China’s independence parade was by all accounts a very impressive display of might and power and a strong testimonial to the astounding progress in human development achieved under a non-capitalist development paradigm. Only seventy (70) years ago, China was poor with most of its citizens living in abject poverty. At one time it was even pejoratively referred to as the “sick man of Asia”, for its human development problems were monumental.
Although China has a very long history and is credited with many firsts, such as the invention of gun powder and advancements in paper, printing technology, the compass, the abacus, acupuncture, etc, China, for many years, remained backward and dominated by stronger nations including Great Britain but, particularly its neighbor to the east, Japan.
At least that was until the Communists, led by Mao Tse Tung, triumphed in the civil war between the Kuomintang Nationalist party led by Chiang Kai Shek. The Kuomingtang Nationalist party was founded in 1911 by Sun Yat Sen when China was declared a republic, although large parts of its territory were under Japanese occupation.
The end of World War II in 1945 virtually ended Japanese occupation but the fighting continued between the Nationalists and the Communists until the Communists defeated the Nationalists and proclaimed a People’s Republic in 1949. The remnants of the defeated Nationalists forces fled to Taiwan, then a province of China, and set up a rival republic on the island.
For years, the Communist government struggled with development issues. Initial attempts at rapid industrialization under the policy, known as the “Great Leap Forward”, proved disastrous but there were valuable lessons learned, from which China was able to pick up the pieces and place herself firmly on the path to development along the lines of a social development paradigm that placed the state firmly in the position as a driver of economic growth.
While western development models emphasized the private sector as the lead driver of economic growth, China’s model, although allowing private capital participation in its economy, state enterprises remained the main drivers of economic growth generating huge surpluses that were ploughed into social development projects that succeeded in lifting millions of people out of poverty.
Pursuit of such a development strategy yielded fruits and has today placed China not only as a highly industrialized nation, but also as a major economic player globally and with a military prowess comparable to any of the global super powers.
What is worth remembering is that China did not achieve such progress out of the blue. It did so by placing faith in its people and investing and developing their human capital. Thus, human capital formation was the fulcrum on which China’s future progress was to be achieved.
In the case of Liberia, our leaders will have to mobilize the creative energies and capacities of the people and harness same to overcome the curse of underdevelopment, backwardness, unemployment and mass illiteracy if Liberia is ever to achieve progress as a nation.
For too long the leaders of this nation have been nothing but successive copycats of the failed “trickle-down” development paradigm as the path to achieve national development. The results of the pursuit of such polices are reflected in the very highly skewed distribution of national income plus an ever widening gap of social inequality.
To put it simply, Liberians must be empowered. More and more it appears Liberians are being reduced to the margins as spectators in their own economy and needlessly too. This anomaly cannot be allowed to continue. All over the world, nations are taking steps to ensure the participation of their people in their own economy and there is no reason why Liberia cannot do the same for its people.
The Americans call it “Affirmative Action” meaning, certain contracts and strategic areas are reserved only for Americans. The Chinese refer to it as Guoijin Mintui, while the Nigerians call it “Local Content”, while we call it here, “Liberianization”.
Over the past few years, Liberianization has been retreating as foreign business interests advance largely because successive national leaderships have been nothing more than “Yes Men and Women”, compromising the interests of the nation at every opportunity for their personal interests.
Consider, for example, how the country was concessioned out in bogus and illegal lopsided concession agreements fashioned under the watch of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. More to that, she did all she could to ensure the dismantling of state-owned enterprises and replaced by bogus parasitic arrangements. The APM Terminals Concession agreement under which this outfit feeds on the life blood of the National Port Authority (NPA) is but one example.
Liberia has long since stood in need of direct foreign investment to help enhance the achievement of national development objectives, but it certainly did not need such bogus and illegal concession agreements that bore no promise or benefits for the Liberian people.
Had successive Chinese leaderships, for example, indulged in such corrupt behavior and practices, it is unlikely that China would have achieved the progress it has today. In the final analysis, solutions to our problems can only come from us.
And it can be done only if our national leadership can mobilize the people by setting the right examples and channeling their creative energies into a collective effort to achieve desired national development objectives.
In this regard, zero tolerance to corruption should be the guide. People will not be inspired to rally behind a leadership that is corrupt and cannot be trusted.
This newspaper is not unaware that corruption does exist in China, particularly in state-owned enterprises; however official zero tolerance to corruption has served to keep the menace in check. Several of its officials have, in the past, been reportedly executed for corruption as deterrent.
The Daily Observer warmly congratulates the Chinese Government and people for their monumental achievements over the last 70 years. Indeed, there is much to be learned from China’s experience, only if our leaders are willing and prepared to make the sacrifice.