— 24th June 2017
Title: The Great Wall Climb: Incredible China’s Journey to Emancipation
Author: Ikenna Emewu
Reviewer: Henry Akubuiro
Assumptions don’t hit the nail on the head. Be wary. Only experience teaches the best lessons. And it does for Ikenna Emewu, whose one-year fellowship in China has become an open sesame to rewrite the China story. The result is The Great Wall Climb: Incredible China’s Journey to Emancipation, a book that opens new perspectives on how we see and relate with the Asian super power.
In 2016, the author was among a group of 28 African journalists selected for a one-year fellowship by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA). In the course of the fellowship, Emewu toured 13 provinces and municipalities, as well as 31 cities in China. Overawed by what he saw, he has come up with this book.
His experiences in China form part of the six-chapter book, but the beauty of the book lies in the rise of China from a poor, struggling nation to the world’s second largest economy. What steps did China take to get top this level? The answers are embedded in this rare publication by an African. The book also serves as a blueprint for struggling Africa countries to understudy how the Chinese embers suddenly rose from the ashes of despair and light the globe.
The author admits he went to China with a mindset, typical of many Africans, that Chinese products were innovative, cheap but substandard. He also came with a mindset that Chinese cities were overcrowded. But coming to going to China changed everything. “Visiting China means knowing China better…,” he concedes in the first chapter.
However, his early days in China weren’t totally hunky-dory. It is a world almost bereft of external communication for newcomers. He writes: “One shocker you would have in China to make you feel like running away is being shut out of communication. In China, most of the ICT communication platforms known to you and used by you …are not applicable” (p.28).
What this means is that Google, for instance, the major internet search engine used in Nigeria and elsewhere, isn’t available in China. Facebook is also a taboo. Twitter non-existent, save for Whatsapp. Again, he had roamed his phone line obefore leaving Nigeria only to find out that it wasn’t working in China, neither was the local line he subscribed to over there. However, it isn’t totally bleak: there is are alternatives in Chinese equivalents like Wechat.
Emewu became a celebrity in China the very first day he attended a press briefing at the Great Peoples Hall in Beijing, where a question he asked the Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Wang Guoqing, became a buzz on Chinese media. He couldn’t forget, too, the show of love by a food seller at a Beijing market, who always gave him a particular quantity of vegetable free.
China, writes Emewu, together with Japan and South Korea –the three giants of Asian economy –account for 32 percent of the world GDP. Besides, the trio also make up 76 percent of the entire Asian GDP.
“The height China has attained must be linked to its tradition of holding tenaciously to her identity to an extent that every Chinese person prides self with identity and would readily take you back to 2000 years history of China and the dynasties up till the present,” he writes on page 40, informing that the country spent 10.5 billion dollars on the cultural sector in 2015.
The Great Wall Climb… is a book that details Chinese political history and process in a way that you have many things to take away in the third chapter. All the parties have members in the countries 2987 legislature, who all converge on Beijing for the spring political season yearly. It consists of two arms of legislature called Lianghui. The size of this legislature comes with an advantage, for rubberstamping the decisions of the Chinese Premier would be a difficulty, according to him.
Reading further, one gets a sense that not all the negative press on China in world media is correct. Emewu addresses this issue in the subtopic on “Manacled Media Half Truths and Facts”. The 2016-2020 development regime of China means, says the author, five years of consistent and unbroken development agenda in 13 uninterrupted set. China has also achieved political stability as a result of controlled opposition.
The wonders of China’s economic growth are spelt out in the fourth chapter. Here, also, you see how effective the poverty reduction goals of the government took shape, leading to a reduction from 60 percent in 1990 to 4.2 percent in 2014. The China, US, EU trade disagreements is treated in this chapter, too.
Another interesting thing about China Emewu discovered, is that it is suffering from overcapacity in coal, automobile, steel, cement, among other areas. To redress this, the country has been outsourcing. This entails that it is buying goodwill, helping other countries grow, recharging its world reach, engendering economic possibilities by creating offshore jobs for its experts and also paying less duties and tariffs for commodities produced abroad, especially in countries with low production and industrial output still enjoying WTO export incentives.
If you are looking for economic experiments that have worked, turn to the fifth chapter. Here, you will be inspired by the Pudong experiment in Shanghai, Hianan economic development, Ningxia poverty eradication, Tibet’s creeping urban conurbation, Guangdong economic stronghold, as well as giant strides in Deng Xiaoping and Shenzhen.
The concluding chapter echoes the lessons Africa should draw from the Chinese experiment, and it makes a compelling read. Emewu, who admits he became momentarily dumb in China on arrival, as he was unable to speak or understand Mandarin, has proven a point: even with linguistic limitations, the pen of a curious mind won’t cease to write. He has offered us rare insights on China.