Westerners did not bring Africa prosperity or stability after hundreds of years of colonialist rule there, but left behind prolonged turbulence, inequality, poverty and backwardness. Yet they are now pretending to be concerned about the interests and welfare of African countries and people. They are tirelessly warning their former colonies of a “creeping new colonialism” from China.
But when they overplay the role of a self-appointed patron, they make themselves repulsive. Two recent events illustrate how overzealous Westerners insulted themselves by despising the intelligence and judgment of African people.
One concerned Richard Quest, a renowned CNN anchor and correspondent, interviewed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Oct. 26 to mark the first direct flight between Nairobi and New York by Kenyan Airlines.
However, the eight-minute interview video showed nothing about the flight, and instead, the interviewer pestered the interviewee with questions about debt.
The whole process of that Q&A session is an exhibition of Western arrogance and prejudice against African sagacity and confidence.
After the president outlined his chief policy goals for his new presidency, Quest assailed him with a volley of questions about the debts Kenya borrowed.
“You’re raising money; you got a high debt-to-GDP ratio, and the largest creditor is China.” Richard Quest seemed only interested in the debts to China.
Despite the president’s patient explanation that his country borrows money not only from China, but from other countries and international institutions as well including the U.S., and that nothing is different between debts from China and from other sources, as long as they serve the interests of his nation, Quest continued to focus on Chinese money. “Are you comfortable about the increasing burden of debt to China? Isn’t it risky?”
He didn’t attempt to conceal his lack of propriety and demeanor, emphasizing that China’s lending has other purposes and agendas, and that the goals of African countries are inconsistent with China’s goals. “China hopes to include Africa in China’s greater influence,” he argued.
Such an insolent attitude naturally backfired. The assertive president told Quest that, with its own clear position, Kenya would work with willing partners around the world to help it achieve its own socio-economic development agenda. The implicit message was clear: Mind your own business; Africans have their own sense and judgment.
The other event involved Norbert Lammert, German Federal Parliament speaker, and Hage Geingob, president of Namibia. During a recent meeting, Lammert “kindly” reminded his host of “increasing Chinese influence” in Namibia.
This apparently displeased the president, who called his guest’s “concerns” “annoying,” because of his assumption that Africans were still children, not mature enough to deal with global powers, or otherwise they would be abused or fooled.
“Please don’t underestimate our intelligence!” countered the president.
A bit of knowledge of Chinese and Western histories and cultures will tell us different stories about Chinese and Western approaches to international exchanges. The Chinese nation, historically an agricultural people, doesn’t have genes of expansion or aggression. They were content with a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and they built the Great Wall to defend external enemies rather than invading other nations to expand their territory like most nomadic peoples did. Their only way to deal with foreign nations is by trading goods. That’s how tea, china and silk found their way around the world.
Famous Chinese navigator Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty made seven heroic voyages to Asia and Africa between 1405 and 1433, which predated the Westerners’ Voyages of Discovery by almost a century. His massive fleet, consisting of over 200 large sailing ships, was the world’s earliest task fleet of similar size. But the real Armada took with it only merchandises and friendship, not conquest or intimidation.
Yet Westerners are notorious for their triumphant discoveries of “the New World” and barbarous conquest of the new-found lands and merciless suppression of the native peoples.
It’s hilarious that some hypocritical Westerners, whose ancestors held an international conference in Berlin on Nov. 15, 1884 attended by 15 Western countries to carve up Africa, today show special interest in the fate of Africans.
Time will prove who are the genuine friends of Africa.
Westerners should respect Africans’ dignity and wisdom to behave more like gentlemen.
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)