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Op Ed

Ensuring Utility and ROI for the Anambra International Airport

THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma



Ensuring utility and ROI for the Anambra International Airport

Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has delivered a beautiful piece of real estate called the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport Umueri to much delight and plaudits from citizens. The Government rolled out the drums on 30 April 2021 to launch the test flight into the airport. Three jets flew in, confirming that aeroplanes can land and take off even as the airport still requires work.

What parameters would best serve to determine ROI for this project? Would it be viability in strict aviation terms of passenger numbers, or would it be the social capital of the psychological uplift it gives to citizens? The challenge is to ensure effective utilisation of this beautiful property to deliver the requisite return on investment even as no one knows the project cost yet.

Anambra State Government adumbrates the many positives of the airport. According to Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, James Eze, “The Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport has been described as one of the best airports in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a CAT 2 runway that measures 3.7km long and 60 meters wide. It can land aircraft from either side of the approaches with a ground lighting system of 270mm. The runway is connected to the Apron by two taxiways which measure 35m wide with shoulders. The Taxiways lead directly to the Apron covering 300mx200m x 560m of reinforced concrete that can comfortably accommodate six aircraft at once.

READ ALSO: Anambra International Airport’s Inauguration Date Announced

“The Terminal Building was designed to accommodate 400 persons. It has 36 shops, two mezzanine floors, three lifts and three elevators and a ramp to facilitate the movement of physically challenged travellers. The Control Tower stands 34.5 meters tall. It was designed to resist fire. It is equipped with both a staircase and a lift. The airport has the most sophisticated fire-fighting machines known in the aviation industry. The car park can accommodate 700 vehicles.”

The Government claims that “aviation experts agree that the viability of the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport is almost certain. Anambra is home to the most mobile sub-group of Nigeria’s three major ethnic nationalities”. Why? Obiano claims that “our people crisscross the globe in search of a better life,” and declared “this airport is, therefore, a timely bridge between Anambra and the world.”

Thisday columnist, Okey Ikechukwu, amplified this claim with a weighty assertion. “The volume of business available in the South-east can sustain even an additional cargo and passenger airport; as the region can gobble up everything the airports can throw at it; and much more”.

The airport reportedly has a world-class hangar that should serve as a viable option to flying aeroplanes abroad for servicing and maintenance!

All very gung-ho and laudable. Since the publicity for the airport commenced until the trial run, I waited in vain for anyone to support the generalisation about the travelling propensity of Ndi Anambra and Igbo people with facts and figures. Zilch.

They cannot cite the stats because the tale of the tape does not support the folktale about travelling people. They may travel far and wide, but the aviation industry has yet to record the vaunted heavy traffic to the Eastern airports. It did not exist pre-Corona when the economy looked up. It is open to speculation what it will be now.

In the early 90s, Indian marketing expert Vinita Bali came on an exchange to Cadbury Nigeria. Cadbury Nigeria was trying to replicate Cadbury Schweppes by introducing chocolates as cocoa was abundant. While there was indeed a gap in the market, there was no market in the gap, she declared. The adventure ended. Ms Bali went on to be Marketing Director of Coca Cola worldwide.

I have stated here that the three airports proposed for the South East are veritable White Elephants

READ ALSO: Gov. Obiano Presents ₦143.7 Billion Budget Proposal For 2021

Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu is number five in passenger numbers in the top ten of Nigerian airports. MMA Lagos leads, followed by Nnamdi Azikiwe in Abuja, Port Harcourt International, and Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano. Others are Benin Airport at sixth, Osubi Airport, Warri at seventh, Kaduna International Airport at eight, Margaret Ekpo International, Calabar ninth and Sadiq Abubakar International Airport, Sokoto at tenth. Note that neither Sam Mbakwe Airport Owerri nor Asaba Airport feature in the top ten, yet both serve the people with an avowed capacity for “crisscrossing the globe.”

