China’s revolutionary flames in Africa

China’s revolutionary flames in Africa 2

These background notes on China’s engagement in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s concentrates on what was seen as its revolutionary diplomacy. The initial spur, and borrowed title came from reading this article from China Reconstruct.  

There are dated general overviews such as Hutchinson (1975), and more general discussion provided for a survey of China’s involvement with national liberation movements[i] .These plagiarised notes draw freely upon the thesis by Ismail Debeche (1987), Julia Lovell (2019) and Peking Review, and more overtly unsympathetic sources like Chau (2014), US Government and CIA reports, and localised focused expositions. Other sources read, and not always acknowledged can be found in the bibliography at the end.

Going around the compass, geographically (and roughly chronology) the main focus of Chinese engagement began in North Africa with transversion to, firstly West and central Africa, across to the eastern seaboard and then southwards

NORTH AFRICA

The focus post-Bundung was North Africa, initially Egypt where China’s first African embassy opened in 1956. China contributed annual funds to the AAPSO, Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization demonstrating its commitment to African nationalism. Its permanent secretariat was based in Cairo.

Before the end of the 1950s China had extended financial and other aid, plus training, to the Front de Liberation (F.L.N.) as support for revolutionary activity in Algeria received priority. Articles published in the Peking Review gave moral support to the Algerian cause. In November 1957 a public display of support saw China celebrated a “national day of solidarity with the Algerian people.” A resolution adopted at the rally pledged “full support for the just cause of the people of Algeria and of Africa as a whole in their efforts to secure and safeguard their national independence.”

China was the first Communist country to establish official diplomatic relations with the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisionel de la République Algérienne) after its formation in the autumn of 1958. There was Support Algeria Week (5–11 April 1959) and in May 1959 the Algerian military delegation spent a month in China.

While more specific evidence would offer a detailed assessment of Chinese operations, clearly China was intent on providing the FLN with whatever support was needed—from weapons and equipment to funds and training—to achieve independence, which it did in 1962.

On 22 December 1963 an New China News Agency (NCN A) correspondent writing from Algiers “described how he had been left with the impression that Mao’s work enjoyed wide popularity among the people.” According to the correspondent, Mao’s works on guerrilla warfare circulated underground, in prison, and among FLN guerrillas. He also recalled how he had found four well-worn volumes of Mao’s Selected Works in French and a copy of Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War, copiously annotated in Arabic, in the political commissar’s office in a barracks near the Moroccan border

China’s success in Algeria “opened the gates”‘ for other African anti-imperialist forces and movements to follow suit. Not only revolutionary uprisings in the Congo (1960-65) Cameroun (1960-65) and Zanzibar (1964) but also the transformation of national independence movements in the Portuguese colonies and in southern Africa were inspired by the victory of FLN in Algeria.

Niger

To the south, Niger did not establish diplomatic relations with China until July 1974, a situation largely related to the latter’s support for the outlawed liberation party (Swabain opposition to the French-dominated regime of Diori. In February 1965, 23 Sawaba fighters were arrested, according to a government announcement. The previous autumn of 1964 saw many Sawaba members executed in public.  The president of Niger, Hamani Diori, accuse it, and Peking, of subversion.

The domestic roots of the conflict were often under reported in the attempt to reinforce and prove a tie-in with the Chinese and emphasis an international communist subversion in Africa.

While militants had been trained by Chinese experts in Ghana, Algeria (after the latter’s independence in July 1962), and at Nanjing in China. The public denunciations proved part of the anti-communist Cold War offensive with the American ambassador accusation that the China might certainly have been behind this assassination attempt on President Hamani in April 1965. [ii]The manipulation of news management has not just been a feature of the digital age with fake news being a feature of the propaganda offensive against an opponent as a practiced art. [ See fake news is not new]

Mali

Neighbouring Mali presents a contrasting picture. From 1960 (the year of its independence) until the overthrow of President Modibo Keita in 1968, Mali was perhaps the only African country which openly took China’s side as opposed to the Soviet Union’s on most international issues – and especially those concerning the best means of struggle against colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.

The leaders of Mali have made numerous and long pro-Chinese statements. Among these we might single out the one statement which appears to be most significant and which was made by the Minister of Development of Mali, Seydu Badian Kuyate, on 10 July 1964, after his return from a visit to China:

“The help of the Chinese People’s Republic is the most valuable of all the help which Black Africa is getting currently. Africa is poor and Chinese aid fits perfectly into our needs and our local conditions. One could not possibly speak of Chinese neocolonialism in Africa. There is no more selfless aid than the aid of continental China.

On the other hand, this aid is also the most efficient and most interesting if we compare it with the aid from the other countries which costs us much more. At any rate, what Mali gets from the Western and socialist countries could not possibly measure up to what we get from China” [iii]

West Africa

The experience in West Africa was a mixed bag. The observations of a Chinese journalist did see the publication of Glimpses of West Africa  by Feng Chih-tan in the early stages of diplomatic engagement in 1963. However generally, China’s viewpoint can be found in the writings of Mao Zedong, and to a lesser extent in the record of Zhou Enlai’s 1964 African tour. They were made available in reports in Peking Review and in the 1964 Foreign Language Press publication, Afro-Asian Solidarity Against Imperialism: A Collection of Documents, Speeches and Press Interviews from the Visits of Chinese Leaders to Thirteen African and Asian Countries.

Connections and relationship were built under the progressive regimes such as Nkrumah’s Ghana and Sekou Toure’s uncompromising and aggressive posture against colonialist and imperialist powers, and on the firm support given by his government to national liberation movements and revolutionary forces in the Cameroon, the Congo and other parts of Africa.

Ahmed Sekou Toure was the first African Head of State to visit -China (10-15 September 1960). GUINEA under Sekou Toure received 9.8% of China’s total aid to Sub-Saharan Africa during this period (1959-66). [iv]

Critical of the wavering support given by the Soviet Union, Sino-Guinean relations characterised Guinea as one of the leading progressive countries in Africa. Guinea’s support for China during the Cultural Revolution illustrated its militant relationship with China during this period. In 1967, Guinea itself launched its own ‘cultural revolution’ and formed its own version of the ‘Red Guards’ – Jeunesse du Rassemblement Democratique (JRDA).

The economic cooperation included a package of military aid for the liberation fighters of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

The PAIGC – the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde  – resistance forces led by Amilcar Cabral found the neighbouring Guinea, independent since 1958, prepared not only to allow it to have a base in its territory but also to facilitate external financial and military support. In Guinea, It was here that PAIGC’s first contact with China took place. 

In July 1960, a PAIGC delegation visited China. From the following year, PAIGC guerrilla forces received training in China. In 1963 a group of PAIGC guerrilla fighters went to China for advanced training after undertaking their initial training in Ghana. In October 1964, Aristedes Perreira, a member of the Political Bureau and Deputy General Secretary of PAIGC visited China where he attended China’s National Day (1 October).

Cameroon

Cameroon was the first instance of a country in Africa in which China openly took the side of a national liberation movement led by militant party Union des Populations du Cameroon (UPC) against the established government. the Soviet Union urged compromise, supported the government of Ahidjo and urged UPC leaders to give up their armed struggle and join the central government.

In pro-Western and pro-imperialist government of Ahmadou Ahidjo was opposed by the UPC with its radical character and communist inclinations.

UPC’s armed struggle against French colonial rule (from 1958 onwards) had seen more than 80,000 French troops were sent to the colony. Over 50,000 Cameroonians were thrown into concentration camps.

In 1958, Ernest Ounadie the Vice President of UPC paid his first visit to China where he was promised its continuing and resolute support.: In February 1959, Jean Paul Sende, a UPC leader, visited China where he attended a mass rally in Beijing organised by the Chinese Committee for Afro- Asian Solidarity to commemorate ‘Cameroon Day’ (18 February).

In January 1960, Ahmadou Ahidjo, the UNC leader, was made the first President of the French occupied eastern region of Cameroon, A year later (October 1961), the British-administered southern part was integrated with the eastern Cameroon into the newly established Federal Republic of Cameroon.

UPC’s headquarters moved from Cairo to Accra, a location which was strategically better suited to the organisation and meant guerrilla operations and armed activities were undertaken easier. The Chinese had continued to help the Cameroun U.P.C. based in Accra. Their aid had partly been channelled through the Afro-Asian Solidarity Fund and partly had consisted of the training of Cameroonians in guerrilla tactics in China.

GHANA

In Ghana, Nkrumah’s ideology encompassed both Socialist and pan-African beliefs. Nkrumah’s interest in supporting African national liberation movements, for example, at the end of 1957 Nkrumah invited the Cameroonian guerrilla movement Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (Union des Populations du Cameroun, or UPC) to move its headquarters from Cairo to Accra.

August 1960 two Chinese diplomats and five officials arrived in Accra to open the first Chinese embassy in Ghana. Treaty of Friendship between China and Ghana that was signed in Beijing in 1961 was followed, In October 1962, with the protocol of the agreement on economic and technical cooperation

Chinese activity in Ghana continued in earnest after codification of another

agreement, this one with strategic ramifications across Africa. In 1964 “the two countries signed a secret agreement for the provision of military equipment and advisers for Ghana’s ‘freedom fighters.’” 

Following a coup against Nkhrumah, documentary evidence, published by the Ministry of Information, in two brochures in November 1966 provided a detailed information and an account of the operation of the camps – A copy of the Protocol Agreement for Chinese military experts working in Ghana signed by Huang Hua, was included as Appendix B .[v]

The evidence from the files of the Bureau of African Affairs confirmed Ghana under Nkrumah had been host to training freedom fighters since 1961. Nkrumah had authorised the setting up and used three successive camps for this purpose. Soviet instructors had originally staffed the camps but were replaced by Chinese instructors in September 1964. The formal agreement between the governments of Ghana and China covering the assignment of guerrilla warfare instructors in Ghana was signed in August 1965.

Back in September 1961 Peking Review had published a brief article entitled “China and Africa.” It read in full,

Chinese and African peoples have established a militant friendship in the struggle against their common enemy, imperialism. The Chinese people have always shown the deepest sympathy for and resolutely supported the African peoples in their patriotic struggle for national liberation against imperialism and colonialism. They have demonstrated these sentiments in various ways.”

The suspicion in the West framed the issue as if China was furthering Ghana as its base of operations from whence it could support liberation and guerrilla movements across Africa. The problem with this pictured was the assumption of China as masterminding this onslaught in a controlling and directing rather than supportive manner. China was legally active in Ghana by agreement of the two governments, but the activity focused mainly on the training and arming of African fighters.  The agency was African revolutionary sentiments not some bureaucratic planning in downtown Beijing. Aid and assistance were provided to the willing.

October 1964 a five-member team of Chinese guerrilla warfare experts arrived at a training camp in Half Assini, a village near the Ghana–Ivory Coast border. They inaugurated a twenty-day course that consisted of training in the manufacture and use of explosives, guerrilla tactics, and basic guiding and thinking on armed struggle.  

Camp Half Assini was closed down due to its proximity to the border, distance from Accra, and poor lines of communications—specifically, the condition of the roads. At the same time, a replacement camp was created at Obenemasi, the site of an abandoned goldmine.

Training at Camp Obenemasi included guerrilla warfare, explosives, and weapons, but also the use of telecommunications equipment and battlefield first aid.  By January 1965 multiple sources reported that Camp Obenemasi had 210 students and 17 Chinese instructors. In May 1965 a new course at Camp Obenemasi started with fifty students from Niger.

The Chinese program in Ghana attracted Africans from many parts of the continent, including Angola, Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa, Gabon, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso), and Zambia.

 Conversely, a large, disparate number of African youths were trained in China at three secret training centres: Harbin in Manchuria, Nanjing on the Yangtze River, and in Shantung Province on the North China coast. Africans were from Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zanzibar. The guerrilla warfare course in China lasted from 7 October 1964 until 13 February 1965 and was described by one of the participants from Ghana as “a 90-day course in theory and practice . . . arduous and intensive.” Ghana had become a base of operations for African radicals and guerrilla groups.

