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  Home > Exchanges and Dialogues > Voices from Media
By Charles A. Sanga-Former Ambassador of Tanzania to China

Any nation in the world is branded by certain characteristics, good and bad. Tanzania is branded by beautiful characteristics such as peace loving country; Country of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Spicy Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba; Country of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Beautiful brands abound that make every Tanzanian very proud including the author of this article. Many scholars and other actors have done a great job to brand Tanzania and I feel inadequate to do any better job.

It has been heard many times that the Chinese are famous of doing everything with Chinese characteristics. Indeed it is true. To begin with, the Chinese language is composed of characters-every word is characterized. The Chinese eat with Chinese characteristics-using chopsticks made mainly from bamboo. The genesis of chopsticks is a subject to be taken up at another occasion. The Chinese nation is governed under “One nation, two systems.” Hong Kong and Macau enjoy the Special Administrative Region status. Practically, these two regions are on their own except for some areas of national interest, that Beijing has some influence-it is a system with Chinese characteristics.

The Chinese pride themselves of their culture. For them agriculture is culture; education is culture; cuisine and eating are cultures; economic development is culture; sports is culture; martial arts and kongfu, drama, traditional medicine are all cultures and the list is endless. Without culture there is nothing Chinese. As a result the uniqueness of this cultural behavior, the Chinese culture is inherited from one generation to another generation without any interruption-these are Chinese characteristics.

The Chinese people may be curious about other cultures and that is all that matter-curiosity. It is short lived because at the end of the day the Chinese culture is all that matters. This attitudinal behavior calls for an article of its own.

China has proved beyond any doubts that doing things with Chinese characteristics has paid off handsomely. Had China been a faithful disciple of the classical economic theoreticians the world would not have had an opportunity to marvel at the Chinese amazing economic development in modern times. The economic development path taken by China is yet another example of the Chinese character – characterizing those paths. The success of the Revolution in 1949 against the Kuomintang Regime was done with Chinese characteristics. Chinese characteristics embrace pragmatism. The Cultural Revolution in the early 1960s and the Leap Forward policies were cases of trying to be pragmatic. Today the Chinese people look at the weaknesses of those policies in typical Chinese characteristics-learning lessons from mistakes and carry forward reforms with new zeal without condemning the leaders who initiated those policies.

The leader of China leads more than a sixth of the world’s population. A Chinese leader respects theories or R&D no less than other reasonable leaders the world over. But the leader in China has to shoulder the burden of leading 1.4 billion people at any time of the day. It is therefore understandable for Chinese leaders to engage more in immediate result oriented actions through what is commonly known as the on the spot guidance than waiting for theory driven actions. That being said let there be no misunderstanding. A Chinese leader is one who must have proven of being solid morally, intellectually and practically. The Chinese characteristics in choosing a leader are based on the three premises.

In Chinese characteristics, morally solid will imply unwavering commitment to the principles contained in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. Suffice it to say that patriotism and nationalism capture the essence of genuine love to the Motherland and that is being morally solid. With that guidance, corruption, love for wealth, love for power, irresponsibility and non accountability among other intolerable behaviors are promptly dealt with in the characteristics of the Chinese.

Intellectually solid embraces the characteristics of formal education and appropriate mind set. Appropriate mind set requires the leader to use the acquired education to deal with social problems. The leader must also be in the frontline to moralize and educate others filial duties, loyalty, honesty, good manners, justice and to be incorruptible.

According to the Chinese characteristics a leader who does not practice the knowledge gained either at school or in practice; if such a leader does not practice that is preached or said to the people, such a leader betrays the people and therefore does not deserve the trust of the people.

Before the Chinese economic reforms were applied to the whole nation, Deng Xiaoping allowed the reforms to be put into practice at a village in Anhui. As expected the reforms started with agriculture reforms before applying them to other sectors. Deng Xiaoping was just being practical-practical because the peasants, peasantry as they may appear are the greatest contributors of peace and stability in developing countries like China.

A nation which cannot feed itself is bound to lose peace and stability as well as general security. A hungry person is a very angry. Think of a situation in which a billion people are angry of hunger. Chinese characteristics demand self reliance in food production for the nation. Successive leaders have never provoked their people through food supply constraints. The coupon system, laughed at by today’s generation was a perfect Chinese way of averting denial of essential items to some people in the community.

Why are the Chinese characteristics so successful? Emperor Tangtaizong of the Tang Dynasty said: “Looking at a bronze mirror, people can dress themselves up. While looking into other’s past experience, people can do self examination.” A chaotic situation must always be mitigated instead of aggravating it otherwise misery will dominate the society.

Deng Xiaoping was right when he said: “Whether it is a white cat or a black cat. It is a good cat as long as it catches mice.” It actually meant that any policy to be used must be applicable to the Chinese situation that will help the economic recovery, social stability and better livelihood. Practicality governed the reforms which were initiated in 1978. However practical as it was meant to be, the Chinese characteristics demanded caution through the theory of “Wading the river by feeling the way.” This reminds me of a Swahili saying: “Haraka haraka haina baraka.” This could literally be translated as: “Anything done in a hurry is bound to fail.” A failure of any action is likely to bring misery to the people.

Mao Dze Dong saw the misery of his people. Practical as he was, freedom was the answer to address the misery. He had a burning desire to end the misery and through sacrifice he was prepared to die for the dignity of his country. Without freedom the Chinese people would have perpetually lived in misery. He liberated the nation, unified the people and ensured peace, stability and harmony for the whole nation.

Jiang Zemin the leader for the Third Phase government made practical reforms in the Communist Party and make it all extensively inclusive. Hu Jintao following the footsteps of his predecessors, he has embraced the nations of the world as China’s strategic partners. Each leader has a landmark that serve as a useful mirror for self examination.

Tanzania and China have longstanding cooperation. Let Tanzania look into the experience of this great nation to better serve the people of Tanzania. Each member of this nation, peasants, law makers, the judiciary, administrators, medical doctors in hospitals, military people, the police force and other security organs etc are all duty bound to make a contribution for the betterment of the livelihood of fellow compatriot. Just like the Chinese characteristics are serving well the Chinese people, let the Tanzania characteristics be rejuvenated to serve this Island of Peace and tranquility.

It can be done, play your part.

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