What ANC learns at China’s political school

2011-10-15 16:08

The trip to China undertaken by ANC leaders last week to attend “political school” includes lessons in how to deal with state-owned ­enterprises, foreign policy and spatial planning.

Secretary-general Gwede Mantashe this week came back from taking a group of provincial secretaries and national ­executive committee (NEC) members to China, but he refused to divulge ­details.

“This is the fourth trip. We go to political school. We will talk about it once everyone is back,” he told City Press.

Previous trips were led by businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete following a visit by president Jacob Zuma to China in 2008 before he became president in 2009.

On Mbete’s trip last year, ANC leaders visited Shanghai and the Jiangxi province, as well as the ­Jingangshan mountains where Chairman Mao developed some of his most important works.

These trips are organised in ­conjunction with the Chinese ­embassy in Pretoria, where at least one official is dedicated to party-to-party relations. The delegation received briefings from Chinese officials on all levels.

“A general observation must be made that the Communist Party of China (CPC) moves from a ­vantage point of almost total ­control, which is different from our situation and their experiences would have to be adapted to fit the South African reality,” an internal ANC report on Mbete’s trip ­reveals.

Since Mbete’s trip the ANC has already taken some of the Chinese ideas on board.

The process by the National Planning Commission to gain ­input about the national plan follows the Chinese model. For the Chinese, participation by ordinary people in the formulation of the various plans is essential.

“This [participation] is backed up by extensive consultation over the various levels of government. Within the context of the leadership role of the CPC, this builds considerable consensus around the plans and South Africa learns from this,” reads the report.

In the report the importance of a politicial school is underscored.

“The Chinese bureaucracy is highly conscious of what government wants and this is consistently reinforced by attendance at party school and dynamic interaction with party structures at all levels of government. The ANC must fashion our own political school in a manner that relates to the bureaucracy in a dynamic manner.”

The ANC is planning a political school in Free State where cadres will attend compulsory training. The head of the project is NEC member Tony Yengeni.

According to Mbete’s report, the ANC was impressed with how the Chinese state-owned enterprises have become profitable while still serving their public mandate.

They also deal with layoffs in a more structured way than South Africa, allowing only one person per family to be dismissed.

But the ANC has no illusion that the Chinese are engaging with them out of goodwill.

“China conducts international relations on a very pragmatic basis and we must keep this in mind in all our interactions. They are very clear that the basis for such relationships is the creation of favourable conditions for the advancement of China.”

Although these ANC trips are billed as an “exchange programme”, the Chinese have not sent large delegations to South Africa for similar party-to-party engagements. According to Chinese officials this is due to time constraints. They insist, however, that Chinese officials are keen to learn how the ANC manages democratic processes.

In Mbete’s report she also refers to this.

“The CPC must make efforts to improve the ability to develop socialist democratic principles as this is an important objective in building a well-off society.

“[They must] establish a sound democratic system to ensure rule by the people and improve the ­legal system and enhance the CPC capacity to rule by law.”

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