In 1965 Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso) accused President Nkrumah of sending “subversives” to neighbouring countries, while President Diori Hamani of Niger charged China with trying to smuggled [Communist-trained Africans] into Niger by way of Ghana and that his country would seek outside aid if the Communist infiltration increases.

Amplified by western sources was the idea that China was targeting West Africa through Ghana—to further its political interests in Africa. What was exaggerated was the influence of Chinese doctrine and tactics, as if Nkrumah’s programme for training guerilla fighters from independent African countries organised through Accra’s Bureau of African Affairs was controlled and master -minded by the Chinese Communists.  The charge was of exporting ‘revolution’ to West and Central Africa implied a directing hand with a Pan-African strategy and the questionable accusation was presented as plausible and subsequently accepted as true.

On 24 February 1966 a coup d’état removed Nkrumah from power and changed the country’s foreign and security policy. Over 1,000 Russians, East Europeans, and Chinese (even though the Chinese personnel, including guerrilla instructors, were in Ghana at the request and signed agreement of a legal and popular government) were promptly expelled after the coup.

– Look at the numbers involved: The Peking Review later reported that a group of Chinese experts and embassy staff, numbering 125, returned to China on 5 March. Four days after the coup, moreover, Ghana sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese embassy requesting all Chinese technical experts working in Ghana to leave immediately. As a result, Ghana expelled 665 Soviet and 430 Chinese nationals, including three intelligence officers and thirteen guerrilla instructors who were training liberation fighters.  [vi] 

An aide-mémoire dated 20 October from the Ghanaian ministry of foreign affairs had informed the Chinese embassy that Ghana was suspending relation ns between the two countries. All embassy staff would withdraw by 5 November 1966. It was not until February 1972 that China and Ghana issued a joint press communiqué on the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Nigeria

China’s relations with neighbouring Nigeria were far different to those with Ghana. In the later stages of the Nigerian civil war, China gave its moral support to the Biafran separatist movement against the Federal government in Lagos. A delegation from Biafra which went to China (October 1967) seeking military support had returned empty-handed.

China’s recognition of Biafra (23 September 1968) came at a time (after the Soviet invasion in August of Czechoslovakia) when Sino-Soviet relations were fast deteriorating and the Soviet Union had established itself as the major supplier of military aid to the Federal Government of Nigeria. China viewed the Soviet Union’s association with the Federal Government of Nigeria as clear evidence of what China had begun to characterise (from 1968 onwards) as ‘Soviet social imperialism’.

China’s decision to recognise Biafra was perhaps also influenced to a degree by its friendly relations with Tanzania and Zambia, which – along with the Ivory Coast and Gabon – were the only African countries to recognise (April-May 1968) Biafra. The Federal government had not yet established diplomatic relations with China. 

Ismail Debeche thought that,

“China’s justification of its stand on Biafra seemed to stem from humanitarian grounds rather than political grounds. China accepted the assessment that the mass of the Biafran people were being oppressed and massacred by the federal troops.” [vii]

Congo

The Congo had become independent from Belgium in June 1960. There were two countries called Congo delineated by their respective capitals: Leopoldville  and Brazzaville .[viii]

Under PatriceLumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a political leader committed to a non-tribal nationalist ideology, insisted on a centralised government, and who, in his speeches and statements, made no secret of his antiimperialist and nationalist inclinations. [ix]

The Congo (Leopoldville) Crisis 1960-65 saw a separatist rebellion in a southern province and Belgian military intervention in the country.

The central government requested (11 July 1960) UN to intervene. The Leopoldville government hoped that UN troops would put an end to both Katanga’s separatism under Moïse Tshombe, and foreign intervention however the Western powers as well as Lumumba’s internal enemies conspired for his removal through a military coup. Mobutu, the Chief of Staff, was chosen to lead the coup. The UN forces in Leopoldville under Kettani, a Moroccan General, provided the financial and military help with which a coup was organised to take place 14 September 1960.

Lumumba was captured and then murdered by Belgian-led Katangese troops on 17 January 1961, and eventually Mobutu made himself President in November 1965. [x]

The resistance continued, led byPierre Mulele (1929 – 1968) who had been minister of education in Patrice Lumumba‘s cabinet. In China in 1963 to received military training, Pierre Mulelle also took a group of Congolese youths with him, who received training in guerrilla tactics.  Mulele had returned to the Congo, where he formed a Youth Movement (Jeunesse Mouvement) in Kwilu Province (South-Western Congo – East Leopoldville).  Mulele’s movement was influenced by China’s strategy of people’s war and Mao’s classic ‘Eight simple and straightforward rules’ of military behaviour.

China was able to supply military and financial aid to the anti-government forces led by Mulele and Gbenye. Chinese military were active in training Congolese guerrilla forces in Tanzania and neighbouring Congo (Brazzaville).

The western press had reports of collusion, that many Chinese communist advisors have visited the zone under rebel control; Le Monde reported the presence of Chinese officials in the regions of Impfondo, Gambona and Fort Rousset, where training camps were set up for the Congo rebels. These camps were directed by young Congolese trained in Peking.[xi]

The intervention of Belgian troops came when rebels who had seized Stanleyville (later renamed Kisangani) were suppressed by central government troops officered by foreign mercenaries. The landing of Belgian paratroopers  in November 1964, from five United States Air Force C-130 transports dropped 350 Belgian paratroopers of the Paracommando Regiment onto the airfield at Stanleyville to rescue European hostage between 1,500 and 2,000, many of them missionaries and teachers. Most of the captives were Belgians, but they included a significant number of Americans and other nationalities. Tshombe, echoing the western narrative said: “I have absolute proof of communist participation in the rebellion in the Congo,” charging Peking with “trying to create a permanent center of subversion on African soil and a new international trouble spot.”

According to the “Solider of Fortune”[xii]

“The Reds wanted the vast mineral wealth of the Congo, but America in the form of the CIA stepped in and, assisted by Belgium, funded a mercenary army whose objective was to keep the Congo aligned to Western interests. It was Prime Minister Moise Tshombe who called in white soldiers of fortune, mainly South Africans” mercenary soldiers under the leadership of Lt Colonel Mike Hoare. “

August 1964. Prime Minister Moise Tshombe showed the press “weapons, explosives, and documents” which had been captured and which had come from the UAR, Algeria, and China. He accused the Chinese Embassy in Brazzaville of helping the CNL [National Liberation Committee] for the purpose of engaging in subversion. He once again attacked the use of Burundi and Congo (Brazzaville) by China as “helpers in China’s subversion campaign against the Congo.”

Such was the obsession with Chinese infiltration, for good measure, another accusation was added; the missionary Father Josef Scheonen, who lived in Kivu for 10 years, testified that China was supplying arms, opium, and heroin to the Congolese rebels.

Fake news is not just a feature of today’s politics.

In October 1968, after mediation by the Soviet Union and the Congo (B), Mobutu lured Pierre Mulele out of exile under a guarantee of safe conduct and amnesty. Mulele returned to Congo-Kinshasa. A Wikipedia entry notes:

“he was publicly tortured and executed: his eyes were pulled from their sockets, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one, all while he was alive. What was left was dumped in the Congo River.”

The Belgian Maoist leader Ludo Martens wrote extensively on Pierre Mulelle who led a maoist faction in the Kwilu Province and rebel activity in the Simba rebellion of 1964. 

China’s 1964 statements “In Support of the People of the Congo (Leopoldville) Against US Imperialism”.

CONGO (Brazzaville)

In January 1966 China agreed to construct a broadcasting station in the Congo(B). Within a short period (March 1967), the project was completed. It was named ‘The Voice of the Congolese(B) Revolution’. This station was to be used for revolutionary campaigning in support of liberation forces in the Congo(K), Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and other countries in southern Africa.

Congo(B) announced in 1967 the creation of a militia, the –Jeunesse du Mouvement do la Revolution (JMNR) China was invited to train and arm the militia which ‘openly professed admiration for Chairman Mao’. At the same time, China was already involved in training African guerrilla forces in the camps of Bouanga, Dombona and Ipfonda in the Congo(B).

In June 1968, a high-level military delegation visited the Congo (B) from China to attend the 4th annual celebration of the Congolese (B) People’s Army Day (22 June 1968). In July, a military delegation visited China from the Congo(B).

East Africa

Tanzania

In the western driven narrative, the East African state of Tanzania was regarded as heavily influenced by the People’s Republic of China. Under the leadership of the African National Union and President Julius Nyerere, the country issued the Arusha Declaration in 1967. The theme of the Arusha Declaration was to place emphasis on national self-reliance, the uplifting and empowerment of the peasantry as well as the realization of socialism based on the concrete conditions existing in Tanzania.

Following Nyerere’s visit to China in February 1965, the newspaper Nationalist printed an editorial stating,

The Chinese people support us Africans in the struggle to oppose imperialism and colonialism, new and old, and to win and safeguard out national independence…They support the Africans policy of peace, neutrality and nonalignment. They support Africa’s desire to achieve unity and solidarity in a manner of its own choice as well as its efforts to settle its own internal disputes through peaceful consultations…Above all, the Chinese have expressed their respect for the sovereignty of the African countries and have undertaken to avoid encroachment or interference in our political affairs.[xiii]

Interestingly in was neighbouring Zanzibar that first drew the ire of western propagandists.

The Cold War warriors would point to Abdul Rahman Mohamed (popularly known as “Babu” (1924 –1996), a Zanzibar-born Marxist and pan-Africanist nationalist, who played an important role in the 1964 Zanzibar revolution, served as a minister under Julius Nyerere after the island was merged with mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania.   [xiv]

Zanibar

The idea of Chinese experience being relevant in Africa was not a Chinese opinion alone as African radicals regarded It as providing both inspiration and a model for a host of anticolonial struggles across Africa and Asia. Abdul Rahman Mohamed (also known as “Babu”), secretary general of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party ZNP, visited China in January 1960. His opponents regarded him a Chinese agent of influence. Others saw him, as he saw himself, as an African revolutionary.

Amrit Wilson noted that Babu, was also, like many other young Africans and Asians of the period, inspired by the Chinese revolution. He had studied it in detail, but particularly for its relevance to Africa. China’s socialist revolution, he wrote:

“was an extension of its own liberation struggle and consequently there was a very thin dividing line between her nationalism and socialism. This dual loyalty to the two great movements of the period, enabled the Chinese to share more intimately the sentiments and aspirations of Africa’s liberation struggles and the struggle for national reconstruction both of which were Africa’s top priority.” [xv]

Babu had visited Mao Zedong’s China in 1959. and built close relations with the Chinese leadership , viewed by the British as “the best known Sinophile” in the area. Babu had a key role to play in the establishment of the TAZARA Railway ,offering both freight and passenger transportation services between and within Tanzania and Zambia, with the help of Chinese aid.   Babu was among the progressive, leftist members of the Zanzibari government who was retained in the new joint Cabinet Dar es Salaam when the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar occurred on 26 April 1964 resulting in the creation of Tanzania

 His connections to China continued, and his ideological affinity and work with the New China News Agency made him a good channel of communication with Beijing.  He had an international profile attending in July 1964 at the second summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Cairo and meeting and became friends with, as well as arguably influencing, people like  Malcolm X.