Asaba Airport, like Umueri, hopes to “tap the vast economic potentials accruable from the proximity to the eastern commercial cities of Onitsha and Nnewi, and be a hub for the export of agricultural and manufactured goods”, says Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. Between the first commercial flight to Asaba on 24 March 2011 and October 2013, the airport recorded an average of 260 flights and 6800 passengers per month.  It does not feature in the Top 15 nationally despite the promise of Onitsha and Nnewi.

Aviation is going through a downturn globally. A McKinsey report noted, “It’s difficult to overstate just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated airlines. In 2020, industry revenues totalled $328 billion, around 40 per cent of the previous years. In nominal terms, that is the same as in 2000. The sector is expected to be smaller for years to come; we project traffic won’t return to 2019 levels before 2024.”

Further, the African Development Bank does not foresee recovery for aviation in Africa until 2025. In a report, AfDB stated, “It is important to note that, likewise within the rest of the continents, African aviation industry may likely not recover 2019 figures until 2024/25. How long the full recovery of the aviation industry takes will depend on governments’ progress in controlling the pandemic, the launch date of an efficient and affordable vaccine for the entire world population and the measures taken by governments to keep the aviation and tourism industries afloat among others.”

On the positive side, rising insecurity on the roads from the activities of the herdsmen may increase local air traffic. Yet, Asaba is closer to Onitsha and Nnewi!

To restate, Governor Willie Obiano has delivered a beautiful piece of real estate with the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport. It is a laudable feat. It is a project with much social capital and a signifier such as the National Theatre, Lagos. Soon it will be the postcard for Ndi Anambra to show what the state can do and announce its identity and pride. It will boost the confidence of the citizens and speaks to aspiration and potential.

READ ALSO: Okowa’s Jinx Breaker With Asaba Airport

Before the Anambra State Government, the challenge is the effective utilisation of this property in estate management terms to ensure it delivers return on investments. Start with aviation, where Nigerians fly primarily for business. Anambra must create a market for leisure and tourism that would bring in travellers. McKinsey notes that business travel is the last to recover. “In previous crises, leisure trips or visits to friends and relatives tended to rebound first, as was the case in the United Kingdom following 9/11 and the global financial crisis.” With Zoom, business travel will reduce significantly.

Then the state must create and build use-scenarios for the facilities at the airport that complement but do not depend on passenger traffic. Property and event managers and other specialists would need to develop creative possibilities for a terminal that accommodates 400 people and 36 shops and the vast space. Finally, concession the airport to experienced facility managers.

There are still issues such as getting slots for airlines to fly to Umueri and scheduling of international frequency.  The Anambra State government would also justify the cost and location of the project to her citizens. They should now step up to the national and international. May the airport live up to the huge expectations.


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Op Ed

Promises made, Promises kept or broken – Hope Eghagha



Hope Eghagha

In the course of our lives we make promises. We promise ourselves. We make promises to others – friends, family, business or political associates. Men promise women. Women also make promises to men. A promise is a ‘declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen’. A lesser person could make a promise to his superior. The reversed position is also possible; that is, a higher person could also promise a lower person that things would go in a particular way. A promise is indeed an assurance or a reassurance. It is often soothing, deferring hope and making one believe in the future.

Some promises are voluntarily made. When a man makes a promise of marriage to a woman, it is often because he wants to guarantee the loyalty of the woman. Such a woman with a promise looming over her would not be expected to entertain another man. Promises could also arise from coercion. That is, we are compelled to make a promise owing to circumstances. A promise is meant to assure the other party that a certain action will be taken or not taken. Two stronger words for promise are ‘covenant’ and ‘agreement’. Whereas we use promise in informal discussions, an agreement is more formal. It is true however that we could also have an informal agreement; this is what people refer to as ‘gentleman’s agreement.

