OPINION: No doubt that Africa needs what China offers – by Xhanti Payi (Business Day Live – December 9, 2015)


DESPITE his many political and philosophical detractors, Henry Kissinger is one of the few authoritative voices on China. Having served as a key US diplomat during a time when China was reinventing herself to what she is today, Kissinger has had a perspective few other analysts have today.

His views on China are not inconsistent with the China we see, in the ways in which it responds to global debates and tensions. One need only look at the way China votes at the United Nations Security Council to understand its posture on affairs of other nations.

In his book, On China, Kissinger is seemingly at pains to show that, unlike the US, China is not interested in exporting its values or owning culture and territories outside itself — that even though it may seek to be a leading civilisation, it does so not through an effort to export its values, but to sustain them even in what Kissinger himself calls the “new world order”.

He recounts the China of old, reflecting that in official Chinese records, foreign envoys did not come to the imperial court to engage in negotiations or affairs of state: they came “to be transformed” by the emperor’s civilising influence.

The emperor did not hold “summit meetings” with other heads of state; instead, audiences with him represented the “tender cherishing of men from afar”, who brought tribute to recognise his overlordship. When the Chinese court deigned to send envoys abroad, they were not diplomats, but “heavenly envoys” from the Celestial Court.

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