Arab revolutions will prompt minor reform in China
The recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have highlighted the stranglehold many authoritarian regimes around the world have on their populations. The Arab revolutions have alarmed China in particular, and the world’s most populous state has sought to limit the Chinese people’s exposure to the destabilising effects of the “people’s revolutions” in authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya.
2011 has proved an eventful geo-political year thus far, and in a time of transitional turmoil sweeping across the Maghreb, China has sought to tighten its already fierce grasp on its citizens’ freedoms. In spite of significant domestic interest in the rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt in particular, the Chinese authorities introduced new Internet firewalls that have limited the ability to access any sites containing information on the revolts. Indeed, when calls went out for a copycat ‘Jasmine revolution’ in China, the establishment moved quickly to quell any dissent, employing disproportionate force to crush opposition to Communist Party rule. President Hu Jintao even called for stricter controls on the Internet “to guide public opinion” and to “solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of...society”.
The World Economic Forum gathering held in January in Davos, Switzerland, took place a few weeks before the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Both discussed global challenges and what might be done to remedy them. But they did this from fundamentally different standpoints epitomising their focus on elite advocacy and grassroots activism respectively. Just what is the value and contribution of these networks in shaping a new world agenda after the global economic crisis and what is the potential for their cooperation and even merger to advance a progressive global consensus?
Both the WEF and the WSF are informal forums for interaction amongst non-state actors (and increasingly with governments and international organisations) to interpret global developments and influence policy responses to them. They are non-profit organisations that act as epistemic networks in the sense that they seek to promote the primacy of certain ideas, ideologies and theories as panacea for global problems.
THE FAST CHANGING EMERGING POWERS LANDSCAPE:
An IGD UpdateSince China’s Sanya summit of BRICS countries including, for the first time South Africa, the pace of change and challenges involving them in leveraging their influence on pressing security and economic governance issues has quickened. And become more complicated. In the process, the weaknesses as well as potential strengths of BRICS as a countervailing proto-alliance balancing the West becomes more apparent. This is coupled with the possibility that BRICS may be complemented by more strategically consequential developments centered in Eurasian vortex of global geopolitics.
At the same time, Africa is reflecting a new dynamism. It has become a new emerging economic ‘terrain of struggle’ among emerging powers and between them and more traditionally influential actors on the continent. The May Indo-Africa summit in Addis Ababa reinforces this picture following in the wake of China’s hosting of the 3rd BRICS Leaders Meeting in April (and before that, the 3rd BRICS think-tank symposium in Beijing in March).
Speaking at the on-going Inter-Congolese Dialogue at Burgers Park Hotel in Pretoria, Congolese delegates from political parties and civil society have emphasized the need to avoid pre- and post-electoral disputes and conflict of the kind recently witnessed in Kenya and Cote d'Ivoire. The consequences for the country, the region and Africa would be more dire than in the afore-mentioned countries because of the psychological and military legacy of war.
The meeting is attended by over 15 political parties, civil society formations and members of the Congolese diaspora based in South Africa. It is aimed at providing a platform for the Congolese parties and civil society to discuss the state of play in the run up to the elections, which in the course of 2011 will bring an end to the post-transition government elected in 2006. The discussion, therefore, reflects on the road travelled thus far and the prospects for consolidation of peace, prosperity and democracy in the DRC. It also offers an opportunity for Congolese stakeholders to find each other and develop a truly national consensus on how prosperity, peace and democracy will be consolidated in the coming years.
Delegates accept that there are many challenges that they face, principal among which are: The participation of all in constitutional reforms, the independence of the electoral commission, the finalization of the electoral lists, the development of a political framework for political consensus before elections and thus avoid post-electoral disputes, domestic resourcing of elections, human rights violations and on-going insecurity. While the parties are yet to reach consensus in detail on these matters, they generally agree that recent developments in Cote d'Ivoire and North Africa suggest that inclusive and credible dialogue among the Congolese is the way to finding lasting solutions to their problems. To this end, they think the role of regional and international actors is to help the Congolese dialogue robustly and in a structured fashion. It is not to force them into any particular route of development.
By SIPHAMANDLA Zondi, IGD. 10 March 2011. 14:50