Consensus building is part of nation building. Of course, a general consensus carries with it a promise, the promise of stability, togetherness and the common good. A general consensus is and should always be superior to individual interests. In other words, individual interests are subsumed under the collective interests. If a politician appears to alter the national interest, the forces which are party to the settled goal or consensus will call him to order. A promise broken destroys confidence in individuals and in the state. There is a Gaelic proverb which says that ‘there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept’. If the State or Party could break its promise to the people, the people in turn do not feel obliged to respect the state. This is where anarchy sets. Sadly, when some politicians break a promise, they hardly appreciate the level of destruction which they have caused in the polity. For such persons, self is more important than the collective. It will be recalled that one of the reasons given by the coup plotters when General Yakubu

Gowon was removed from office was his decision to break the promise of the 1976 return to civilian rule.

Read Also: Nigeria To Start Petrol Imports From Niger Republic

Once a promise is made, it is expected that it would be kept. But promises are not always kept. It is for this reason that sometimes people summon witnesses to be present when the promise is being made. Others go to the extent of documenting the promise, witnessed by a legal instrument. For example, an informal loan may need to be guaranteed by someone else to ensure repayment. There could also be an unwritten agreement on power rotation in a polity.

In politics and politicking promises are often made. Promises are made to the electorate or stakeholders in order to secure a nomination or votes. An election promise is a ‘guarantee made to the public by a candidate or political party that is trying to win an election’. In the advanced world, politicians are often held to their promises. This does not mean that they do not break election promises. On the big issues, a party could win an election and embark on a vigorous implementation once it gets into power. In First Republic Nigeria, we looked forward to and Action Group (AG) did fulfill its election promise on free education. The same was repeated in the Second Republic under Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic promised qualitative education to counter the UPN initiative. It also promised housing for all. A study of politics in the western world has found that ‘parties that hold executive office after elections generally fulfill substantial percentages, sometimes very high percentages, of their election pledges, whereas parties that do not hold executive office generally find that lower percentages of their pledges are fulfilled’. We cannot say the same for political parties in Africa; certainly not in Nigeria. But politicians also break promises. In 2000, while campaigning for president, George Bush declared that ‘if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to prevent that’. It was during his tenure that America went to Iraq second time and later Afghanistan. Barrack Obama promised to close Guantanamo Prison. As of July 2021, that prison is still standing. President Buhari promised to end the insurgency and build the power sector. We are all witnesses to his days in office.

Read Also: Why APC Can’t Fulfill Its Campaign Promises — Gbajabiamila

In nation building, there are unwritten agreements, just as there are usually written agreements. Britain, like Canada, China, Israel, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, is governed by an unwritten Constitution. This is a system in which codes of political conduct are not ‘embodied in a single document, but based chiefly on custom and precedent in statutes and decisions’. For such countries to succeed there is the need for maturity, mutual understanding and an abiding interest in the overall survival of the nation. In such countries, the nation’s primary interest is understood and appreciated by all stakeholders. This can only take place when issues of nationhood have been fully settled.

It is easy to break a promise, to ignore a written or unwritten consensus, especially when the levers of power are in the control of one man or a cabal. The message is that we are not only in government, we are also in power! What this means is that because they have the powers of state behind them, they can alter agreements. But we must remember that power is transient. A decision based on greed and self-interest could return to haunt one later in life. It could also lead to an implosion. It is therefore instructive for those who are in power to remember that soon their days in office would be over; soon their actions would be subject to intense scrutiny. On which side of the divide would they like to be remembered?
Finally, let me end this essay by quoting JFK Kennedy when he said “I would rather be accused of breaking precedents than breaking promises.”



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Op Ed

Could Drone Technologies Become more Prevalent as African Governments Step up the Fight against Terrorism?

By Col. Wes Martin



Recently, 77 member nations of a global coalition brought together to seek out solutions to combating the Islamic State (IS), convened to address the alarming increase of extremist terrorist activities perpetuated across African contest the continent of Africa.

“We see big challenges on the horizon. We recognize that we can’t tackle them alone”, U.S Secretary of State, Antony Blinken stated.

Africa’s strategic importance has risen sharply since the end of the Cold War in the eyes of foreign powers, as nations lobby to greater partner with leadership on the continent; particularly, seeking to collaborate to strengthen security cooperation internally in Africa in order to create new and sustainable opportunities for growth.