Abdul Rahman Babu was one of Africa’s foremost thinkers and analysts. A leader of the anti-colonial struggle in Zanzibar and of the Zanzibar revolution, Babu was seen as a threat by the US government and his approach would bring him into sharp contradiction with Nyerere’s perspective on African Socialism.[xvi]

According to the US representative in the country, Petterson,

 “Babu did not confine his revolutionary Marxism to words. In June 1962, he fomented the burning of the British Information Office and was accused of other acts of sabotage. He was convicted of sedition and spent fifteen months in jail. It was believed that he was behind an arson attempt against the American consulate in August 1961” [xvii]

The UK intelligence agencies had been keeping an eye on Babu from his early days in Britain. The UK Foreign Office noted, for example, on February 23, 1962:

The subject has a long record of Communist activity dating back to 1951 … he is believed to be a member of the British Communist Party and … to have lectured at their school in Hastings on the ‘Problems of Imperialism’… quickly established contact with the WFTU and other Communist organizations …. He became the principal East Africa correspondent for the New China News Agency, the editor of ZaNews, a particularly scurrilous pro-Communist news sheet and most significantly General Secretary of the ZNP …. Was largely instrumental in setting up the ZNP Cairo office as a staging point for students travelling along the iron curtain countries pipeline …. Subject attended an anti-atom bomb conference in Japan in July 1961, and strongly supported a resolution that none of the countries present should allow American consulates or bases in their countries. Shortly after his return an abortive attempt was made to set fire to the American Consulate in Zanzibar. [xviii]

Petterson repeated the political smear that it was well known “that Babu and his Umma Party are bought and sold by Peking. Chicoms have furnished Babu with New China News Agency material, duplicating equipment, vehicles, propaganda material, tickets for tours and scholarships for [a] number of years.”   [xix]

He stated that

“The U.S. government strictly enjoined American officials abroad from any contact with the Chinese, because the United States did not recognize Communist China. Perhaps an added reason for shunning the Chinese was that in the American line up of Cold War villains, Communist China was seen as particularly nefarious” [xx]

The cold war scenario meant that the United States was convinced that China, or the ‘Chicoms’ as the Americans called the Chinese, were behind every change in the weather. Despite the absence of any tangible evidence, China’s big initial success, according to Western intelligence, in Africa was in helping to stage a revolution in Zanzibar in 1964. China recognized the revolutionary government of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar on 17 January 1964

  ‘Although documentary proof not available, circumstantial evidence of Chicom involvement in [the] Zanzibar revolt … points strongly to Chicom participation in financing and planning the coup … there is no hard evidence yet’

In that casual colonialist racist frame-of-mind, the explanation from Lord Colyton, a former junior minister in the Colonial Office in the House of Lords, suggested that Beijing had planned the whole revolution.  British officials read it wrong thinking Peking had designed to turn the island into a centre of revolutionary subversion in the newly independent countries of Africa.

It was not only the Chinese put into the frame: false rumours of direct Cuban involvement surrounded intelligence-fed press coverage; The Sunday Telegraph 19th January 1964 furnished “proof” that the Chinese newspaperman Kao Liang was the instigator of the revolt in Zanzibar! Being a confirmative source, US ambassador Leonhart referred to revolutionary Zanzibar “as the Cuba of Africa” analogy, spoke of its use as a base for subversion on the mainland, and called for U.S. military intervention.

The often reported key US manipulator and destabilizer of progressive governments, Frank Carlucci, had on January 12, 1964 arrived in Zanzibar. He had come directly from the Congo where the CIA had been deeply involved in the overthrow of Lumumba, and this perhaps shows just how seriously the Zanzibar revolution was being viewed by the State Department. The Congo had seen Carlucci’s record of destabilizations, that would include service in Brazil and Portugal. His aim now, in his own words, was to prevent Zanzibar becoming ‘an African Cuba from which sedition would have spread to the continent’ [xxi]

In Zanibar western claim that China’s was the hidden hand behind such a Revolution. Zhou Enlai during a visit to Somalia,  explained that the revolution in Zanzibar was the outcome of the work of its people and not that of outside communists because revolution can neither be exported nor be imported; only when the people of the country have awakened can they drive the aggressors out and overthrow their oppressors. Of course we do not conceal the fact that we sympathise with and support the revolutionary struggles of the peoples. [xxii]

On 20 February 1964, China offered aid to Zanzibar in terms of “men, machines, and money.” In accepting this offer, the minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Rahmam Maomed announced: “There are people who say that Zanzibar is the Cuba of Africa but nothing could be further from the truth”

In his pen portrait of Babu, Petterson speaks of his magnetic personality. [xxiii] Babu was intellectually and emotionally committed to Marxism then and remained so throughout his life. Babu had been in London in 1951 to study journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic.

“At the outset of our conversation, Babu insisted that Zanzibar had no quarrel with the United States and wanted the friendship of the U.S. government. Zanzibar, he said, did not wish to be involved in “Cold War propaganda or activities.” Its foreign policy would be an African policy whose ultimate goal was African unity. Its domestic objective would be the elimination of poverty; to achieve this end, he said, Zanzibar had to become a socialist state, for it did not have the time that the United States and Britain had to develop their economies.” [xxiv]

Yet behind embassy walls there was discussions of how Babu’s power could be “drastically reduced or eliminated.” [xxv]

All the Communist missions offered scholarships and overseas training opportunities for young Zanzibaris. The Soviets had a military training unit and continued to provide arms and equipment. They bought a large amount of cloves. The Chinese interest-free loan was appreciated, as was their military training and agricultural technical assistance. The East Germans were slow to get off the mark on their housing project, but the promise of it kept the Zanzibari leaders happy for the time being. The East Germans were also developing a plan to build a radio transmitter.

In February 1964 Babu, the former correspondent of the NCNA who was at one point general secretary of the ZNP, became minister in the union government. In planning the new Zanzibar economy Babu had turned to China – a country which had not only confronted underdevelopment and imperialist plunder but was, at that time, the only third world country that had developed an economy independent of external resources. The economic relationship with Tanzania was symbolised by the build of the TAZARA Railway.

Babu remained in the union government until 1972, when he was dropped from the cabinet. Nyerere, by this time, had consolidated power and acted following Karume’s assassination, the President of Zanzibar, on April 7 1972, Karume was killed in Zanzibar by a man whose father he had murdered. Babu along with 40 other Umma Party members were arbitrarily incarcerated, jailed for alleged involvement, despite a lack of evidence, leading to death sentences three years later, but after an international campaign under the leadership of people like the Guyanese and Pan African freedom fighter Walter Rodney that Babu was released after six years.

After his release Babu remained a vocal critic of imperialism, authoritarian states and excessively statist (as well as private capitalist) development models. He came into conflict with the policies of ‘African socialism’ espoused by President Julius Nyerere. Babu’s well-known book Socialist Africa or African Socialism, was written in Ukonga prison in Dar es Salaam and the manuscript smuggled out :

“At this crucial historical juncture, anti-colonial nationalism has already exhausted its potential and run out of steam. Its limited objectives have led perilously to the bleak realm of graft, corruption and economic decline. Its former usefulness has actually turned into a negation of all that Africa has stood for and indeed fought for. Only through socialism, whose direction has already been pointed out by the Zanzibar revolution, it can re-emerge from the shackles of neo-colonialism and imperialists domination with their legacy of poverty, starvation and disease. Only socialism can put Africa once again on the road to rejuvenation and rekindle that post-independence mass enthusiasm which has now everywhere been replaced by cynicism. Only socialism can open the way towards turning the entire continent into a unified, progressive Africa, utilising its almost unlimited natural and human resources for the benefit of its people. Only socialism can turn Africa into a giant among giants today. That is the meaning and legacy of the Zanzibar revolution.”

 In exile, Babu went to the United States, lecturing and teaching at Amherst College. Later in1984 Babu made London his home, teaching at Birkbeck College, University of London and doing freelance writing, until his death in 1996.

Tanzania drew concern because of its perceived priority was to support those still struggling for national independence against the remnants of colonial rule specifically in Southern Africa. It offered a home and organising base for national liberation movements and facilitated military training as had Nkrumah’s Ghana before them.

In 1964, Tanzania had an official Chinese military mission to train its army, as distinguished from the clandestine training of guerrilla forces in Ghana and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

In August 1964 the Tanzanian government invited a Chinese military mission of eleven instructors to teach in the use of Chinese weapons. The military mission consisted of seven instructors and four interpreters and arrived some time before 9 September. Aid was taken from where it was offered as Tanzania was host to other instructors from the Soviets and East Germans.

Whereas such miniscule presence was given prominence, less publicity or concern was expressed at Sandhurst trained military or those taught the art of coup d’etat by the Americans, French or Belgians.

There was assistance in other forms .In early December 1966 President Nyerere opened a $560,000 short wave radio transmitter built with aid from China. Marking the occasion, Ambassador Ho said, “This station will help in the liberation of Africa.” As did training guerrillas in southern Tanzania to fight in Mozambique and other areas of southern Africa. Geographically, Tanzania provided a crossing point for liberation fighters going to the battlefields of southern Africa. Through Tanzania with which it had friendly relations, China was able to provide financial and military support to FRELIMO, not only an anti-colonial but also an anti-imperialist movement. As far as FRELIMO was concerned, Portuguese colonialism could not be separated from its NATO allies in the Mozambican people’s struggle for national liberation.

In October 1964 the Portuguese reported that five groups of guerrillas had  penetrated Portugal’s East African territory of Mozambique from (then) Tanganyika. In operations against the guerrillas, the Portuguese captured guerrilla general Lucas Fernandes, who “was said to have received his military training in Peking.”

According to additional Portuguese reports, the Soviet Union and China were aiding Algerians, Cubans, and Tanzanians to subvert Portuguese Africa. The New York Times reported that arms and munitions were landing in Tanzania , repeating CIA reports that Pointe Noire in Congo-Brazzaville and Mtwara in Tanzania were entry points for Chinese arms for liberation movements in Mozambique and Angola   using Chinese trucks to transport weapons to the Congo and the Mozambique border

Dr. Eduardo Mondlarfe was able to mobilise Mozambican groups and parties in a national united front for Mozambique’s independence under the name of the Frente de Liberta cao de Mozambique (FRELIMO, June 1962).

China’s relations with FRELIMO began almost two years (January 1963) before the beginning of guerrilla warfare in Mozambique (September 1964). In 1963, five FRELIMO delegations visited China, one of which (January) was led by Mondlane himself. On his return from China, Mondlane described the Chinese model for national liberation as stimulating to the African people and that he was very much impressed by the enthusiasm of the Chinese people towards the national liberation movement in Africa and their willingness to support the African people’s struggle.

_______________________

Southern Africa

Angola

When Western reports spoke of landings of weapons from Chinese ships in the Congo, these weapons were earmarked for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.  Initial support for the MPLA became defined by Cold War politics. In 1962–1963, China stopped being a major supporter of the pro-Soviet MPLA. [xxvi]

China’s involvement followed Organization of Africa Unity’s recognition for the three major liberation movements in Anglo: the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA), Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), and the Frente Nacional para Libertacao de Angola (FNLA).

In 1963, Holden Roberto of FNLA met with Foreign Minister Chen Yi in Nairobi, and China is reported to have agreed to provide most of their armaments. Likewise, in 1964, Jonas Savimbi of UNITA met with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou En-lai in China, where he received military training and was referred to as a maoist in western reports.

In 1974, the FNLA received a 450-ton shipment of arms and benefited from the assistance of 112 Chinese instructors based in former Zaire. UNITA also was the recipient of Chinese largess. With the end of the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s, China did provide military training to MPLA commanders and guerrillas but its relationship was unsteady.

Unjustly China was charged with supporting Apartheid South Africa and the United States against the Soviets and Cuba in the Angolan civil war. The Soviet-backed MPLA came to power declaring Angola independent in November 1975, and formal diplomatic relations between Beijing and Luanda were only established in 1983.

Zimbabwe

In support of the national independence movement in white-minority ruled Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe, China organised a Zimbabwe Day’ rally in Beijing (17 March 1963). The first group of five recruits for the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) went to China for six months training in military science on September 22 1963, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa.

It was followed by a second group, who had basic training in Ghana in 1964, went on to China in 1965 for advanced training as instructors.

China’s emphasis on the formation of united national front with the aim of engaging in concrete positive action against white minority rule. Thus, even though China appeared favourably inclined towards the more radical ZANU, it hoped publically that ZANU and ZAPU would unite in order to consolidate the national movement of Zimbabwe.

