US, China Battles and Africa as Collateral Damage
Last week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in the United States, published a third rate, alarmist and false story which got reproduced locally alleging that Uganda government was working with Chinese technology communication giant, Huawei, to conduct political surveillance on opposition politicians. It’s third rate because, it didn’t quote anyone either in Uganda, China or at Huawei, but merely referred to ‘highly placed security sources,” and as such passed for propaganda and lazy journalism.
From a global perspective the main objective appeared two-fold, first, an attempt to extend the on-going trade war of blackmail against a rising and unstoppable China. China and Russia are the bogeymen. Secondly, it was a futile effort, to raise the political profile of local yellow dogs they are using for regime change in Uganda.
Uganda has multiple and vibrant open democratic spaces including government, political, civil society, professional and student groups, and media, accessible and utilized by all Ugandans to pour outbursts however outlandish. Therefore, government doesn’t need secretive surveillance to know what these groups may be up to. Also, most Uganda politicians, as if by nature, are generally hyper loose-talkers that opponents don’t have to be sophisticated to know their game plans. Thirdly, most political activists are unprincipled so it doesn’t require much effort to have them pass back information undercutting their allies. The above, when well utilized, provide good basis and sufficient credible open source political intelligence for government, and hence no need to hire Huawei or an Israel private commercial technology company to help the police crack communication.
The narrative tried to portray the Uganda government as a panicky and incompetent criminal enterprise that lurks around its political opponents through underhand methods. In so doing, the WSJ even claimed that Bobi Wine, a colourful musician-cum-politician was such a big threat, who couldn’t return to Uganda without US direct support.
Although the story named Chu Maoming, a former Chinese diplomat in Uganda, it turns out that during the period in question, 2017, Chun, never left Uganda, and therefore couldn’t have accompanied Uganda ‘security officers’ for training to China’s Shezen region as alleged. With a little professional sourcing and diligence, the story coming two years later, WSJ, could have easily established from passenger manifest at Entebbe airport which people travelled to China during that period.
On the backdrop of World War II in 1945, and defeat of US allies in China, Vietnam and Korea, Western countries have tried to maintain a hostile posture against mainland China and its interests around the world. At the turn of this century, when it became evident that China had risen from poverty, efforts were made to dissuade African countries and governments from dealing with China. Propaganda was framed that China’s assistance to Africa was motivated by sheer greed for raw materials and aimed at bolstering authoritarianism and corruption in Africa. Yet, much of the money stolen by African elites is stashed in western banks.
While it is true that Chinese took long to adjust their policies to make China’s trade with other countries more balanced and reciprocal, the US and EU are have been more exploitative, predatory, meddling and unhelpful if we count three centuries of their presence in Africa. Africa is only useful and relevant when it remains divided and weak, the reason UN, IMF and World Bank haven’t been flexible in accepting equality and reciprocity. Western scholars and media organisations have been drumming this beat which fortunately has fallen on the deaf ears of African leaders, many of whom continue to embrace China’s economic assistance, investments and political diplomacy which have no draconian strings attached.
The attempts over the last seventy years at isolating, and blackmailing other countries not to embrace China, has failed. Instead, China has undergone tremendous cultural, technological and economic revolution making it world’s leading trading economy, and second richest just behind the US. In fact it was the US that encouraged its companies to move out and establish industries in East Asia where labour was cheap, and china took that advantage.
Today, US allies in Europe and Asia, find it imperative to build constructive relationship including accepting Chinese investments because, some were coming to a dead end as colonies they exploited are no longer available. The current attempts to block Huawei from the forthcoming G5 technology too may fail.
Making America Great Again (MAGA), is Donald Trump’s mantra, playing the victim of an unfair world as he accuses everyone except the US of wrongdoing. This year, the US Treasury Department listed Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia as currency manipulators, yet the US is for long known for printing dumping fake currencies in other countries.
Nevertheless, the tough rhetoric from Washington also belies the deepening convergence of strategic interests and it will take more than Trump’s fickle nature to derail their relationship as China shakes up the established order. To understand where the US-China trade war, we should remember that US knows it cannot beet China in a straight fight, and that Trump, the maverick bully, is eying re-election in 2020.