In turn, Africa’s military leaders are themselves looking to find effective, autonomous means for which to garner intelligence and engage from within Africa’s diverse, often austere battlespace environments where regularly, such violent terrorist activity is undertaken.

They appreciate the importance in taking advantage of recent breakthroughs in aerial reconnaissance and engagement innovation while minimizing the exposure of personnel or collateral damage in the process.

Meanwhile, overseas and for the past two decades, the role of unmanned systems on the battlefield has been steadily increasing, ushering in what has been referred to as a global ‘Precision Revolution’ by many notable warfare analysts.

Key to this development has been these systems’ ability to decrease the exposure of friendly forces and their effectiveness in engaging within both inhabited and uninhabited areas day or night, scenarios where the use of airplanes can be otherwise problematic.

These cutting-edge UAVs provide consistency in surveillance and support, offering greater real-time intelligence – be it from a matter of meters to thousands of kilometers in distance.

Moreover, they can engage unprecedentedly deep from within a given battlespace and even incorporate ‘swarm’ intelligence and precision strike capabilities in doing so, allowing for multiple drones to operate in formation.

And yet despite Africa being a priority theatre in the fight against terrorism and often the base of origin for what are today highly exportable global threats, many do not associate military drone technology with the continent. However, in terms of need, the exact opposite is true.

Recent advancements in both UAV affordability and their multi-purpose versatility have equated to serious consideration for drone technologies’ adoption by African militaries across the continent. This, coupled with Africa’s embrace of digital production and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) inspired technological prowess has meant the potential for a leapfrogging or skipping of individual stages of evolution in the aerial combat arena, embodied through the development and deployment of technologies such as drones.

As these systems continue to undergo technological change, the ability to deploy them has molded to users’ requirements and capabilities.

Previous ideas on the role of unmanned systems working in the long-range and long-endurance spheres have shifted, as the need to gather a high-fidelity, actionable threat picture has increased.

As the costs of unmanned systems have also dropped dramatically, the ability to create more disposable assets has become easier.

Of critical importance in the air domain, the mimicking by UAVs of some of nature’s key defensive and offensive capabilities – swarming – now means that military operators can gain a significant advantage over their adversaries.

Air dropped swarms have proven that decision-makers can saturate an area with sensors to provide a rapid, data-rich picture of activity within an area that would otherwise necessitate putting multiple people on the ground.

Improving the sensor processing of these swarms, as well as pairing them with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, can allow for greater flexibility and agility in the swarm, thereby reducing the burden on a human end-user, while enhancing responsiveness to dynamically changing situations.

In an offensive capability, the role of a swarm can be to ensure that a target is successfully attacked, and that defensive capacity is overwhelmed. As warhead size and capabilities are improved, creating drone swarms also means engaging more complex target sets – such as multi-building facilities or moving formations of vehicles. If a target’s defensive systems include mobile or portable systems, then a swarm can work to adapt to changes in real-time.

In rapid mobility operations, a frequent in African defense and security scenarios nation on nation, seconds count – Loitering munition technologies can be deployed quickly for rapid mission turnaround while throughout allowing for a significant reduction in the kill chain, as the time between detection and target prosecution can also be greatly reduced.

Further, with an endurance period that can measure into the hours, such systems can provide a flexible response if the threat picture changes.

As onboard sensors and communication technologies continue to improve, they can serve as a significant force multiplier for strategic and tactical operations. The potential for loitering munitions to operate in a swarm means that high-value targets, or key targets of opportunity, also have a higher chance of being successfully engaged than with a single missile strike from a traditional armed UAV.

Acknowledged on a global stage and heeded by the numerous international security partnerships forged on the continent, while also a chief mission of African militaries independently, there is a clear and present call to action to enhance airborne technological dexterity in Africa.

Moreso, to foster greater interagency collaboration to ‘get in front of’ and address in real-time a myriad of security threats afflicting development, such as extremist insurgency, piracy, kidnapping, bunkering, poaching, and trafficking.

