Walls and bridges represent different functional and symbolic meanings. Walls represent barriers and bridges stand for connection, opening and passage. Bridges are meant to connect people and places, whereas walls are meant to prevent/block entry by unwanted outsiders or even animals. The Berlin Wall was meant to separate the two former Germanys East and West because of the ideological divide of the time.
The former was communist and the latter, of course, was in the capitalist orbit. The Chinese also had their wall, the Great Wall of China, but this was meant to prevent potential enemies from invading the country – that’s now history.
The Berlin Wall came crumbling down in 1989, with so much fanfare, with the collapse of the communist world order in much of Eastern Europe and the eventual unification of the two Germanys. This heralded the end of the cold war – which was waged between the West and East, with the USA and the former Soviet Union leading the two blocks, respectively.
But the Great Wall of China has remained and has become a historic relic and is now a popular tourist’s destination, attracting millions of visitors. It is, thus, no longer a wall meant to prevent enemies because the Chinese are now building bridges and highways to connect/link countries and nations.
On the contrary, the Americans, especially under the Donald Trump admin, are now building the Great Wall of America. This wall is to divide the previously historical neighbours – the USA and Mexico. This is all contrary to the much-touted globalised world order that is supposed to allow for the free movement of capital, labour and the transfer of technology.
It envisaged a world moving inextricably toward the adoption of a unified set of rules and standards in economics, politics and international relations. National borders would become more porous and eventually disappear. But the globalists have met their nemesis – Trump.
His slogan is: ‘America First’. This is cast in the age-old language of nationalism and protectionism. The first executive order by Trump, which was an important message from his presidential campaign, was to sign-off on building a wall between the US and Mexico.
Ostensibly, the main purpose of this infamous wall is to prevent not only Mexican migrants entering the USA but also others from South/Latin America who usually come through the porous Mexican border. The other lousy reason given for the construction of this multi-billions border wall is to stop drugs smuggling into the lucrative US drugs market and to protect jobs.
The demand is there and the so-called drug lords/dealers are simply responding to that because as economists will tell us, that this is simply an issue of demand and supply. Is it not perhaps ironic that recently, the US Democratic presidential hopefuls were also debating the issue of legalising marijuana in the country? It is a timely debate. I have always argued that drugs do not kill, but guns do.
Many people around the world are dying of gun-related violence and the USA is number one on this score. Thus, the ‘war ‘should be against guns, not drugs. That is perhaps a pity that violence related to guns (short guns) around the world is an issue that is hardly discussed – even in the UN corridors – as compared to drugs. Excuse me for the slight diversion. But the question is: what is it that drives foreign policies of the two super-powers with Trump and Xi Jinping at their helms?
As one commentator put it: ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. A tale of two world leaders, US president Donald Trump and China president Xi Jinping—both whose countries have the world’s best economies right now. But whereas Xi is playing Santa Claus to the rest of the world, doling out loans to finance-starved countries, Trump is playing Scrooge, waging an economic war with Canada, the European Union, China and others.’ I would add Cuba and Iran in particular.
Today, of the two leaders, it’s Xi Jinping who has a clear foreign policy when it comes to trade and infrastructure and other global issues. The most well-known among China’s projects is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI has the participation of 76 countries from Asia, Africa and Europe, and is poised not only to reshape global trade but, hopefully, to raise the living standards for more than half of the world’s population.
The BRI, launched in 2013 by Chinese president Xi Jinping, includes hundreds of projects financed and constructed in part or whole by Chinese entities in countries far beyond China’s borders. Projects include ports, airports, rail lines, utilities, industrial centres, highways. Closer to home, Kenya agreed to let China finance and build a standard gauge railway (SGR) connecting Mombasa and Nairobi at a cost of US$3.8 billion and is said to be Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since it declared independence from the UK in 1963.
And here enters the other actor – uncle Trump. His slogans are: ‘America First’ and to ‘Make America Great Again’. How is Trump going to do that? His is a mixture of the three ‘trinity’ of Nationalism, Xenophobia and Islamophobia. Thus, while China is building ports, America is dropping bombs. As we are writing, America is still involved its longest war in Afghanistan and at one point, it dropped what was termed ‘the mother of all bombs’ with untold destruction.
It has destroyed Iraq since 2003 during a war that was fought under false pretext and its forces are still there, refusing to leave the country where it recently assassinated the Iranian General Suleiman cowboy-style. It is also funding and fighting along with Saudi Arabia in the destructive Yemeni civil war. America is the greatest supporter and funder of the rogue and apartheid state of Israel in its grand project of the grabbing and continuing occupation of Palestinian lands.
Is it not perhaps ironic that a country that is building walls to insulate/fortify itself is at the same time heavily involved in destructive foreign wars? In the search for world leadership/supremacy, China’s ‘soft power’ is bound to prevail.
* Alexactus T. Kaure is a freelance writer and social critic. He is the author of Angola From Socialism To Liberal Reforms, SAPES BOOKS, Harare 1999.