In February 1964 when James Robert, a ZAPU leader, visited China on his way to Moscow, China offered a financial contribution of $19,700 to ZAPU. In April 1966, five months after Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, (UDI) ZANU was the first national liberation movement to launch a full-scale guerrilla war in Zimbabwe/Southern Rhodesia from its bases in Zambia. ZAPU denounced ZANU’s action as “irresponsible”.

China view UDI as an act of the white colonialist authorities to carry on a fascist rule. 

ZANU guerrilla fighters trained in China played a leading role in the war.

During early 1966, ZANU sent its third group of guerrillas for training to China. Josiah Magama Tongogara led a group of 11 to the Nanjing Academy in Beijing where they trained in mass mobilisation, strategy and tactics, returning to Tanzania later the same year. Tongogara, who became Commander of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla), “learned in China that it was vital to mobilise the people, and it was that lesson which shaped future strategy”.

Reading from the Mao Tse-tung play book on peasant revolutions, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) concentrated a great deal of energy on winning over the masses in the rural areas. Attacks were planned and carried out on African collaborators, and just like the government, ZANLA used coercive methods to ensure compliance with the nationalist movement. Mao teachings also influenced battle tactics of the Zimbabwean liberation movement.

In January 1969, a team of eight Chinese instructors arrived at Itumbi in southern Tanzania to train the Zimbabwe African Liberation Army (ZANLA), ZANU’s military wing. One of these instructors, Comrade Li, the infantry expert, played a particularly important role in the evolution of the new strategy.

At Itumbi and other training camps, the recruits learned the meaning of “a people’s war, a people’s army, the objectives of the war and the basic teachings of Chairman Mao on guerrilla warfare . . .

“The Chinese, who by then had 20 instructors at Mgagao, believed that you have got to be matured politically in your head before you go and shoot,” one of the early recruits said later. “I learned that the decisive factor was not the weapons but the people.”

The illegal Rhodesia regime highlighted the communist support given to – the Zimbabwe African Peoples’ Union (ZAPU), and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), noting that since the early 1960’s the numerous visits to Moscow and Peking by leaders of the nationalist groups. The pattern that emerges here is of close links between ZAPU and the USSR and between ZANU and the PRC.  Obviously there were para-military and sabotage training, and with the capture of Chinese made AK-47’s, the Smith regime pointed to

“Groups of Rhodesian African nationalists have been trained in camps near Peking and Nanking. Instruction has been given by Chinese military instructors in revolutionary tactics, arms, explosives, sabotage technique, communications and strategy. … Large groups of Rhodesian African nationalists were trained at Half Assini and Abenamadi Camps in Ghana during 1965. [xxvii]

 Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) the military wing were supplied arms and provided advisors to train the cadres. Engaged in Chimurenga is a Shona language word for liberation, which entered common usage as they fought a protracted nearly 15 year bush war against the Rhodesian Security Forces drawing support largely from the adjacent African host countries of Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Angola (commonly referred to as the Front Line States)

The training of ZANU recruits has been carried out in the PRC at established military bases near Peking and Nanking. While the same para-military subjects are taught there as in the Soviet Union, great emphasis is placed on the ‘ideology’ of guerrilla warfare. The Chinese make much of the fact that they ‘won their liberation struggle’ by the same tactics being taught to the African trainees.

“all our militants also receive political training. They study Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, the history of Zimbabwe and writings on either revolutions, such as in Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, or the Mau-Mau in Kenya. Whenever we can, we spend time on political education, since it is crucial in building and maintaining the morale and good comportment among our guerrillas.”  [xxviii]

Josiah Tongogara, the commander of ZANU’s liberation army in Zimbabwe, trained at a guerilla camp at Nanjing’s Military Academy in 1966. The training included two months of education on the Chinese Revolution and communist ideology, months more of training in “mass mobilization, military intelligence, political science, mass media, and guerilla strategies.” More recently courses inside the PRC have been largely replaced by similar training and exercises in Tanzania under Chinese instructors. Also of late, emphasis in this training has been on defense against attack by aircraft and on mine laying and sabotage.

In the final stages of the Zimbabwean struggle for independence in 1979, Tongogara related to a BBC reporter:

When we open a new area, we don’t just go and fight. First of all we make a study – investigation among the masses – they tell us their grievances, and those we exploit and use them…and we explain to them why we have come to them, why you are fighting this war. They have to understand it. [xxix]

Chinese aid extended to the supply of radio stations to Tanzania and Zambia for the purpose of broadcasting against the white-governed countries of Southern Africa, in support of Zimbabwe National Liberation Struggle.

Azania / South Africa

China’s early contact with Southern Africa was with ANC on the occasion of Walter Sisulu’s visit to China (1953). In an interview with the-then African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo in regard to China’s support for the armed struggle to end apartheid in the sub-continent, Tambo spoke on a visit saying that “It was the third time that the ANC has sent a delegation to the People’s Republic of China. The first time was in 1963. I was leading both. [xxx]

Testimony from an imprisoned black African fighter confirmed China’s practical assistance: Sometime in late 1963, according to the testimony, Beijing selected an African named Peter Metchane and sent him for military training in China. Metchane went to Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) and from there flew to Tanganyika, India, Burma, and finally to China. He was enrolled in the military academy at Nanjing and was trained in the use of antitank mines and other equipment. South Africa sentenced Metchane and another black African to ten years imprisonment for their involvement in armed liberation movements, which was the ultimate purpose of their foreign training. During the trial Metchane testified that “four other Africans” had enrolled at the same time in Nanjing.

Two factors contributed to a more tepid relationship: that the ANC was much influenced by SACP which strictly followed the Soviet international line, and the assistance given by the Chinese to the Pan Africanist Congress, founded as a result of an ideological dispute within the leadership of ANC. Mangaliso Sobuke, PAC’s founder-leader, had been arrested in April 1960 following the Sharpeville massacre. In the early 1960s two PAC missions visited China and returned with $20,000 on each occasion and military training was offered.

Prior to Chinese aid, military training and camps of the Pan Africanist Congress military wing Pogo were based in Maseru in in the mountainous areas of Lesotho without the permission and knowledge of the Lesotho government. The authorities in Lesotho, at the time a British Protectorate, were closely allied with the South African government.

Eventually militants were to travel to the Congo, geographically the nearest independent country to South Africa, and it was here in 1963 that the Kinkuzu camp opened.

The PAC also sent its cadres for training in Botswana and Tanzania. In the early 1960s the PAC enjoyed the widespread sympathy of leaders in most of the newly-independent African countries largely because of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960.

A seven-member PAC “study delegation” (presumably a euphemism for military training) visited China in October 1964, another visit to China by the group under Ntantala followed in April 1967. 

Training in China seems to have a significant impact on the PAC in general, and it’s military wing in particular, in that it is clear that the structure of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) was based closely on that of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In addition, the ideological training imparted to members of the PLA was also given to APLA members trained in China. Evidence of this grounding in Mao’s version of Marxist-Leninism was found, for instance, in APLA’s training Field Manual. In China, emphasis was placed on the ideological orientation of the cadres. In consequence, the PAC experienced a major shift in strategy, arguing that APLA cadres, armed with revolutionary propaganda, would carry out mobilisation work amongst the people along with attacks on enemy forces. Unlike the Poqo military phase that was by nature a localised insurrection, based on the Chinese model, APLA elevated its training and ideology and these became critical components of its warfare. Far from being a dedicated maoist formation, the radical hodge-potch of radicalism, Africanist and Marxist sentiments meant the disciplined focus insurrectional force was never constructed, and the PAC played second fiddle to the older ANC. [xxxi]

APLA camps in exile, 1970-1981

The camps in Tanzania were waiting camps to hold trained personnel of the liberation organisations of southern Africa”.  The emphasis was on physical exercises and karate. The Chinese trainers provided training in the martial arts, as well as theoretical training. The camp was a joint camp with ZANU. [xxxii]

HoustonI  et al argued that the leadership of the PAC, and in particular the conflicts that characterised its history for most of the exile period, were largely responsible for the limited attention the leadership gave to military training and operations, and for insufficient support from the international community for its armed struggle and military camps.

When the internal leadership squabbles occurred in the mid-1960s the young cadres were complaining that they were lost and … they did not know what was happening to the leadership.

It is quite apparent that there was no strategic direction behind the training provided to APLA cadres. The PAC simply took advantage of any offer of training, irrespective of whether it was relevant for strategic reasons. 

During the 1970s and early 1980s, APLA cadres underwent training in Libya, Ghana, Guinea, Uganda, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Yugoslavia, China and Kampuchea (present day Cambodia). 

Zebulon Mokoena underwent another training session in 1976 when he led a group of PAC cadres that were sent to China at the beginning of 1976 “for military training”.110 During the first month of the three-month course the cadres were provided with cultural and political training, including visits to all the relevant historical sites, where they were given lectures on the Chinese revolution and the work of the Communist Party of China. The group was then transferred to Guangzhou, where they were trained on how to establish an underground guerrilla army; to use light weapons manufactured in the East and light to medium weapons manufactured in the West; to manufacture home-made explosives using readily available material; and regimental drill.  Mokoena later went to Libya with the SASO group that stayed in Libya for nine months; they were given a course in infantry. [xxxiii]

There were African Maoist groups, like the exiled based editorial team around Ikwezi   (1975-1982) under the editorship of Bunsee Bunting and non-Party intellectuals who saw Maoism as a revolutionary universalism, rather than a nationalist ideology of Chinese exceptionalism. Bunting had joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in the early 1960s and was part of the first group that went to China for military training with other PAC stalwarts retaining an ideological affinity with Pan-Africanism and Black Consciousness in the post-apartheid period. [xxxiv]

IKWEZI was a pre-party publication based on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought working at the stage of the Azania national democratic revolution. Working within the Pan Africanist and Black Consciousness movement, the struggle was seen as both a national and a class struggle against colonial and imperial domination. It was critical of revisionist influences within the mainstream liberation movement, the African National Congress ANC. Ikwezi took a firm stand against Russian social-imperialism regarding it as being the greater danger compared to American imperialism

Bunting returned to China in July 1979 as editor of an IKWEZI Delegation. The magazine subsequently published a talk given us by a member of the Liaison Department of the CPC on China’s Foreign Policy, and later published its critical assessment of the 1981 CPC’s Assessment of the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong. [xxxv]

ENDNOTES


[i] [e.g. Snow, P., (1988). The Star Raft: China’s Encounter With Africa. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Pp. 76-87].

[ii] Drawing upon the analysis detailed in Debeche’s 1987 thesis

[iii] Diario de Noticias, 11 July 1964 quoted in Debeche’s 1987 thesis

[iv] Debeche (1987) p578.

[v] Draws on the postcoup publications of the Ghanaian government, Nkrumah’s Deception of Africa (1966) Accra-Tema:  THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION (Ghana); and,Senate Internal Security Sub-committee (1972) Communist Global Subversion and American Security  Volume 1 : The Attempted Communist Subversion of Africa Through Nkrumah’s Ghana. Washington: US Government Printing Office

[vi] See Peking Review #11 March 11 1966  

[vii] Debeche (1987) p768

[viii] An aspect of that colonial experience covered in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost: a story of greed, terror and heroism in colonial Africa

[ix] See: Lumumba Speaks; the speeches and writings of Patrice Lumumba, 1958-1961. (edited by Jean Van Lievade) 1968. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Available on archive.org.

[x] Investigation conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, under the chairmanship of Senator Frank Church, in 1975. After extensive closed hearings, revealed in its report that the C.I.A. had plotted to assassinate Lumumba and several other foreign leaders and had engaged in a variety of other illegal activities at home and abroad – all this under four Presidents (two Republicans and two Democrats).

