Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Recent news reports that Malawi wants to ditch an old friend, Taiwan for an upcoming superpower China has left me with more questions than answers.
Malawi has had diplomatic relations with the Taiwan since 1966. For being one of the few countries that have been recognizing the existence of Taiwan as a separate government from mainland China, Malawi has been a recipient of aid from Taiwan in various avenues such as agriculture, health, information technology, education scholarships, transportation etc However, the catch is now on the carrot that China is dangling to Malawi in exchange for a diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China. Media reports have it that China is offering an irresistible 5 billion US Dollar aid package for this switch.
Malawi has to choose between China and Taiwan since she cannot recognize both Taiwan and China at the same time as China's diplomatic policy does not condone a dual-recognition policy. If a country has diplomatic relations with China then that country is not supposed to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan since China regards Taiwan as its renegade province.
Taiwan is a democratic country which being a friend of Malawi for a long time deserves not to be ditched anyhow. This is in the spirit of Umunthu. By the way, Umunthu is a concept that describes traditional African morality which mainly concerns human welfare and it may also mean humanness. From an Umunthu point of view, one can not just ditch a long time good friend because a third party is offering some amount of money to terminate your friendship.
On the other hand, Malawi needs the money. The President of Malawi, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, has an ambitious and well-meaning vision to establish the Shire-Zambezi Waterway which shall lead to the construction of an inland water port that shall unleash Malawi from its disadvantaged position of being a landlocked country. And definitely this shall turn around the economy of Malawi. And just imagine, communist China is offering to finance this much needed project! In addition to this, Malawi will be selling its main forex earner, tobacco and sugar to China. With the anti-smoking lobby in the West, China will definitely be an alternative lucrative market for Malawi's tobacco. And lets not forget that China is emerging as the biggest trading partner with Africa and Malawi would not want to be left out. Of course, others have described China recent relations with Africa as neo-colonialism but after being given several raw-deals from the West, it seems Africa wants to try the East!
So the question is: Which way for Malawi? Taiwan or China? Am very expectant to see how this drama unfolds...