CHINA-TANZANIA relationship is alive, well and indeed blossoming harmoniously. At no time in the history of these two nations has the historical and traditional strong relations failed to thrive and become productive to their people.
China is Tanzania’s largest trading partner (with trade volume of $4.6 billion by 2018, according to Chinese Embassy) and hitherto her largest investor (Chinese FDI standing at US$10billion in 2018).
As the bilateral trade and investment statistics indicate, this in no way shows slowing of relations between the two historical strong friends or the snubbing of either of a President by his counterpart.
The relationship between the Presidents of both nations is great, to say the least. Under the “Comprehensive Deepening of Reforms in Social G overnance” initiated by President X i Jingping during the CCP and State Council deliberations in November 2013, the State in China deliberates policy between State actors and non-actors such as societal organisations and business, that in turn inform and influence policy, including trade and investment.
If there was a cooling off in a relationship and a snubbing of the President John Magufuli by his Chinese counterpart, President X i Jinping the positively strong trade and increased investment statistics would not be the case, as partners in policy and investment rarely, if at all, move in opposing directions.
That would be illogically. In terms of building and maintaining all weather friendships, whether as individuals, communities or state actors, it takes a lot of sacrifice and commitment over time and space.
It simply cannot be wished away or wished into existence. The aforementioned describes the relationship between China and Tanzania that has stood the test of time and that continues to thrive harmoniously to this day.
Such relationships conjure various feelings from well-meaning people as well as from detractors, spanning from feelings of joy to hatred and envy. The Tanzania China relationship is one such relationship that has lasted for 55 years.
Relationships cannot be looked at in a simplistic and an isolated manner. They are complex processes that need to be looked at more holistically over time.
The study of relationships need more than looking at an episode of one year span to reach conclusions. It is more complex and meaningful, needing detailed collection of data and information over time and space.
It also needs an understanding of cultures and cultural norms all fitted in the context of international diplomacy and geopolitics.
China is Tanzania’s largest trading partner, numbering USD$ 3.976 billion (2018). China is also our country’s largest source of Foreign Direct Investment, standing at USD$7 billion (2018).
(Source: Chinese Embassy 19.04.2019) As the bilateral trade and investment statistics indicate, this relationship is more than just political; it is social, economic and encompasses all sectors of our two countries. It is traditional but dynamic.
The trade and investment statistics in no way suggest a cooling off in a relationships or ignoring Dr John Pombe Magufuli by his Chinese counterpart, President X i Jinping.
On November 12, 2013 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China approved the “Decision to make Comprehensive Deepening of Reform”, which was the first major policy statement of President X i Jinping’s new administration.
The initiative called for greater liberalization of the economy and greater governance role of the market, private sectors and non-state actors, including social organizations, among others.
This bold initiative also set out to strengthen discourse between business, social organizations and China in matters impacting broad policy making and policies touching lives of the Chinese.
The notion is known as “Shehui Zhilu” denoting the recognition of social actor’s role in governance, alongside government and business.
In this context, it is seemingly unlikely that trade and investment between China and Tanzania would be growing and flourishing if the China government was snubbing President Magufuli.
Decisions by the China government move in a complementary direction with its trade and investments partners and friends, Tanzania among them.
If there was any kind of difficulties in relationship between Tanzania and China or the snubbing of President John Pombe Magufuli by his Chinese counterpart, the growth in bilateral trade and in investment would have mirrored the situation.
On April 20, 2019, Ansbert Ngurumo posted an article in his Blog SAUTI KUBWA titled “China snubs Magufuli’s Tanzania in Sino- African expo”, where he takes the liberty to painstakingly try to conjure an atmosphere of souring relationships between China and Tanzania, but also between President Magufuli and other international leaders.
Ngurumo’s article struggles in focusing on a central theme, taking the reader through a journey of China- Tanzania relationship, to President Magufuli relationships with the Western countries and to economic uncertainties, in doing so is misleading the reader to a maze of halfbaked stories lacking facts and figures.
Ngurumo jumps from one area to the next without exhausting what he intends to say. For example, he states that “President Magufuli “diplomatic relations have been worsening in the past one year” but fails to show how?
He seems to forget that a President’s effectiveness and success in diplomacy is not shown by how many visits he receives from counterparts in a year. There are other forms of engagements such as projects and other official communications.
Since assuming office in 2015, President Magufuli has received high level visits from various counterparts and dignitaries such as President of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang (March 2016); Deputy Director G eneral of the IMF, Mr Tao Zhang (March 2016); Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (July 2016); King of Morroco, His Highness Mohamed VI (October 2016); Vice-President of Cuba, Salvador Valdes Mesa (October 2016) and President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (January 2017).
Others are Minister of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi (January 2017); President of The World Bank, Jim Yong Kim (March 2017); Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Borge Brende ( June 2017); President of China Exim Bank, Liu Liang (July 2017); President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (August 2017); President of African Development Bank, Dr Akinumwi A. Adenesia(April 2018); Vice-President of The World Bank , Sandi Okoro (June 2018) and Prime Minister of South Korea, Lee Nak- Nak Yon ( July 2018).