See ~ ASSASSINATION PLANNING AND THE PLOTS

The death of UN General Secretary, Dag Hammarskjold in a plane crash in September 1961, shrouded in secrets and lies, was explored in Susan Williams’ Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa (2011) London: Hurst & company.

[xi] Le Monde, weekly, No 845, 24-30 December 1964, p. 5

[xii] The Stanleyville Massacre – Soldier of Fortune Magazine (sofmag.com) 

[xiii] “The Nationalist Hails CPR Support of Africans,” Peking NCNA International Service – 1965-01-29, Daily Report, Foreign Radio Broadcasts, FBIS-FRB-65-021.# Such rhetoric covered in reality a more cautious and conservative regime balancing its international relations.

[xiv] See https://www.pambazuka.org/governance/creating-cuba-africa-life-and-work-mohamed-babu

[xv] Salma Babu and Amrit Wilson (eds) (2002) The Future that Works: Selected writings of A.M. Babu. Trenton: Africa World Press.166)

[xvi] see Amrit Wilson, Abdul Rahman Mohamed Babu: Politician, Scholar and Revolutionary http://jpanafrican.org/docs/vol1no9/AbdulRahmanMohamedBabu.pdf

[xvii] Don Petterson (2002)  Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder Westview Press 2002: Page 109 

The memoirs of the trials and tribulations of an American Foreign Service Officer , Don Petterson (2002) Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder: Westview Press, is embroidered with both a defence (against some judgements in Clayton’s work, The Zanzibar Revolution and its aftermath. 1981  London: C. Hurst & Co. )  , an explanation of events from an American perspective and interests, and his own assessment of his experience at the time. Petterson “corrects”  Adam Clayton’s assessment of Americans and their roles (Frank C.Carlucci, CIA? No! Highly regarded Foreign Service Officer. Just happened to be serving in Congo when Lumumba murdered and went onto serve as the United States Secretary of Defense from 1987 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan, having been Deputy Director of the CIA from 1978 until 1981 and US ambassador in Portugal in 1974 following the Carnation Revolution).

US fears of China

During the Cold War in Zanzibar, and later in Tanzania, the US State Department was beset with the fear of ‘Chicoms’. An exploration of American anxieties about China and China’s relations with growing economic strength and burgeoning trade with African countries is for another time. Discussion on what is regarded as a footnote to Africa’s post-colonial history can be found in a few studies   e.g. 

Amrit Wilson (2013) The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar. London: Pluto Press

Clayton, Anthony (1981) Zanzibar, revolution and aftermath. London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.

Don Petterson (2002) Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder Westview Press 2002

Salma Babu and Amrit Wilson (eds), The Future that Works: Selected writings of A.M. Babu. Trenton: Africa World Press.

[xviii] Wilson 2013

[xix]  Petterson (2002) 31

[xx]  Petterson (2002) 168

[xxi] Wilson, 1987: 41

[xxii] Press conference February 3rd 1964 Peking Review #7 February 14 1964 p 12

[xxiii] Petterson (2002) pp108- 109

[xxiv] Petterson (2002) pp 109-110

[xxv] Petterson (2002) 173

[xxvi] China were not without their supporters: in 1963, Viriato de Cruz, then secretary-general of the MPLA and a key intellectual voice, split partly over the China issue and fled to Beijing, where he died in 1973.

[xxvii] Information Section , Ministry of Foreign Affairs  COMMUNIST SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE TO NATIONALIST POLITICAL GROUPS IN RHODESIA           SLB/CGR 28 November 1975

[xxviii] Interview with Edward Ndhlovu, ZAPU Deputy National Secretary, Dec. 1974

[xxix] Portrait of a “Terrorist,” Nick Ross, rep., (BBC Two England, April 19, 1979), URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbU_lQMz7ko.

[xxx] Journal of African Marxists, No. 5, March 1984

[xxxi]  Actual performance was disorganisation in the movement as well as a marked lack of resources explored in Military training and camps of the Pan Africanist Congress of South Africa, 1961-1981 by Gregory HoustonI; Thami ka PlaatjieII; Thozama April Historia vol.60 n.2 Durban Nov. 2015

http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2309-8392/2015/V60N2A2 

[xxxii] When the PAC’s ally came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, ZANU decided that it would not allow the South African liberation movements to use its territory as a springboard for operations, nor did it give permission for the establishment of military camps in Zimbabwe.

[xxxiii] A group of new recruits that arrived in early 1977 were sent for military training in China, followed by another group that went to Kampuchea. In June 1977 there were 21 cadres who left Tanzania for Khmer Rouge-ruled Kampuchea under the leadership of Ezrom Mokgakala. The group spent a few weeks in China, before proceeding to Kampuchea. Their initial challenge was to learn the Cambodian language before commencing with training. One member of the group, Sgubu Dube, recalled that:

We were a group of 23 … and spent six weeks in China on orientation on what to expect from Kampuchea because the country had just received independence in 1975. When we were about to start with the heavy machinery like tanks, airplanes and helicopters, the Vietnamese invaded Kampuchea and we had to move from the city to the countryside. That was a very good experience because all that we had been taught we had to put into practice: how to evacuate people … We marched for eight months from Kampuchea going down to Thailand” .

[xxxiv] See: https://woodsmokeblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/8-ikwezi/

[xxxv] Source: Ikwezi, Number 18, October 1981. https://emaoism.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/assessment-of-the-ccps-assessment-of-the-cultural-revolution-and-mao-zedong/amp/

Bibliography ¨China’s revolutionary flames in Africa 2

Statements

Apologists of Neo-Colonialism — Comment On The Open Letter Of The Central Committee Of The CPSU (IV)October 22, 1963. Peking: Foreign Languages Press 1963

Chairman Mao Tse-Tung’s Important Talks with Quests from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Peking: Foreign Languages Press 1960  See also: SELECTED WORKS OF MAO TSE–TUNG Volume VIII. Foreign Languages Press, Paris, 2020

In Support of The People of The Congo (Leopoldville) Against U.S. Aggression. Peking: Foreign Languages Press

Babu, Abdul Rahman Mohamed (2002) The Future That Works Selected Writings of A.M. Babu [editors: Salma Babu & Amrit Wilson] Africa World Press, Inc.

Babu, Abdul Rahman Mohamed (1981) African Socialism or Socialist Africa? Tanzania Publishing House

Brautigam, Deborah (2011) The Dragon’s Gift: The real story of China in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Chairman Mao Receives African Guests. https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1963/PR1963-33-big.pdf a

Chau, Donovan C.  (2014) Exploiting Africa The Influence of Maoist China in Algeria, Ghana, and Tanzania. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press

CIA Research Reports, Africa 1946-1976. United States. Central Intelligence Agency. Frederick, MD. : University Publications of America, 1982. (Microfilm format)

Clayton, Anthony (1981) The Zanzibar Revolution and its aftermath. London: C. Hurst & Co.

Debeche. Ismail (1987) The role of China in international relations: The Impact of Ideology on Foreign Policy with special reference to Sino-African relations (1949-1986) Thesis University of York

Eisenman, Joshua (2018): Comrades-in-arms: the Chinese Communist Party’s relations with African political organisations in the Mao era, 1949–76, Cold War History. https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2018.1440549

Ellen Ray, William Schaap, Karl van Meter, and Louis Wolf (1980) Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa. London: Zed Press

Fan Hsin-Chu (1965) A Struggle Between Two Lines Over the  Question of How To Deal With  U.S. Imperialism . Peking: Foreign Language Press

Feng Chih-Tan (1963) Glimpses of West Africa. Peking: Foreign Language Press

Greig (1977) The Communist Challenge to Africa: an analysis of contemporary Soviet, Chinese and Cuban politics. Foreign Affairs Publishing

Hanchen Nan (1965) Resolutely struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism and for the economic emancipation of the Afro-Asian peoples. Peking: Foreign language Press

Hutchinson, Ian (1975) China’s African Revolution. London: Hutchinson

Lovell (2019) Maoism, a global history. The Bodley House Chapter 6 – into Africa pp185-222,

Matt Galway,Global Maoism and the Politics of Localization in Peru and Tanzania. Left History Vol 17, No 2 (2013)

Petterson, Don (2002) Revolution in Zanzibar An American’s Cold War Tale. Westview Press

Priyal Lal, Maoism in Tanzania: material connections and the shared imaginaries in Cook (2014) Mao’s Little Red Book, a global history. Cambridge University Press

Rittenberg, Sidney (2001) and Amanda Bennett. The Man Who Stayed Behind. Duke University Press

Senate Internal Security Sub-committee (1972) Communist Global Subversion and American Security Volume 1 : The Attempted Communist Subversion of Africa Through Nkrumah’s Ghana. Washington: US Government Printing Office

Strauss, Julia C. The Past in the Present: Historical and Rhetorical Lineages in China’s Relations with Africa. The China Quarterly, 199, September 2009, pp. 777–795

Van Ness (1970) Revolution and Chinese Foreign Policy: Peking’s support for wars of national liberation. University of California Press

Wilson, Amrit (2013) The Threat of Liberation Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar. London: Pluto Press

China’s revolutionary flames in Africa 1

Reading Western critics of Mao’s China engagement with Africa, very often they conceptually address the issue as if it was China’s revolution in Africa being played out rather than Chinese support for African’s struggles. In an interview given by Mao Zedong to Brazilian the attitude was expressed that China respected the newly independent and emerging states

… their neutral position, because their neutrality was obtained by shaking off imperialist domination. The neutrality of the nationalist countries is a position of independence, sovereignty and freedom from control. We in the socialist camp welcome the neutral position of these countries, because it is favorable to the cause of peace and unfavorable to the imperialist plans of aggression and war. We regard as our friends the independent countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and also those countries which have not yet achieved or are fighting for independence. We support them.  [i]  

Admittedly from the 1950s onwards Chinese communists could be quoted arguing that the road taken by China should be followed by all peoples of the colonial and semi-colonial countries so that they may achieve their independence and a people’s democracy.

However there was always stipulations to that assertion that guided foreign relations with the Third World nations. In a talk with some African visitors in 1963, Mao remarked, “In the fight for complete liberation the oppressed people rely first of all on their own struggle and then, and only then, on international assistance.”  This was balanced with “our internationalist duty….The people who have triumphed in their own revolution should help those still struggling for liberation.”  [ii] 

In a 1956 conversation with representatives of some Latin American communist parties, Mao Zedong had warned them about mechanically copying the experiences of the Chinese revolution:

 “The experience of the Chinese revolution, that is, building rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and must not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own countries–the two must be integrated.”  [iii]

China’s policy was to support the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggle of those under colonial rule, whilst towards the newly-independent nations of Africa, it argued the winning, and maintaining and consolidating of political independence was always the primary task for all Asian and African countries.

The line of “New Democracy” that had served the Chinese Communist Party so well was regard as applicable by others in the Global South who engaged in the struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism.

Mao Zedong’s talk to representatives of the Union of the Populations of Cameroon and of the youths of Guinea, Kenya and Madagascar stated, “You may think of China as your friend…. I shall just air my own views for your reference. The present revolution in Africa is a struggle against imperialism and a national liberation movement. It is a question of national liberation rather than communism; on that we all agree. There are two other points: one is the question of a quick or slow victory. There are only these two possibilities, quick or slow victory. If you are prepared for both, you will not feel disappointed. The other is the question of what force to rely on. Is Africa to be liberated by relying on foreign countries or by relying on the African people themselves? To liberate Africa, it is essential to rely on the African people. African affairs should be run by the Africans themselves by relying on the forces of African people; in the meantime they should make friends throughout the world, including China. China certainly supports you. Whether these two points are right or not is for you to ponder over.  [iv]

There was a receptive audience to this thinking. As early as the 1960s, many African leaders considered China not only a political ally but also an economic partner with a development model sensitive to local cultures and conducive to the needs of societies that had limited foundation for industrialization. The interrelation of political and economic independence was easily explained,

The development of an independent national economy and winning of full economic independence concerns the vital national interests of the newly independent Asian and African countries. It is at the same time opposed to the basic interests of the imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists who want to retain their colonial rule. Hence, the struggle for the development of an independent national economy necessarily reflects itself in political struggle, in serious political struggle against the imperialists, first of all against U.S. imperialism. .. [v]

There was a continuity of messages derived from China’s top leaders that under Mao, China had consistently supported issues of common interest has been directed at establishing a united front with the Third World and the demand for a restructuring of the international order, one not dominated by the superpowers.

