Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Bull in a China shop

Quite refreshing has been the relative quiet from the political scene over the festive season. Even some typically poorly thought out comments about the role of churches in our democracy by President Zuma went by without too much fuss and bother. It seems our politicians have been peacefully enjoying their holidays.

But the peace was unnecessarily broken by an uproar over Tshwane mayor, Solly Msimanga's visit to Taiwan. For those who have chosen to stay out of the loop over the Christmas season (I really don't blame you for taking such a reprieve!) Mayor Msimaga took a trip to to Tapei, Taiwan to meet Mayor Ko Wen-Je and discuss economic ties and investment into Tshwane. The ANC subsequently exploded with criticism, with big guns accusing Msimanga of breaching the country's One China policy and lightweights throwing out the usual over-the-top recommendations like, "Take away his passport!" and so on.

For those unfamiliar with the history I'll give a quick review. Once, China was united as the Republic of China, but after WW2 a civil war started and the communists drove the existing state off the mainland and onto the island of Taiwan. They then renamed China the People's Republic of China. So now the People's Republic of China controls the mainland and the Republic of China controls Taiwan, but both claim exclusive sovereignty over the whole of China. Commonly these are now referred to as China and Taiwan respectively, so I will use these names. Although Taiwan is effectively a totally independent state, China does not take kindly to those who recognise it's sovereignty. Today most countries recognise the People's Republic of China, but still maintain unofficial diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

It is this stance that gave the ANC excuse to throw their toys out the cot over Mayor Msimanga's visit to Taiwan, which apparently damages our reputation internationally, and after all our President has done, we really can't afford much more damage. But for all the ruckus made by the ANC, China has said nothing, in fact, even if they know of his visit, it seems they couldn't care less. And that makes sense. This was a visit by a mayor of one city to another city to seek investment. It has little to do with international politics and it really then doesn't make a difference whether Taipei falls under the jurisdiction of Taiwan or China because they both agree on one China, even if they disagree over who runs it.

It really is making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but it is what this reaction tells us about the ANC that I find interesting. First it shows how desperate the constantly, and justly, under-fire ruling party is to find passable criticism to throw at the almost irreproachable opposition. Second, it reveals the true underlying values that exist in the ANC. For a party that boasts of its democratic ideals, it is very quick to recognise an oppressive and authoritarian regime over one that is a pinnacle of freedom and democracy. In fact, when we look at the closest economic allies we have made since 1994, most share our problems, but stand in stark contrast to the ideals of the ANC and the rest of the country. I speak of the BRICS countries. Russia and China are not beacons of democracy, and along with India and Brazil are grossly corrupt. In spite of the perceptions we have a of our own country, we may be the cleanest of the five.

This is something that is worrying, but that we aren't paying attention to. We make friends with those facing the same problems as us, rather than those who have overcome the problems we face, like Taiwan. Ask yourself, who is more likely able to help us overcome those problems, those who have overcome them themselves, or those who are still battling with them?

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