, learn from the past. If you want to change the future change the present. It’s not too late…

Boor Sine

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