The Coy Mistress of Comrade Yuan, By Tatalo Alamu

There is historical romance in the air. It is love in Peking, or better still Love in the time of The Yellow Peril. As a film buff of the old Odeon and Metro cinema variety, snooper prides himself as an authority on the arcane stuff of oriental romance. Ever heard of the film, The Bride of Fu Manchu? Or better still, the epic, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? But if this is light-headed stuff, try the classic sonnet by Andrew Marvell, the marvellous genius of Metaphysical poetry, To His Coy Mistress.

As far as rainbow weddings go, the recent nuptial in faraway Peking between the ailing Nigerian Naira and the macho Chinese currency, Yuan Renminbi, must rank as one of the most significant fiscal developments in global political economy in modern times. It has set off tremors in international financial circuits from Iceland to New Zealand comparable only to a major earthquake. Both the seen and unseen regulators of western economic dominance as well as the over-pampered and over-indulged Bretton Wood institutions are in a state of shock.

It is said that beggars must not be choosers. But this is a case of a beggarly nation choosing its own destiny and vowing to stick and stand by the choice. It is gradually dawning on Nigeria that it is a beggar by choice and by elite vocation. A nation of such stupendous and staggering natural and human resources ought not to be seen in international circles begging for miserable alms if its political class is up to scratch.
For the Nigerian authorities, it is an act of courage and immense daring which deserves applause and a standing ovation. In its declaration of national will and intent, it is comparable only to the famous “trade by barter” of Buhari’s first coming. It is not easy to look the internal regulators of global peonage in the eye and tell them to take a walk. In his first coming, the retired general from Daura was economically court-martialled for his rude rebuff. He may yet suffer the same fate if he does not take immediate steps to protect his political and strategic flanks.

The attempt to hitch the vandalized Nigerian economy to the rampaging wagon of Chinese global ascendancy sets off several historical echoes all at once. It is the Yellow Peril, the military confiscation of Hong Kong, the Boxers’ Uprising, the Long Trek, the collapse of the old Chinese ruling feudal caste and the perpetual duel between westernization and modernization all rolled into one. The Chinese people have suffered immensely in the hands of the west in psychological particular, but they have managed to turn the table on their tormentors.

But before we get carried away in typical African emotional incontinence and post-nuptial self-adulation and self-congratulation, it is good to look at the dotted lines and the fine letters of the union. The Chinese are a mercilessly meticulous race. They do not leave anything to chance like us, and their infinite patience can be awesomely ensnaring.

First, let us look at the disclaimers as enunciated by the bridegroom ironically through the bride in the typical gnomic wisdom of the oriental savants. According to clarifications offered by GeoffreyOnyeama, the Nigerian Foreign Minister, this is not exactly a currency swap. The Chinese are not about to exchange their potent currency wholesale for the prostrate naira. Comrade Yuan may marry Madam Naira but there is nothing like joint assets and joint liabilities in this kind of union. Everybody must carry their own can. A nuptial toga is not an excuse for profligate walk-about.

What the Chinese have done in response to the international pressure to “float” the Yuan and make it globally convertible in the currency trenches as an interchangeable storage of value is to give it limited convertibility as an exchange medium by freely choosing who to exchange with. By so doing and by this economic sleight of hand, they have retained the initiative to protect and insulate their national currency against the prowling dollar and other western currencies waiting to capitalize on a catastrophic slip from the Chinese. When all has been said, the dollar remains the alpha currency of the civilized world.

From the foregoing, it can be seen that the principal interest of the Chinese in these matters remains principally Chinese. This is the way of all wise nations. The people are too disciplined, too focused and too self-reliant to have a sanguinary view of any laggard nation. The modern Chinese nation is a product of blood, sweat and tears. Any nation that cannot lift its people by the bootstraps should be encouraged to disappear.

The advantages of the wedlock are however enormous and historic. First, and in a rather indirect and circuitous manner, the interest free loan and other incentives will ease the unbearable pressure on the nairaby making it possible for Nigerian business concerns to access Chinese markets without going through the dollar as an intermediary median of exchange. The manic and frenzied dollar hoarding and speculation will decline because it will become unprofitable with appropriate overriding veto from the CBN.

Second and as a medium term strategy, it will encourage the Nigerian economy to begin to look inward and produce what it must consume rather than relying on the current lazy regime of the wholesale importation of western perishable and consumerist goods at the expense of our indigenous products. Any nation which cannot internally source its own need and produce its own technological wonders should disband its political elite as a matter of urgent necessity.

Thirdly, the Chinese dalliance provides intellectual anchorage and conceptual scaffolding for our brainwashed western ideologues to view the debate about modernity from a new illuminating perspective. Having been fed on the staple diet of automatic western superiority, our intellectuals are programmed to confuse westernization with modernization. Yet there are competing and countervailing modes of modernization.

Western modernity is only one of these and there is nothing preordained about its current hegemonic pre-eminence. Anybody who has studied the dynamics of modernity from the emergence of Portugal as the first true nation-state at the end of the thirteenth century to the rise to economic superstardom of the Chinese in the twenty first would discover that it had been a ding-dong affair with empire-states and state-nations rising and falling in the unceasing march of history.

It is however good and beneficial to look at the obverse of the coin and see what the Chinese nuptial will not do for us. First, it will not prevent the perennial and perpetual trade imbalance between Nigeria and China. On the contrary, it will accentuate and accelerate this in the short run. Except oil and some precious mineral resources, Nigeria does not produce anything the Chinese desire in abundance at the moment. This is the dungeon of underdevelopment we have found ourselves through the lack of visionary political elite.

Second, and flowing from the first, this nuptial will not stop the Chinese from flooding the Nigerian market with sub-standard goods. But if we are complaining about sub-standard goods, where is our own? The Chinese do not claim to be economic angels or technological super-geniuses, they are also on the make. We are viewing Chinese goods from the lens of western standards which we have no economic or technological rights to covet in the light of our own primitive predicament. Sub-standard goods are a good reflection of the sub-standard politics and the internal configuration of the end-user country.

The wise and inscrutable Chinese will not try this with America or any of the civilized countries of Europe. But that is only because the powerful currencies of western nations afford them instant alternatives from other accessible markets. In Nigeria, enemy nationals collude and conspire with Chinese industrial barons to produce under-strength medication and deliberately dumbed down goods to maximize profits. In China, such enemy nationals would have been summarily shot for economic treason.

We have now come to the heart of the matter. No amount of Chinese loan or incentives politically dysfunctional nation. The Chinese wisely refrain from commenting on the internal politics of Nigeria. But it is not by accident that in China, corrupt officials are summarily shot. In China, a corrupt and deeply diseased l institution like the current national assembly would have been summarily disbanded by a popular uprising. We may yet get to this point if Nigeria is to be redeemed.

This is why President Buhari has his political work cut out for him in spite of his heroic economic initiatives. In order to minimally heave forward, this hobbled giant of a nation requires political, intellectual, economic and spiritual revolutions or a combination of these in whatever order. The retired general from Daura should be prepared to conduct a national referendum to determine the political destiny of the nation. Otherwise, the current tremors may eventuate in a major political earthquake, despite President Buhari’s honest and patriotic intentions. All the way from Peking, it is economic nuptial in the time of political dystopia.

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