Share this article


Slightly over half a century ago, the Chinese assisted African countries with finance, intelligence gathering, military training and weapons during independence struggles from greedy colonialists. They continued with economic assistance after independence even when their economy was struggling.

Zambians were lucky, there was a semi orderly exit by our British colonialists… some countries weren’t, they took with them entire national financial records, town and city planning drawings of underground sewer systems, electrical grid and other vital installations including keys to buildings. Recently, towards black majority rule in South Africa, they mothballed their weapons nuclear program.

I was a teenager when this was happening in most of Africa. Our colonialists have since become wealthy nations with amazing advanced technologies. Most of their children my age at independence are or have been in positions of power and still wield immense political influence in the world today or their children do. I’m sure they remember the good colonial era living standards and how their fathers, mothers and grandparents left that good life. I sometimes wonder if today’s white folks are any different from their ancestors at the centre of a brutal colonial era.

No…I don’t think so.

And we’ll be naïve to think they’ve forgotten their colonial past …No…they haven’t changed… we’ve Mr Donald Trump… We’ll trust them at our peril.

The economic destruction of oil rich Venezuela is a sad story, but let’s take another two nearer examples that come to mind one in Africa- Zimbabwe and another in Persia -Iran. Zimbabwe is in dire straits due to western economic sanctions. Why? Like Venezuela, Zimbabwe wanted economic and land reforms that included indigenous black Zimbabweans.

But didn’t it surprise that the USA, a country that never colonized an African country was at the centre of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe? By the way China is assisting Venezuela and Zimbabwe as these countries are being subjected to brutal western economic sanctions. China has learnt good lessons.

The issues in Iran have been messy. The country has been bullied militarily and economically by every US government in power because it opposes Israeli sanctions against the Palestinian people and western dominance in the Persian Gulf. Again, China is in Iran, giving the Iranians a military and an alternative economic Oil sales lifeline.

But how do the USA and its western allies manage to bully weaker nations militarily and economically? Let’s discuss two obvious options at their disposal.

Until recently, the USA has controlled and dominated the global navigation and digital payment systems.

Let’s keep it simple. Most of us spend a lot of time on our smart phones surfing social media platforms. These phones also have access to various iterations of satellite navigation. Those with newer car models, I know Mercedes models; have satellite navigation systems as a standard feature in their cars.

Best of all, it’ll give you turn-by turn driving instructions. Heck, I was shocked– Google Maps on my 2016 Mercedes GLK 300 even tells you what lane you need to be in before the turn on Kafue Road—I’m sure… on all other roads I haven’t been.

The detail and accuracy of these modern navigation systems is amazing.

But do you even question who owns these Maps?

Although the USA have dominated Satellite Navigation other brands exist today but differ slightly…their augmentation set up enhances their accuracy—but they all get their data from the same source–the US government. The US Air Force operates the Global Positioning System (GPS) which the majority countries in the world currently use.

But the Chinese have never been happy with dependence on US Air Force controlled Satellite Navigation. Especially after Russia ditched the US controlled system at the end of the space race.

If you recall, the US were first to use GPS but the Russians beat them in 2010 with their GLONASS system that has 100% global coverage.

France and Japan have begun to develop their own systems. India too has its own regional areas covered with GAGAN and uses IRNSS positioning system for its major cities. India is working to improve on location accuracy for its Navigation systems which currently is within 10 meters compared to the US-GPS which is to within 0.30 meters.

The Chinese have developed the BeiDou Satellite navigation system and are aiming to improve on its location accuracy to within 0.15 meters…it‘ll be near accurate than the US-GPS system.bThis will be China’s global selling point. Their Satellite navigation is better than the rest on the market and China is spending an additional US$9 billion to ensure their system is available globally.

Huawei P20 Pro cell phone already has both US GPS and China’s BeiDou capability. Mine prompts me which app is better in any area I find myself in. If you own a Samsung, iPhone or wearable, they also have BeiDou capability. In fact microchip maker Qualcomm Inc., already supports the BeiDou navigation system.

But China is the largest car maker in the world. I have not yet upgraded my 2016 Mercedes to the 2018-2019 models but I will be surprised if they don’t already have BeiDou system support capability. Especially if in 2017, Mercedes car sales grew 25% in China—and it is now the country with the strongest absolute growth and largest individual market for Mercedes.

I guess, it’s a question of what China wants… China will get. Already all Volkswagen vehicles made/sold in China will have BeiDou support. Toyota is doing the same.

China’s Asian neighbours will be naive not to use the BeiDou network. Pakistan and Laos already abandoned US- GPS for BeiDou network.

In the aircraft industry… state owned China Commercial Aircraft Corporation in 2017 became the first in the world to solely use BeiDou network on all its aircraft.

With 140 million Chinese tourists travelling on commercial aircraft in and out of China every year—it’s a matter of time before major global airlines are pushed to using BeiDou network. In fact major Aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing have no choice but have their planes ready for both Chinese BeiDou and US-GPS as standard…if they’ve to continue selling their planes in China.

It’s not a secret—China is pushing to become the world’s technological digital supper power—with nothing to do with the US. The US and China are military and technological rivals—so no one wants the other to track its moves. After all you can’t sneak up on someone who has the ability to track your every movement.

African nations have not committed to any navigation system as yet. But reliance on any US digital system means African countries are at risk of being cut off from that system—like Zimbabwe, Iran, Venezuela.

Zambians have no choice but to remain on good terms with the US. China doesn’t want what happened to Iran, Venezuela and Zimbabwe when the US cut them off from the international payment system as a form of economic punishment. China knows any digital access controlled by the US wouldn’t be different. It’s a risk the Chinese don’t want to take… it disturbs their global economic out-look….that’s why they’ve positioned themselves early in all the economically weak 54 African countries—to avert what else we don’t know from happening by availing us an alternative digital platform.

The Chinese ain’t our enemies per se; we’ll chase them at our own peril.

Just a thought,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *