If the strokes and words above remain undecipherable to you I understand fully. You do not dear reader owe me an apology for that. Not in the least. However it indicates that you are not particularly ready for China’s (and with that Asia’s) increasingly visible presence on the African continent which I predict will grow exponentially as this century marches on.
Let us do some class work now. Written Mandarin comes in two forms. There is the han zi which are those seemingly esoteric strokes( but ultimately very learnable; after some perspiration though) you see on the signage for Chinese restaurants. Then there is the pinyin which uses Roman alphabets to capture the sounds in Mandarin( a highly tonal language). All this can be exasperating for the uninitiated. Like I am with the managers of our Republic on this matter.
I flip to the centre pages of the September 3 edition of the venerable Daily Graphic (p.16). And there I find the Veep Mr. John Dramani Mahama with a trowel in hand ably laying some stones to symbolically mark the commencement of work on Ghana’s new Ministry of Foreign Affairs complex. The damage to Ghana’s treasury is a cool $15million interest free loan from the Republic of China. This should be a joyous occasion undoubtedly. I recall rushing out camera in hand to the forlorn and burnt out Ghana Foreign Ministry building a few months ago. I was in deep pain. How many historical documents have we lost? All the hard work of Kwame Nkrumah and others on Ghana’s foreign policy gone up in flames? Where will researchers start from? There was no enquiry on this documentary question as far as I can recall. How did we come to this? A little detour. But back to the subject. Of course our Foreign Ministry needs a new home. But key question is whether Chinese contractors( in this case Yanjian Construction Company of China) should have been handed the job?
Any country’s foreign policy has both clandestine and overt components. The physical infrastructure serves as a vital vehicle for the conduct of foreign policy. For such a building will serve as a crucible for highly classified conversations, documents and strategic maneuvers in the pursuit of any nation’s vital interests. An edifice such as this should also serve as a spatial and architectural statement of our Ghanaian-ness and the ideals we seek and the force and spirit we represent and embody as we deal with the world. Wisdom should dictate that Ghanaians run the show in such critical national projects. China’s record in Ghana on constructing vital national buildings has left China’s marks and gifted the Chinese with too much knowledge of Ghana’s national secrets I think. The new Ministry of Defense building is a classic case in point. That building looks Chinese not Ghanaian (with han zi inscriptions to boot). Ditto the National Theatre. The Jubilee House (now controversially christened Flag Staff House) was a baby of such confusion in our leaders minds. After all the dough for the proposed Foreign Ministry building is a loan from China not a gift and utilizing Ghanaian minds and brawn in the main makes sense. And in making this point I do not seek to question the logic of tapping into foreign expertise Chinese or otherwise. Key point is to do this on our terms. As the Chinese do and did and India too.
Here I will not blame the Chinese. I studied in that country and can humbly claim a more than perfunctory understanding of the Chinese mind. If China’s strategists have an advantage they will squeeze it dry. The Ghanaian case seems to be a typical example of a buyers market for China in which the sellers(Ghanaians) have seemingly abandoned their interests. Caught in such a situation the Chinese will quip in exasperation: 我们怎么了 (what happened to us)? And then add too: 我们怎么办(what do we do)?