Mao had commented to a group of overseas visitors in 1960 that :

The imperialists have committed all manner of evils and all the oppressed peoples of the whole world will never forgive them. To defeat the reactionary rule of imperialism, Comrades Mao Zedong said, it is necessary to form a broad front and unite with all forces, except the enemy, and continue to wage arduous struggles…

Chairman Mao Zedong’s Important Talks with Guests from Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1960

The extent of China’s influence on the African continent was exaggerated at the time by those who monitor and raised the alarm in western propaganda. Whilst it was a presence which ultimately was revolutionary because support and aid was providing tangible assistance, China was not guilty when charged with aiming to impose its leadership upon Africa, in reality there was little organisational consolidation in terms of parties or movements that ideologically aligned towards Beijing.

Clearly the Chinese notion that ‘revolution could not be exported’ did not preclude support for fellow revolutionaries throughout the world. Behind the rhetoric there was material support with training visits by would be third world revolutionaries explored in various studies  [vi]

Mao’s remarks to a visiting delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in March 1965, would seem to underplay the training on offer:

There are some foreigners studying military science in China. I advise them to go back, and not to study too long. A few months will do. There is only lecturing in the classroom, which is of no use. After going back, it would be most useful to take part in fighting. Some logic requires little if any explanation. One should spend most of one’s time in his own country. Perhaps, there is no need to go abroad, and one will learn it all right. [vii]

 In reality while China supplied revolutionary groups with rhetorical and, in some cases, material support, the ideological advice that came from China stressed the importance of revolutionaries in each country working to their own conditions. Militant diplomacy in the Cultural Revolution period would expressed full sympathy and support for heroic struggles,  express thanks for profound friendship and advertise the just struggles of the peoples of various countries in the world support each other, the fundamental expectation, and advice given was that: It is imperative to adhere to the policy of self-reliance, rely on the strength of the masses in one’s own country, and prepare to carry on the fight independently and solve the problems of the revolution in one’s own country.

Sidney Rittenberg (a.k.a Li Dunbai), a CCP member and propaganda official at the time, recalled a meeting between Mao and about 20 African revolutionaries in Beijing in June 1963:

The African guests were assembled in the hall … none from an independent state. They were all from various nationalist organizations or guerrilla movements. I knew a few of them were receiving military training in China. I recognized a cherubic young student who had once told me he was learning from the People’s Liberation Army how to use small arms, hand grenades, land mines, and booby traps.

Mao Zedong told the African visitors:

On behalf of the CCP, I’d like to welcome all our friends and comrades-in-arms from Africa … I know you are having a very difficult struggle in Africa, and you’ve already made big successes. Many battles remain to be fought, but Africa is coming alive. Here in China, we knew little about Africa. Then as you fought for independence and were successful, your countries came and made their presence known to us.  [viii]

Its aims clearly stated, and to an extent depicted on the pages of Peking Review, centred on three Chinese objectives in Africa were anti-imperialism, (later) anti-revisionism, and Asian-African unity. Mao’s opening speech back in September 1956 at the 8th Party Congress had framed China’s foreign policy approach:

“We must give active support to the national independence and liberation movements in countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America as well as to the peace movement and righteous struggles in all countries throughout the world.”  [ix]

The wider context of the anti-revisionist struggle reinforced this approach as expressed in the Chinese reply to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union In “Apologists of Neo-Colonialism”, on October 25, 1963. In the editorial, they stated their support of the newly independent nations of Asian, Africa, and Latin America, emphasizing that ―The primary and most urgent task facing these countries is still the further development of the struggle against imperialism, old and new colonialism, and their lackeys. [x]

Premier Zhou En-Lai in Africa [xi]

New York Times headline

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, June 5 — Chou En-lai declared today that not only Africa but also Asia and Latin America were ripe for revolution. 

On December 14, 1963, Zhou En-lai stated in Cairo that “This is my first visit to the African continent and I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to pay my tribute to all the new emerging independent African states and their peoples, and to all the struggling peoples in Africa. The Asian and African peoples have always supported each other in their struggles, and I am convinced that the Asian and African peoples united together will certainly continue to win new victories in their common cause of striving for and safeguarding national independence and defending world peace.”[xii]

These objectives were repeated through Premier Zhou Enlai’s unpresented tour of Africa When along with the foreign minister Chen Yi and forty other officials, Zhou En-Lai made the largely symbolic, three-month long trip from December of 1963 to February of 1964, visiting nine countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

The trip had doctrinal importance with speeches given at every capital visited, often under the title ―Afro-Asian Solidarity Against Imperialism. China viewed Afro-Asian solidarity as consisting of popular forces (i. e. national independence, liberation and revolutionary movements as well as peoples’ organisations) on the one hand, and on the other, of governments of independent countries. In other words, united front from both above and below. Diplomatically it failed in attempts arguing for the convening of a second Bandung-type conference, building upon Afro-Asian people’s solidarity in contrast to Non-Aligned Movement orientation. Still,  two core themes were repeated, with varying degrees of emphasis throughout: China’s fraternity with African anti-colonial and developmental struggles, and China’s support for Africa in overcoming these challenges, both morally and practically.

Zhou’s responses to a public press conference stressed China and Africa’s general “shared experience of suffering from imperialist and colonial aggression” with the core message of “consolidating national independence, safeguarding state sovereignty, developing national economy, promoting Asian–African solidarity, and defending world peace,” as well as emphasizing bright prospects ahead, and reiterating China’s eight principles for granting economic and technical assistance. [xiii]

China’s support was not only in rhetoric, however, but also in more tangible assistance. These goods, which included steel as well as monetary support, were the first instances of economic aid that would become the trademark of Chinese foreign policy in Africa in the coming years.

China’s action in Africa, a clear delineation of China from the West in its dealings with Africa, absolute respect for state sovereignty, a friendliness grounded in notions of equality rather than superiority, support for anti-colonial struggles, no-strings developmental assistance, and notions of supporting self-reliance.

During Zhou En-lai’s visit to the West African state of Guinea, he stressed the need for self-reliance in the independence movement. The Chinese leader stated during a speech in Guinea that “The people of the Asian and African countries deeply realize that in order to achieve independence, the people should mainly rely on their own struggle and that in order to develop the national economy and build up their own countries after independence, the people should also primarily rely on their own efforts. Self-reliance and energetic endeavors to bring about prosperity this is a line which consists in placing confidence in and depending on the masses of the people to develop the national economy and realize complete independence.”  [xiv]

The founding of the Afro-Asian People‘s Solidarity Organization (A.A.P.S.O.)in Cairo on December 26, 1957 provided an important channel through which moral and material support for armed struggles for liberation could be extended. This gathering of 500 delegates from 43 different entities from various Asian and African nations was the largest gathering of its kind. Delegates to the conference in Cairo were not representatives of their country, but rather of specific organizations, main goals of these participants were to promote anticolonial issues.

 Although the Chinese delegation was concentrating its activities on consolidating Afro-Asian solidarity and unity, parallel to this activity within the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO) the military camp in Ghana saw Chinese military instructors trained cadre for revolutionary movements in French neo-colonies such as Dahomey (Benin), Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mali. In 1963, the Chinese sent military supplies from Tanzania and Congo-Brazzaville to guerrillas in the eastern Congo led by a former education minister in Lumumba’s cabinet. China gave military aid and training to revolutionary movements throughout the continent. In camps in Tanzania and Algeria, the Chinese armed and trained guerrillas from FRELIMO in Mozambique, the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau, ZANU in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania and the ANC in South Africa.

laying explosives

The complex story of the first half of the Sixties, the policies adopted and adapted by Communist China during this period, argues Debeche, invariably neglected its interest in State-to-State relations preferring to give support to anti-government revolutionary forces, however it  gave way to an renewed emphasis on economic and political independence. [xv]

Whereas the alternative narrative of a “Meddling Dragon” in Chau’s historical examination of China’s activities in Africa, portrays China engagements as specifically to demonstrate influence in the world. Misplaced reliance on defector sources shored up this position as in 1964 testimony of Tung Chi-ping, a Chinese cultural attaché for the embassy in Burundi, with misplaced credence given when he stated that China was determined to take over the Congo as the first step in a conquest of Africa! [xvi]

The Chinese News Agency Hsinhua , in a year-end review of developments in Africa, optimistically claimed that 1966 had seen Mao Tse-Tung’s Thought increasingly accepted a “the beacon light for the African revolution”, and that 1967 would see African revolutionary movements gaining greater momentum and seizing “more impressive victories”.  [xvii] This was the year Nkrumah had been disposed and diplomatic relations with Central African Republic and Dahomey broken.

Those closely allied to western interest publically spoke of Chinese subversion echoing metropolitan fears of influence and interference other than their own. Nkrumah had signed a treaty between the PRC and Ghana which allowed for a number of Chinese experts to be sent to Ghana to train members of liberation organisations at a military training camp at Obenamasi (Hutchison 1975). A number of Ghanaians were also dispatched to China to undergo guerrilla training. The military training camp headed by Chinese instructors was also closed and the instructors expelled. On October 20, after Sino-Ghanaian relations had deteriorated further, diplomatic relations were suspended.

Many African governments became distrustful of the CCP, and several even broke diplomatic relations and expelled Chinese diplomats for subversion. This reflects the [continuing contemporary] view that China’s engagement with Africa in the perspective and reporting of the West, China’s behaviour in Africa is that of an aspiring great power in the world.  The capitalist media outlets continue to frame news coverage of the Chinese in Africa in a colonial context.” Typically  a headline from the New York Times (May 2017 ) asked  Is China the World’s New Colonial Power?” and CNBC.com’s questions “Recolonizing Africa: A Modern Chinese Story?”. Yet China under Mao had none of the characteristics of the colonial experience when the European powers used horrendous violence to impose their language, culture, religion, administrative systems and then stole the resources in their conquered lands.

Far from the repression and control of Colonial times, as Lovell shows in Maoism: A Global History [xviii] especially in her presentation on the failed attempts to foment Maoist movements in Africa, the Chinese state made considerable efforts to support favourable regimes with financial support, and train fighters, not all who pledged allegiance to Maoism, supplying cash, guns, and propaganda.

China’s first foray into supporting revolution in Africa involved Algerian independence from France. Throughout the late 1950’s Algerian military delegations visited Chinese bases for training, and Chinese armaments and equipment soon popped up on battlefields around Algeria. The CIA estimated that starting in 1959 China spent around $15 million in military aid for Algerian rebels.

China attempted to increase their influence in Africa through the use of radio broadcasts. Radio Peking’s English language transmissions provided ideological news and commentary alongside music. However, given that radios were still a luxury item for many at the time, many of the masses China desired to reach were likely out of earshot during their 21 hours of weekly broadcasts.  By 1959/60 Radio Peking launched a new daily 2-hour program in English that expanded to 35 hours by 1964. The short-wave service of Radio Albania was also used by the Chinese to broadcast to Africa. The languages were Arabic, Cantonese (aimed at Zanzibar) French, English, Italian, Portuguese and Swahili.

The initial attention on Algeria in north Africa gave way to west Africa at the start of the sixties and incorporated a pivot to groups in countries under Portuguese control (i.e. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sâo Tomé) and onto East Africa particularly Tanzania. It some places there was fertile ground for the Chinese:  [xix]



Premier Chou En-Lai Plays table tennis With President Kwame Nkrumah. Chou En-Lai Visited Ghana and other African nations in 1964.

