In a recent interview with Diamond TV’s Andrew Mwansa, Ambassador Anthony Mukwita discussed international relations and the role of China and the United States in Zambia.
When discussing the current government’s relationship with China, Ambassador Mukwita said, “I said the UPND government under President Hakainde Hichilema missed the memo by not engaging the People´s Republic of China right from the beginning when they assumed office in August 2021.” He went on to explain the importance of engaging with China, the country’s largest creditor, saying, “He who pays the piper calls the tune and, it is just good diplomacy for you to engage the second largest economy in the world, set to become number 1 in a couple of years, some experts say less than a decade from now.”
The Ambassador also highlighted the long history between Zambia and China, mentioning the Tazara railway line built with Chinese funding in the 1970s after the country was cut off from sea transit by the apartheid regime in neighboring Rhodesia. He said, “China was poor then, but they still rose to the plate to help us. The saying goes, ‘those that don’t learn from history risk repeating it’.”
In light of this history, Ambassador Mukwita urged President Hichilema to engage with China at the highest level, stating, “President Hichilema should pick up the phone and ask his big brother in Beijing President Xi Jinping. Let them have a cup of te or cha and iron out our US$6 billion debt because it’s the China in the Bull Shop right now, get Uncle Sam out of the way.” He went on to say that “Ignoring China in the era of the Thucydides trap is tantamount to burying our heads in the sand.”
He also mentioned the potential obstacles presented by the United States, saying “my brother and mate brother Joe Chilaizya who was Charge D Affaires in Beijing for Zambia for a long time, he told me the US has muddied the waters by ‘condescending’ China over the debt to Zambia.”
Ambassador Mukwita, who has spent time in both Beijing and Washington D.C. and studied international relations, believes that a trip to Beijing by President Hichilema could have a positive outcome. He said, “He will be surprised how the trip will positively turn out in his ‘work after work after work’ policy, as President Edgar Lungu (number six) did in infrastructure unmatched with the dragon.”
He concluded by saying, “China means well for Zambia, as the US does, ignore them at your own peril. My forthcoming book ‘The rise of China in Africa, Zambia story’ will offer further insight on this issue, look out for it on Amazon. Having worked as a senior Zambian envoy in Berlin and actually studied International Relations, penning a thesis on the issue at university in Germany, I believe I have some views that could help answer some questions on our table today, even across party lines. God bless you folks as the dragon roars side by side with Uncle Sam. Make that Beijing call now Mr President because the IMF deal you love depends on it. Sometimes you must eat humble pie.”