At the same time, the Presidents of our neighbouring countries, Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the President of Burundi, the President of DRC and the president of Zimbabwe among others have visited President John Pombe Magufuli on numerous occasions.
On his part, President John Magufuli has visited Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda (April 2016); Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda (May 2016); Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya (October 2016) and the African Union located in Ethiopia in January 2017.
The picture being painted by Ansbert Ngurumo about President John Pombe Magufuli being isolated by his counterparts in the last year is therefore unfortunate and untrue.
Presidential counterparts do not visit one another every year, as there are numerous channels of communications and their visits depend on bilateral communications and schedules.
If by any stretch of the imagination or statistics, the above statistics on visits indicate that Tanzania’s relationships with the People’s Republic of China and with other countries and international organizations is alive and well.
Any suggestion of isolation is far and untrue. In his article, Ansbert Ngurumo mentions past Tanzanian Presidents, Julius Kambarage Nyerere 1961- 1985); Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985-1995); Benjamin William Mkapa (1995-2005) and Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (2005-2015) have all visited China.
His article would have been of more utility to the curious reader had he gone further and mentioned the number of times and frequencies each past president of Tanzania visited China and during which timeframe in their administration or leadership as president.
Similarly, because relationships are holistic and complex, he should have even gone further to mention the Chinese leaders who visited Tanzania during the same period.
In writing serious Think Pieces, it is advisable to look at relationships in a holistic, much broader perspective and objective manner since relationships involve more than one party.
Whilst Ngurumo mentioned the years that the Tanzanian past Presidents were in office, it would probably be of relevance for him to note that President Magufuli is only onto his fourth year of his first term in office and probably deserves more time before he is subjected to comparisons with his predecessors, on how many times he has been invited to visit China and how many times he made State visits to China or to any other country for that matter.
Each administration faces different challenges when assuming office, both domestically and internationally. It draws its priorities and strategies based on urgency of the challenges and its capacity to deal with those challenges.
It does so with the intention to balance priorities and friendships. This means that sitting Presidents, comparatively speaking, do not and will not travel abroad in a linear manner with uniform schedules.
Geopolitics demands more dynamic and logical thinking. Not all past Presidents of China, USA, European or African countries maintain same travelling schedules with their predecessors.
International relations and geopolitics is a dynamic landscape needing proper planning, capacity and finance all put together. Whilst writing about a pre-supposed “snubbing of a country and its President”, writing ethics demands that one must cite credible sources of the information than can hitherto be accessed or asked on authenticity of the information or claim put forward by a writer. On this account, Ansbert Ngurumo fails the reader yet again.
Credible sources on this account would by implication, mean credible sources of authoritative information from both China and Tanzania. This is especially important because the article discusses about diplomatic relations.
Quoting unnamed sources from one side of the relationship fails the reliability test. Hurriedly concluding on a position put forward by the author of the article is not convincing to an avid and serious reader.
At this juncture, it is important to note that relationships between two or more countries lend themselves to bilateral agreements, official communications and understanding. This space is best left for State actors to play in the international stage.
There is more in the complex world of diplomacy that meets the eye. More will unfold as time progresses and there is a plethora of reasons why a particular President is not invited to a Conference or a meeting where his or her counterparts are invited.
Whilst this may seem as a negative sign on a relationship, it may actually be positive. Time will tell and the two actors only privy to this information and forward plans are the two states, The G overnments of The People’s Republic of China and of The United Republic of Tanzania.
Perhaps, it is noteworthy to note that since President Magufuli assumed office in late 2015, high level contacts between leaders of both China and Tanzania have taken place.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa visited China to attend the all-important FOCAC and China Africa Meeting in 2018 also Foreign Minister on many occasions has visited China along with the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation.
On the other side the Secretary G eneral of the Ruling Party CCM and his senior delegation visited China in 2018 as have many Ministers in charge of other Ministries.
Military visits and exchanges from both sides visit one another frequently and have a special supportive relationship.
It would be very wrong to assume that all these visits to China by senior Tanzanian leaders in the ruling party, government and in the military happened at their own behest and without the support, knowledge and approval of the President of The United Republic, Chairman of the ruling Party and Commander In- Chief of the armed forces.
President Magufuli sent those visiting China for meetings and approved their travels in support if this great friendship that both G overnments maintain.
Ansbert Ngurumo’s article would have made better and more sober reading had it been properly researched, complemented by statistics and data. Unfortunately this was not the case and his article was simple and read like a novel.
No research and no data unfortunately means no authority to write a serious article. This is better left to Sinotologists who understand relationships between China and the World in general and China and Africa in particular.
In discussing the use of data in serious discourses, perhaps the curious reader of Ansbert Ngurumo’s article would wish to know when President John Magufuli hosted President X i Jinping in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania as posted in his article of April 20, 2019.
Further, when Ngurumo wrote of “the country, whose economic and diplomatic future is uncertain”, the writer may wish to inform the readers on which instrument he used to collect, measure and test his data? What is the reliability of the instrument? On this, too, the reader would appreciate an answer as so many questions abound and few answers offered.
● Dr G alila Wabanh’u ( PhD) is Deputy Secretary G eneral of youth wing of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi in Tanzania Mainland and also a member of the party’s National Executive Committee.