Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Foreign policy should reflect geopolitical realities

Botswana’s diplomatic posture towards China over the last few years has been a resounding example of our Government’s lack of clear-sighted appreciation of just where the world is going.

The entire world is facing the East, yet we do not seem to see, much less understand that.

We are going in the opposite direction.

China is a rising superpower that many developed countries of the West already treat with awe if not open fear, yet Botswana Government, clearly caught in a time warp continues to treat China as if it was some colonial backwater ÔÇô a piccanin of some kind.

Botswana Government continues to post its brightest diplomatic minds not to Beijing, but to New York, Washington, Zurich, London and Stockholm.

Other such brilliant minds are posted to Berlin, Paris and even Brussels ÔÇô places that a former American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uncharitably, but not unfairly once called the Old Europe.

That should change.

There is no question about the fact that America remains by far the world’s biggest power ÔÇô and will remain so for a long time to come.
But the pace at which China is catching up is something that can be denied.

And as a country we should already be having in place strong systems not only to factor that but also position ourselves as a kind of ally that will with time be a key beneficiary of future China.

Just last week the president of China announced plans by his country and Government to lend over a trillion dollars in infrastructure finance.
A big stake of that money will go to Africa.

The United States for its part is cutting and even winding up some its involvement to Africa.

Europe is on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Chinese announcement comes a few months after a terrible diplomatic spat between Botswana and China over Dalai Lama.

The ham-fisted manner in which Botswana Government handled the aborted Dalai Lama visit is testimony of the extent to which this country is prepared to underplay and even misplay its clear opportunities with China.

According to authoritative economic research institutes, most of them from Europe and America, by the middle of this century, no European economy will be among the world’s top five.

That list has in it countries like China, Japan and India ÔÇô an all Asian affair. No doubt America ÔÇô the most powerful country the world has ever seen will survive that list.

But still this alone is a clear demonstration of the extent to which world power is not only shifting but will with time expedite as will the balance of power by also the world’s geopolitical centre.

Yet instead of cultivating relations with China, we still behave as though countries like Great Britain are the future.

For example our education system is still to fully embrace mandarin as a language of the future.

English language is a relic of a glorious past.

It is part of history.

What our colleges and universities and indeed Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be doing is to fast-track a process through which a critical number of our people learn and master Mandarin which will so clearly be the language of the future.

With time China will not only become an economic power, the country will also become a military power.

History shows that as a country amasses economic and military power, so too it does cultural and political leverage.
This reality should be reflected in our foreign policy.

Yet that is not what we see happening.

We remain stuck in our romantic fascination with Europe ÔÇô a continent that is not only on the decline economically and culturally but which by the way does not even have a budget to help us carry forward our country’s developmental agenda at a time when our country’s economic fortunes are on a downward spiral.
As it is, Europe should not even be among our choices.

Yet that is where we continue to send rising stars in our foreign service.

The world’s focal centre is gravitating towards Asia, and will by all probability settle in Beijing.

The sooner we realize this hard fact and make it a crucial part of our foreign policy, the better it will be for our country.



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