Forming friendships in West Africa, and in the early 1960’s China signed numerous friendship treaties with the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence in the post-war era. The new nation of Ghana, under the radical leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, often considered the father of African liberation, invited Chinese military advisors to train freedom fighters from all corners of the continent between 1957 and his overthrow in 1966.

During the Congo Crisis that saw progressive leaders like Patrice Lumumba and Pierre Mulelle challenge western imperialist dominance, the direct western intervention and subversion was blatant and public. And presented as a response to alleged Chinese communist conspiracy. In western propaganda the Congo was presented as one of the most important examples of an African country in which revolutionary opposition forces were actively supported by China. Unlike in Ghana where it was a supposed subversive government that was being supported. However, as Mao’s statement in support of the Congolese people against American aggression pointed out:

“The U.S. imperialist armed aggression against the Congo (Leopoldville) is a very grave matter. The United States has all along attempted to control the Congo. It used the United Nations s forces to carry out every sort of evil deed there.  It murdered the Congolese national hero Lumumba, it subverted the lawful Congolese government It imposed the puppet Tshombe on the Congolese people, and dispatched mercenary troops to sup press the Congolese national liberation movement And now, it is carrying out direct armed intervention in the Congo in collusion with Belgium and Britain. In so doing, the purpose of U.S. imperialism is not only to control the Congo, but also to enmesh the whole of Africa, particularly the newly independent African countries, in the toils of U.S. neocolonialism once again. U.S. aggression has encountered heroic resistance from the Congolese people and aroused the indignation of the people of Africa and of the whole world. [xx]

His words were matched by training, credit and deliveries of equipment to support the struggle.

On Africa’s Eastern coast, China began supporting the communist movement on Zanzibar in 1960. The East African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which would merge in April 1964 to become Tanzania.

China maintained good graces with the newly formed Tanzania, and eventually offered aid in the form of overt military training and assistance in building infrastructure projects, Zhou Enlai eventually made it to Dar es Salaam in 1965 and Nyerere’s came to China in 1965 and 1968, in which he “stressed that he had “come to learn.’

During another visit to Beijing in 1974 Nyerere stated that, “Two things convince me that socialism can be built in Africa and that it is not a Utopian vision. For capitalism is ultimately incompatible with the real independence of African states. The second thing which encourages me is China…China is providing an encouragement and an inspiration for younger and smaller nations which seek to build socialist societies.”  [xxi]

More than one western report would comment that publications from China, China Pictorial, Peking Review, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Mao’s selected works, Swahili translations of Chinese poems for children, etc. have all been readily obtainable. In Kampala, a street stand opposite the main Post Office sells a wide range of Chinese literature, as well as portraits of Mao and Stalin; in Dar es Salaam the Friendship Book Shop carries a full stock of Chinese publications and a complete line of Mao buttons.

By 1975, China under Mao was spending 5 percent of its budget on foreign aid. [Forty-six years later, today’s UK government target was only one percent, and that has been reduced.] Lovell reports that China’s international aid totalled more than $24 billion between 1950 and 1978, a period during which China had a per capita gross domestic product well under $200—less than 2 percent of that of the United States at the time. China, itself an underdeveloped country, spent an estimated $24 billion on international aid, 13–15 percent of which went to Africa.

Problems of Fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the National Liberation Movement in Africa

While Third World countries were “the driving force of the world revolution”, the tasks of revolutionary processes in those countries could well be at the stage of an anti-colonial revolutions. As the character of who led these movements came from the national bourgeoisie or the small bourgeoisie, there were references to “patriotic armed forces”.

Western reports had China bankrolling many revolutionary movements throughout Africa, in reality the relations between China and the third world were becoming increasingly focused on economics. The complexities of the neo-colonial aftermath of national liberation were recognised; the dependence of these governments on imperialisms – which most of the time depended economically on the old imperialist metropolises or superpowers, even switching sides from one to the other, and those distinctly authoritarian regimes (often of a pro-American character) that were also “third world” countries .  A country could have diplomatic relations with China based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence, without a military or shared comradely relationship based on support for and promotion of armed struggle against colonialism and imperialism; for example, Morocco, Kenya and Burundi could be hardly characterize as militant. China built diplomatic relations with several conservative African governments. In October 1971 and January 1973, for instance, Mao hosted Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie [xxii] and Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, respectively. While it stopped supporting revolutionary groups seeking to overthrow independent (formerly regarded as neo-colonialists) African governments, it turned south to increased support for those under oppressive white minority governments (i.e. Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa).

L’Imperatore dell’Etiopia S.M. Haflé Sélassié e Mao Tse Tung – 1971 © Archivio Publifoto / Olycom

Elsewhere firmly entrenched racist regime in which white minority government was determined to maintain its power faced national liberation movements adopting armed struggle against the forces of imperialism and its local allies (rather than negotiation with the colonial power) as their general strategy. These development met with the support of China.

“Revolutionary Flames in Africa”

The whole direction of propaganda during the period of the Cultural Revolution was encouraging the spirit of revolution internationally, preferably under the guidance of Mao Tsetung Thought. Maoism was embraced around the world – Mao’s message resonated intellectually and emotionally it offered empowerment to people fighting against empire, capitalist exploitation, or state-backed injustice.  China’s continued focus on third-world relations was actually an essential aspect of what is presented as an isolationist and inward looking period of the Cultural Revolution.

In October 1966, the CCP Central Committee ordered that the dissemination of The Quotations of Chairman Mao become the foremost task of all embassies.

This Chinese poster carries the slogan “Chairman Mao is the great saviour of the revolutionary peoples of the world” and an illustration of African freedom fighters reading a pamphlet by Mao.

Western reports overstated Maoist influence among African revolutionary groups and the Chinese media revolutionary rhetoric cost nothing proclaiming such militancy as evidence that More and more of the oppressed African nations are recognising that Mao Zedong Thought is their strongest weapon for gaining true independence, and armed struggle is their road to gaining liberation in Congo, Mozambique, Angola and “Portuguese” Guinea.  [xxiii]

The dominant theme at the height of the Cultural Revolution was this image the “Red Sun” of Mao rises over a diverse array of foreign peoples, armed and determined to combat imperialism. The text encourages the Chinese people to “Vigorously support the anti-imperialist struggle for the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America”.

Chinese articles highlighting “revolutionary flames in Africa” would focused on “the revolutionary people of the Congo (K), Mozambique, Angola, Guinea (Bissau), Zimbabwe and other places are carrying on life-and-death armed struggles against imperialism and its lackeys.”  [xxiv]

However the number of self-declared Marxist African movements were few, and priority for Chinese support and aid was to those movements engaged in struggle against the remaining white supremacist colonialist regimes in southern Africa rather than insurgency groups.

Military training in the anti-imperialist struggle went to the national liberation movements which were ready to use armed struggle. This was particularly so as most communist parties which China earlier identified with, showed their loyalty to Soviet international line of accommodation with, not resistance to, the imperialist forces.  There were maoist-inclined influential and prominent revolutionary intellectuals and individual militants within the patriotic armed forces and national liberation organisations but seldom at their core were led by the presence of systematic organised maoist communist party aligned to Beijing.

African liberation movements utilized Chinese aid, and elements of Maoist ideology were utilized in efforts to promote the goals of liberation evident in the Zimbabwean experience whereby the tactics and ideology of Maoism were adopted not out of coercive force on the part of the Chinese, but because they fit the needs of the ZANU guerrilla forces. The goals of the guerrilla fighters were more attuned to their own liberation, or at the most the concepts of Pan-Africanism, anti-imperialism, and African Socialism.  Obviously these concepts have much in common with International Maoism, and the peoples of these two very disparate cultures found so much to learn from one another.

Awaken peoples, you will certainly attain the ultimate victory!

From an African perspective, the liberation organisations were extremely wary of becoming dependent on one source of supplies. Such an action would have threatened the independence and credibility of their own organisations, as well as giving the supplying state an undue amount of influence in decision-making. Thus a variety of nations were sought as suppliers of military armaments, and whilst the Soviet Union and China aided the liberation organisations to some degree, other sources were of equal importance. Essentially, the African organisations took aid from wherever they could obtain it, and whilst influences did creep in to some extent the source of material aid tended not to overtly determine the political orientation of the various organisations.

 In other places, such as Madagascar, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, and Zimbabwe, leaders of independent regimes merely claimed to be Marxist-Leninist, without usually developing policies consistent with a firm commitment to a particular ideological or institutional persuasion.  Zairean revolutionaries argued thus today the unending nationalistic petit-bourgeois question, ‘what is the relevance of Marxism in Africa?’ should be silenced as African bourgeois nationalism has proving itself incapable of providing for the basic elementary needs of the masses of African people. [See UMPZaire Africa and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. International Newsletter – Defend Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought No.8 June 30th 1995]

Unofficial Red Guard sources, disclosed in July 1967, alleged remarks by Mao on China’s role in the world in the form of big character posters pasted on the walls of Beijing streets.

“A lot of places are anti-China at the moment, which makes it look as though we are isolated. In fact, they are anti-China because they are afraid of the influence of China, of the thought of Mao Tse-tung, and of the great Cultural Revolution. They oppose China to keep the people in their own countries down and to divert popular dissatisfaction with their rule. This opposition to China is jointly planned by U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism. This shows not that we are isolated, but that our influence throughout the world has greatly increased. The more they oppose China, the more they spur on popular revolution; the people of these countries realize that the Chinese road is the road to liberation. China should not only be the political center of the world revolution. It must also become the military and technical center of the world revolution”  [xxv]

The words attributed to Mao were an exception to the standard emphasis in policy announcements that stressed, even at the zenith of the Cultural Revolution, less rhetorical references to “exporting revolution” and more oratory about the need for revolutionaries to take the responsibility for the necessary struggle in each nation.

In contrast to earlier instructions that the dissemination of Mao Tsetung was the foremost task of China’s embassies, a 1970 instruction from Mao rowed back on this emphasis in China’s national interests and conduct of its foreign policy. His comments on a document submitted by the Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Community Party of China were that,

We don’t demand that all foreigners recognize the ideology of the Chinese people, asking them only to acknowledge the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the revolution of each country. This is a basic principle that I have told you many times. As for other harmful thinking besides Marxism-Leninism, they would come to understand themselves, so there would be no necessity for us to regard conversation with foreigners as a serious problem. You will understand just by reviewing the history of our Party—how it gradually embarked on the correct path after undergoing the lesson of so many erroneous lines; moreover, there is still a problem today, that is, we still have great-nation chauvinism both inwardly and outwardly, which ought to be overcome.  [xxvi]

Guerrilla fighters from nations across the continent were sent to China for ideological and military training, and returned prepared. Chinese military instructors made Ghana a base for training guerrillas as early as Though brought to China, the guerrillas were not apparently indoctrinated with Maoist political propaganda, the training concentrating on tactical and military matters such as leadership, communications, medical services and engineering were also taught. In analysing such aid it is necessary to point out that China very rarely revealed the concrete quantity of military aid it gave, and the West often deliberately over-estimated it. [xxvii]

 Chinese experts in guerrilla warfare trained rebels from Guinea-Bissau fighting the Portuguese, and instructed and equipped nationalists from Portuguese colonies in Tanzania, Ghana, and Congo-Brazzaville. Trainers arrived in Ghana in 1964 and remained until a coup in early 1966 ended the programme. Throughout the GPCR period, China continued its material support for, and training of, PAIGC liberation fighters through both Guinea and OAU’s African Liberation Committee.

The men who were trained in China returned to act as instructors themselves. Thus Chinese influence was broadened by their involvement in training camps for the liberation movements. The year saw not only an escalation in open guerrilla warfare in Southern Africa, but also China sending eight Chinese military experts to Tanzania to teach military skills and Maoist guerrilla tactics.