Many military agencies however are operating under budgetary constraints compounded by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, African-based Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT), a subsidiary of global aerospace and technology company, Paramount Group, has recently launched its Meteorite, the front runner of the company’s N-Raven unmanned aerial vehicle fleet, as a next-generation turnkey aerial solution provider to the contemporary challenges facing the continent’s security and stability.

The 48 kg Meteorite is a fully automated, guided precision strike system, capable of operating at high speeds (up to 120km/hr) at a service ceiling of 15,000 ft (ISA) across a wide array of both precise and long-range missions (hosting up to 4 hours of loitering time at a full range).

The pilotless UAV provides self-sufficient ground strike capabilities with pinpoint accuracy; and, with its modular, multi-purpose warhead, the Meteorite has been designed to handle different types of targets with a large payload capacity, even from within a heavily contested ‘deep fight’ area.

From unprecedented piracy attacks off the Gulf of Guinea to Boko Haram pledging allegiance to once-rivals, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), to insurgencies in the northernmost region of Mozambique, the continent is facing fast degrading conflicts that threaten regional stability requiring coordinated responses.

From rapid deployment to swarm capable loitering, reconnaissance, and engagement assignments, the Meteorite, and its diverse competencies are the results of the manufacturing prowess of Africa and from Paramount Group’s deep understanding of addressing asymmetrical warfare on the continent; providing solutions that befit partner nations’ budgets and the often austere environments which they are tasked to protect.

The Meteorite has further been designed for digital technology transfer and transportable manufacturing from within partner countries; a robust yet cost-effective product of Paramount Group’s proven experience gained from its long legacy in the development of UAV systems, offering versatility, mission-specific accuracy yet at the same time, affordability.

Producing such highly integrated technologies from within customer countries can unlock industrial partnerships that create local defense industrial capabilities, local jobs, and skills transfer.

In response to the increasing demand from governments for the development and strengthening of such capabilities, Paramount Group has pioneered a portable production model that has been implemented by several countries around the world.

There is subsequently a timely opportunity for customer countries from across Africa to deploy advanced loitering munitions technologies such as the Meteorite, with proven ‘force multiplier’ effects – spurring economic diversification and growth while bolstering air defenses exponentially against threats known and unknown; providing operational depth, without, as Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT) CEO, Lee Connolly suggests, “…African militaries having to resort to the procurement of expensive systems often associated with a traditional air force”.

When referencing the Meteorite’s unique applicability to the modern-day African battlefield, Connolly went on to state that, “We at Paramount continue to expand our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) swarm technologies portfolio and look forward to the opportunity to present such a well-aligned solution to addressing the uncertainty of Africa’s defense and security landscape. The Meteorite is a game-changer for the continent’s armed forces and the latest in robotic warfare, replicable the world over”.

“To the Team at Paramount Advanced Technologies, true innovation means the adoption of highly customizable, affordable solutions, built for the purpose of our partners who require them. We are very proud that we can offer such a precision strike loitering munition system as the Meteorite, arguably a prerequisite as an investment in aerial reconnaissance, engagement, and ultimately modern-day state security in Africa, capable of foreseeing and engaging threats to a nation’s stability, yielding a substantial payoff and at the best levels of cost-effectiveness on the market,” Connolly concluded.

Paramount Advanced Technologies believes that its Meteorite is the next step in the ongoing unmanned ‘Precision Revolution’, ready to be manufactured in the end-user’s country.

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Op Ed

What is Nigeria Learning from China?

The Public Sphere with Chido Nwakanma



China, Nigeria

For good and for ill, we now live in the China century. China dominates the global discussion on various issues, from Covid-19 to super-scale infrastructure projects and international finance. It has been for four decades the manufacturing hub of the world.

China is proof of the Marxian thesis of the significance of the economy. Karl Marx declared that the economic conditions of man determine his every other state, being how he organises society and the impact that organisation has on every other thing. Economics and the deployment of the fruits also contribute to the determination of state power.

