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Does Rwanda and China have Something in Common?

by Edmund Kagire
8:22 pm

The author speaks during the launch of his book.

Rwanda and China differ in obvious ways – from country size to population and size of the economies but there are many similarities the two countries share, particularly in the area of leadership and ambition, pegged on the vision of the leaders of the two countries.

A new book authored by veteran journalist and author Gerald Mbanda titled “China and Rwanda: Effective Leadership is Key to Transformational Governance”, extensively tackles the similarities between Rwanda and China and how the leadership of President Paul Kagame and President Xi Jinping has placed the two countries on a similar course of development and vision.

The over 200-page book, which is currently accessed electronically and through printed copies, digs deep into stark resemblances the two countries share, which are largely attributed to effective leadership instilled by the two leaders and the vision they have for their respective countries.

In recent years, relations between Rwanda and China have blossomed not only through bilateral ties but also due to close relations between the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) and the ruling Communist Party of China, which is credited for turning the Asian giant from an impoverished nation to a world superpower in less than 50 years.

As a young boy, growing up in exile, Mbanda says he was always captivated by China and the development strides it was making, which inspired him to do research and compare with Rwanda’s own journey over the last 25 years.

“China is one of the countries that I knew when I was still young. My dad would subscribe to magazines from China, translated to Kiswahili, which I would read and be amazed by the story of the country. At the time, China was poorer than most African countries,”

“But a combination of factors, most importantly effective leadership and workmanship, saw China turn around its fortunes to one of the world’s fastest developing economies. The determination, resilience and discipline of the Chinese people are what inspired me to compare with our own story and write the book,” Mbanda told KT Press, adding that it took him two years to write the book.

In the book which has four chapters, the author explores extensively how effective leadership has been key to the transformational governance of the two countries, through a historical, political and economic perspective.

Through the book, Mbanda argues that the gains made by China and Rwanda are attributed to the transformative and effective leadership exhibited by President Kagame and President Jinping through their respective ruling political parties.

He addresses some of the key questions raised mainly by critics of China and Rwanda, emphasizing that both countries have been able to define their own paths of development, looking for solutions from within to tackle challenges they face, in the process lifting millions of their people out of poverty.

“Rwanda and China have demonstrated that all countries are capable of developing their own models that can bring about development without cloning the western ones and therefore, refuse to be diverted by unrealistic foreign perceptions,” Mbanda argues.

In the same book, which was officially unveiled on June 20, Mbanda says that similarly, Rwanda has over the past 25 years demonstrated that it can overcome its past challenges through homegrown solutions and a consensual model of democracy as China did many years ago and today the Asian country has cemented her position as a global superpower.

The Asian country has for many years been branded by western critics as ‘undemocratic’ but Beijing’s unflinching stance has seen China steadfast grow socially and economically, with some predicting that it could overtake the United States as the world’s biggest economy as early as 2020.

“In the book, I demonstrated how democracy is not a one-size-fits-all as portrayed by the west and this is what China has demonstrated over the years. I went on to show how China has got where it is today through home grown solutions, which is what Rwanda is doing today,”

“Their political system based on socialist values is homegrown, same as ours, depending on the history of both countries. In the book, I looked across the political spectrums and concluded that both China and Rwanda have been able to come up with political models that befit the two countries,” Mbanda told KT Press.

In comparison with Rwanda, Mbanda said “we know where we have come from as a country and we came up with a consensual political model of democracy which works for us.”

On whether the book effectively places Rwanda on the left in the global fight for influence, Mbanda said that the book is not in any way meant to confirm that Rwanda has chosen China over the west but it simply focuses on the governance models, ambition and vision of the leadership.

“I am not a politician but as far as I know, Rwanda deals with anyone, whether it is the U.S, China or Europe. My focus was not to place Rwanda in any global setting of political influence but I rather gave a comparative analysis of how the two countries are governed,” he said.

In the book, Mbanda also argues that China, through the Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), has proved to be a ‘true friend of Africa’ through development support and people-to-people cooperation.

During the launch, the Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda, Mr Rao Hongwei, applauded the author for documenting the similarities between the two countries, affirming that indeed China and Rwanda share a lot in common, particularly comparable leadership values between President Jinping and President Kagame.

He said it is the first book to effectively document history between the two countries, written by a Rwanda, adding that it will go a long way in giving a proper understanding of the shared legacy while at the same time contributing further to the deepening of relations between China and Rwanda.

The book, which is purely research based, can be accessed on the e-platform www.bookstore.de through Germany publisher Lambert Academic Publishers while hard copies in Rwanda can be found at Ikirezi Bookshop, Charisma Bookshop and Arise Bookshop at a cost of Rwf12, 000.