In Tanzania, the CCP supplied arms and trained Eduardo Mondlane’s Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) and later hosted FRELIMO fighters in China. FRELIMO continued to receive the largest portion of China’s aid to national liberation movements in all Portuguese colonies The CPC also trained Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) forces in Tanzania and assisted the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) in Zambia.

 A common misjudgement at the time was anyone who received training in China were, forever after, regarded as a disciple of Maoism. Western media reports would exaggerate the ‘Command and Control’ aspect of Chinese aid drawing upon  Chinese propaganda that would serve to reinforce this viewpoint with its numerous reports on the military success in the national-liberation wars to overthrow Portuguese colonial rule, often emphasising an adopted people’s war approach pioneered during China’s revolutionary struggle i.e.

This ideological conversion was emphasised during the height of the Cultural Revolution with evangelical coverage in the Chinese media for both domestic and oversea readers: e.g. In “New Developments in the African National-Liberation Movement”  [xxxii]

“With the successful unfolding of China’s great proletarian cultural revolution, the radiant thought of Mao Tse-tung has been spreading more extensively and rapidly in Africa. More and more revolutionary-minded Africans are avidly studying Chairman Mao’s works, and are exerting themselves to apply the invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung in actual revolutionary struggles.

The Angolan guerrillas look upon Chairman Mao’s military writings as “sunlight in the jungle.” The guerrilla leaders in the Kwilu and Fizi-Baraka regions of the Congo (Kinshasa) always carry Chairman Mao’s military writings with them.

In Mozambique, when some fighters set out for the battle front, Chairman Mao’s works are a must in their haversacks and Chairman Mao badges on their tunics. Their watchword is: “Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory.” What is particularly inspiring is the fact that not only the anti-imperialist armed struggle, guided by Mao Tse-tung’s thought, continues unabated in Africa, but with the extensive dissemination of Mao Tse-tung’s thought on the continent African revolutionaries are making greater efforts to study and grasp Mao Tsetung’s thought, learning warfare through warfare and steadily improving the art of struggle.

Congolese (K) patriotic fighters have repudiated the purely military viewpoint and impetuous sentiments for immediately attacking big cities. The idea of building up base areas in the countryside and conducting a protracted war has begun to take root in their minds. They pay attention to strengthening the work among the masses and to political and ideological education of the fighters, thus establishing closer links between the army and the masses, heightening the fighters’ political consciousness and raising their fighting capacity. The leaders of the Congolese (K) Patriotic Armed Forces have emphasized more than once: “Only by arousing and organizing the people can we bring about a change in the balance of forces between the enemy and ourselves, we must regard the arousing of the people and the organizing of their strength as a fundamental guarantee for our victory

A Mozambique freedom fighter said: “It is Chairman Mao who has changed our mental outlook, strengthened our fighting will and taught us how to fight.”

CPC’s deteriorating relationship with the CPSU

The Sino-Soviet dispute had become a  factor in China’s policy and had its effect on third party relations . An under-explored aspect was that China in essence adopted an anti-hegemonic policy towards the Southern African liberation organisations began to be more circumscribed in aiding movements that sided with Moscow that effectively reacted to the actions of Moscow and not the local situation.

An extended examination of China’s role in the organization and activity of the AAPSO. Mr. describes the way in which the AAPSO became, for both the Chinese and the Russians, an arena in which to work out their own disputes, As the 1960s progressed, Soviet and Chinese delegations began to clash openly with each other at AAPSO meetings as dimension of international conflict was added to the debate about struggles in Africa. Neuhauser (1968) considered that Peking at times misread the reality of Middle Eastern and African politics out of an over-enthusiastic generalization from China’s own revolutionary experience as provocative. [xxxiii]

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was not a turn away from international affairs, but rather an attempt to set an example for revolution.  A task the Soviet Union’s revisionists had betrayed. In the heightened atmosphere the Chinese media would proclaim: Under the guidance of invincible Mao Zedong thought, African revolutionary people have furthered the development of anti-imperialism armed struggle [xxxiv]

The Chinese contended with the Soviet Union for ideological influence leadership of revolutionary movements in the Third World gifting material aid and training. As the Soviet Union exclusively backed South Africa’s long-established African Nationalist Congress ANC, for instance, the Chinese which had begun exchanges with the ANC in 1953, also supported the rival Pan-Africanist Congress. In this competition for influence China aiding organisations because of their supposed hostility to Moscow — the PAC in South Africa and SWANU in Namibia were classic examples used by opponents of China’s actions. The counter-argument was that these decisions were not solely seen as a result of trying to counter revisionist influences but also motivated by the belief that people in struggle generate their own organisations and leaderships. As it turned out the dominant national liberation group prevailed.

The story was similar in Angola, where China provided arms and training to the MPLA in the early 1960s. This ideological and political struggle between the USSR and the PRC after the 20th Congress worked against the people of Angola during the 1970s, The MPLA had sent a delegation to China in 1962, and Paulo Jorge, MPLA Secretary of the Political Bureau for International Affairs first visited in 1965. The CCP had continued to provide training and arms to the MPLA throughout the 1960s but as the MPLA grew closer to Moscow Beijing extended support to both the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). China did not publicly and actively identify itself with one Angolan national liberation movement to the exclusion of the others, even though UNITA seems to have received more of China’s attention. In 1975, the Chinese government were largely perceived as supporting the U.S. and South African-backed UNITA in the Angolan civil war—in the name of defeating the Soviet Union’s attempts to gain a strategic foothold in Africa through its support for the MPLA. The PRC suspended all aid to the UNITA organization at the conclusion of 1975.

In 1964, UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi  (1934-2002) had met Mao and Zhou Enlai and received military training in China; then returned the following year and again in 1967.

During his exchange with a member of the aforementioned delegation of African revolutionaries, Mao linked his own domestic political struggles directly to the struggle against Soviet revisionism on the continent:

African visitor: The Soviets used to help us, and then the red star went out and they don’t help us anymore. On the contrary, they sell arms to our oppressors. What I worry about is: Will the red star over Tiananmen Square in China go out? Will you abandon us and sell arms to our oppressors as well?

Mao Zedong: I understand your question. It is that the USSR has turned revisionist and has betrayed the revolution. Can I guarantee to you that China won’t betray the revolution? Right now I can’t give you that guarantee. We are searching very hard to find the way to keep China from becoming corrupt, bureaucratic, and revisionist. We are afraid that we will stop being a revolutionary country and will become a revisionist one. When that happens in a socialist country, they become worse than a capitalist country. A communist party can turn into a fascist party. We’ve seen that happen in the Soviet Union. We understand the seriousness of this problem, but we don’t know how to handle it yet. [xxxv]

A return will look in more detail at China support in individual arenas of struggle

  • North Africa
  • West Africa
  • East Africa
  • South Africa

 

ENDNOTES

[i] Fight for national independence and do away with blind worship of the west (September 2nd 1958) Mao Zedong On Diplomacy. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press 1998:261

[ii]  Mao, Zedong, Talk with African friends (August 8, 1963) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/red-book/ch18.htm

[iii] https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_54.htm

[iv] Africa’s task is to struggle against imperialism (February 21,1959) Mao Zedong On Diplomacy. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press 1998:286

[v] Hsu Nai-chiung The Interrelation of Political and Economic Independence.Peking Review #5, Jan. 28, 1966, pp. 12-14. Mao made the distinction between the rulers and the ruled: “When I say the United States is bad, I mean its ruling clique, while the American people are very good. Many people among them have not yet awakened”. Mao Zedong On Diplomacy. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press 1998:263

[vi] e.g.. Van Ness, Peter (1970) Revolution and Chinese Foreign Policy: Peking’s support for wars of National Liberation. Berkerley: University of California Press, Hutchinson (1975) China’s African Revolution. London: Hutchinson.

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[vii] ‘You Fight Your Way and I’ll fight My Way’ Selected Works of Mao Tsetung Volume IX. Paris: Foreign Language Press 2021: 215

[viii] Rittenberg and Bennett (2001) The Man Who Stayed Behind. Duke University Press 270–1.

[ix] Mao Zedong, “Opening Speech to the Eighth Party Congress, 15 September 1956  https://www.marxists.org/subject/china/documents/cpc/8th_cong_opening.htm

[x] https://www.marxists.org/subject/china/documents/polemic/neocolon.htm

[xi] Zhou En-lai’s high profile tour of north and west African countries included a nine-day trip to close ally Albania, whose contribution was not overtly acknowledged, serving as the transit country for arms had been supplied to the Algerian FLN. See previous post on Albania’s African contribution. Zhou En-lai’s African odyssey was followed by an Asian tour. After leaving Somalia, he visited Burma (14 February 1964), Pakistan (18 February) and Sri Lanka (28 February).

[xii] Zhou Enlai’s 1964 African speeches were not included in the official released Selected Works of Zhou Enlai , Volume II,  published in English in 1989 by Foreign Language Press, Beijing . They were made available in reports in Peking Review and in the 1964 publication, Afro-Asian Solidarity Against Imperialism: A Collection of Documents, Speeches and Press Interviews from the Visits of Chinese Leaders to Thirteen African and Asian Countries. Peking  Foreign Language Press

[xiii] “Premier Chou En-lai answers newsmen’s questions in Accra,” Peking Review, No. 4, 24 January 1964, pp. 15–16.

[xiv]  Afro-Asian Solidarity, p. 196. The Revolutionary Prospects in Africa Excellent speech, given by Zhou at a rally in Mogadishu Somalia, on February 3, 1964, was reprinted in the Peking Review February 14 1964.

[xv] Detailed in Debeche, Ismail (1987) The role of China in international relations: the impact of ideology on foreign policy with special reference to Sino-African Relations (1949-1986) Volume Two. Thesis University of York 

[xvi] Donovan C. Chau (2014) Exploiting Africa: the influence of Maoist China in Algeria, Ghana, and Tanzania. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press

[xvii] Hsinhua News Bulletin December 27th 1966

[xviii] Lovel, Julial (2019) Maoism, a global history. The Bodley House Chapter 6 – into Africa pp185-222

[xix] see Newsreel of Fighting Africa Sings Praises to Mao Zedong and His Great Cause — Djoliba National Ballet (Guinea) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1ipILaiaCA

[xx] Peking Review #49 December 4 1964 p5 https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1964/PR1964-49.pdf

[xxi] Martin Bailey, “Tanzania and China,” African Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 294, (Oxford University Press, Jan1975), 42.

[xxii] Seifudein Adem (2013) Imperial Ethiopia’s relations with Maoist ChinaAfrican East-Asian Affairs the China Monitor 

https://web.archive.org/web/20180719071401/http://aeaa.journals.ac.za/pub/article/download/56/7

[xxiii] The People’s Daily 9 December 1967

[xxiv] China Pictorial #8 August 1968

[xxv] Jean Daubier, A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1971, p. 313

[xxvi] ‘We Don’t demand Foreigners Recognise the Ideology of the Chinese People (December 6, 1970). Mao Zedong On Diplomacy. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press 1998:448

[xxvii] CIA, ‘What the Chinese Communists Are Up to in Black Africa’ (23 March 1971), Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E-5, Documents on Africa, 1969–1972; and See:  Donovan Chau (2014) Exploiting Africa: The Influence of Maoist China in Algeria, Ghana and Tanzania, Naval Institute Press

[xxviii] Peking Review #43, Oct. 25, 1968, pp. 26-27

[xxix] Peking Review #7, Feb. 13, 1970, 2 pages

[xxx] Interviews with the Delegation of the Liberation Front of Mozambique, Peking Review #41, Oct. 8, 1971

[xxxi] Peking Review #22, May 28, 1976.

[xxxii] Peking Review January 19,1968 pp25-27

[xxxiii] Neuhauser, Charles (1968) Third World Politics: China and the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization, 1967-1967. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 27. Cambridge, Mass.: East Asian Research Center, Harvard University

[xxxiv] People’s Daily, December 9th1967

[xxxv] Rittenberg and Bennett (2001) The Man Who Stayed Behind. Duke University Press 271–2.

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