A new book that looks into the governance philosophy of China’s President Xi Jinping was launched at UNISA this week.
Titled “Xi Jinping’s Thoughts Through the Eyes of South Africa”, the book was written by UNISA’s senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, Mandarin Chinese Section, Dr Paul Tembe.
Through the years, President Xi has shared his thoughts and wisdom through a series of publications of The Governance of China with the aim of inspiring discourse in pursuit of multilateralism.
The book departs from the most emphasised and long-held premise that underpins China-Africa standpoints. One of China’s most revered foreign policy standpoint is that “China does not seek to prescribe, impose or encourage countries to copy its governance models or systems, but instead encourages each country to craft and improve its governance based on its national conditions and aspirations”. Beijing’s departure point in geopolitics is that “Chinese governance is shaped by Chinese history and culture with ‘Confucianism’ (China’s brand of Ubuntu/Botho) at its helm”.
Dr Tembe asserts in the book that President Xi is on record on numerous occasions “counselling against adapting the People’s Republic of China’s model of governance to other countries and polities”.
Chinese President Xi is credited with drastic and rapid transformation of China’s economy and political standing in global affairs in recent history.
Since coming to power in March 2013, when he took over from Hu Jintao, President Xi has steered the colossal ship that is China’s administration with both aplomb and envy.
As the political head of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), President Xi’s stewardship of China’s rapid development includes winning massive praise from the UN for taking millions of peasants out of poverty.
The CPC’s motto is not to “alleviate” poverty, but instead to totally “eradicate” poverty. They do this through many innovative and proven ways, including the gross promotion of access to education and vocational training. Innovation is a mainstay of China’s rapid rise in the international community.
China’s commitment to multilateralism and the promotion of international cooperation also forms the cornerstone of Beijing’s foreign policy.
At every available opportunity, President Xi preaches peaceful coexistence among the nations of the world. Where there is conflict, he calls for dialogue as the most preferred outlet to peace.
At the book launch at UNISA’s Kgorong Centre in Pretoria, academics and political figures gathered for the launch of Dr Tembe’s insightful analysis of China’s political and economic growth through a South African perspective of President Xi’s thoughts.
Dr Tembe reflected on the book he penned about one of the world’s leading political lights of the 21st century.
Also in attendance to hear Dr Tembe’s reflections was China’s top diplomat to SA, Ambassador Chen Xiaodong.
Ambassador Chen told the audience, “The book by Dr Tembe is written in an accessible comparative fashion that encourages dialogue in search of our own development strategies and models to achieve inclusive prosperity and a better life for all South Africans as mandated by our Constitution to create a united, democratic and prosperous SA.”
The book pointedly touches on various areas of President Xi’s thoughts and China’s development and then poses the question: “What can SA learn from China?”
In answering these questions, Dr Tembe proposes some radical shifts. He writes that China’s rise “is inspirational” and that there is a lot that SA can learn from the achievements of the world’s most populous country that boasts a population of 1.4 billion people.
Among others, Dr Tembe’s book touches on various areas of China’s development such as the country’s National Governance System, All Round-Opening Up, the New Development Philosophy, Harmony Between Humanity and Nature, Poverty Eradication and China’s Education System.
“President Xi,” writes Dr Tembe, “reaffirms a commitment to developing the public and non-public sectors of the economy as a way to allow common prosperity for all. Most importantly, what we can learn is the upholding of public ownership while allowing various forms of ownership to develop side-by-side to leverage the critical role of the public sector in advancing common prosperity.”
China’s notable successes can be attributed to two main things, Amb Chen explained, and those are the governance system and the Opening Up and Reform. On these two pillars, he added, lies the foundation for China’s modern successes.
“These two have enabled China’s economy to grow and this growth is harnessed to pursue the happiness of the people of China,” according to Amb Chen.
Investment in education, technology and innovation are also cited as contributory factors to China’s rise.
“These came through the pursuit of meritocracy and building strong state institutions to drive the desired development,” said China’s top envoy, before adding: “At the center of these has been policy consistency and long-term planning. These are the main lessons that SA can draw.”
Dr Tembe, meanwhile, argues that SA lacks policy consistency and also took up issue with the five-year political term of office as “too short” to implement policy. He recommends radical policy shift as follows: “First is the courage to make drastic changes in developmental policies. The second will be to strive for policy implementation, no matter how uncomfortable the norm is in the short term. The third is that there should be a focus on long-term strategies. Fourth, policies should aim at inclusive growth instead of the current belief that markets can solve the delivery of public goods outside of state control.”
Bilateral relations between China and SA continue to flourish at various levels, particularly cultural, educational and through people-to-people diplomacy.
UNISA offers Mandarin through its Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages. In a world that is increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent, language plays a crucial role in fostering relations, and also in building new friendships on the world stage.