Africa is in hock to China as that country continues to pursue an extreme form of economic determinism. Nigeria is among leading African countries steadily and surely hocking its sovereignty to the Chinese economic might. Under President Buhari, there is a race to take on as many Chinese loans as possible and pile up debts for Nigeria.

However, we must go beyond loans in discussing China in Nigeria. We should be more interested in China’s trajectory and development path. I am yet to see our love of China revolve around the critical lessons from its choices and directions.

In December 2019, United States scholar Kimberly Amadeo noted, “China’s economy has enjoyed 30 years of explosive growth, making it the world’s largest. Its success was based on a mixed economy that incorporated limited capitalism within a command economy. The Chinese government’s spending has been a significant driver of its growth.

“China’s economy is measured by its gross domestic product. In 2017, growth was $23.12 trillion, the largest in the world.1 That’s 6.8% more than in 2016. China’s GDP grew at 6.5% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2018. China’s growth rate has slowed since the double-digit rates before 2013. Its economy grew 7.8% in 2013, 7.3% in 2014, 6.9% in 2015, and 6.7% in 2016.”

Please note the following. “China fuelled its former spectacular growth with massive government spending. The government owns strategically important companies that dominate their industries. It controls the big three energy companies: PetroChina, Sinopec, and CNOOC. They are less profitable than private firms and return only 4.9% on assets compared to 13.2%. But government ownership allowed China to direct the companies to high-priority projects.

“China requires several things of foreign companies who want to sell to the Chinese population. They must open factories to employ Chinese workers. They must share their technology. Chinese companies use this knowledge to make the products themselves.”

China focused on education, research, and innovation. One image sticks out from a trip to the Summer School of Birmingham City University in 2018. Students from China outnumbered the combined total of others from nine countries. They came to study and research all manner of disciplines. Chinese students constitute a growing and significant population of graduate schools worldwide, so much that former US President Donald Trump tried to restrict their numbers.

“Research and development (R&D) is the backbone of innovation. It supports the development of new products and services, which can boost growth and productivity. In recent decades, China has increasingly prioritised R&D, spending as a per cent of GDP rising from 0.72 per cent in 1991 to 2.13 per cent in 2017. Although this is less than the OECD average of 2.37 per cent, the immense size of China’s economy means that its R&D expenditure is now second only to the United States at $442.7 billion (in 2010 USD).

“Triadic patents are difficult to obtain but generally generate more revenue than other patent types. In 2016, China was the fourth largest contributor to triadic patents at 6.9 per cent, behind Japan (31.0 per cent), the United States (25.4 per cent), and Germany (8.1 per cent).”

Experts conceive of State power at three levels: (1) resources or capabilities, or power-in-being; (2) how they convert that power through national processes; (3) and power in outcomes, or which state prevails in specific situations. How a nation converts its capabilities into positive outcomes is the actual test of state power. The elements are national ethos, politics, and social cohesion. The outcomes a country generates depends on “power for what, and against whom”.

The Strategic Assessment Group is one of those institutions analysing and pronouncing on state power. The main categories of capabilities in the Strategic Assessments Group assessment of capacity are gross domestic product (GDP), population, defence spending, and a less specific factor capturing innovation in technology. In the SAG estimate, the United States is first but hardly the only power. The United States holds about 20 per cent of total global power and the European Union (EU) (considered a unified actor), and China about 14 per cent each. India holds about 9 per cent; Brazil, South Korea, and Russia have about 2 per cent each.

The World Bank has shown in its 2006 publication Where is the Wealth of Nations that human capital is the most strategic asset of countries. The authors submit, “The estimates of total wealth–including produced, natural, and human and institutional capital–suggest that human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by the rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries. It is striking that natural capital constitutes a quarter of total wealth in low-income countries, greater than the share of produced capital. This suggests that better management of ecosystems and natural resources will be key to sustaining development while these countries build their infrastructure and human and institutional capital.”.

Note the critical indices identified by the World Bank. They are produced, natural, human, and institutional capital as well as the rule of law. They note that while natural resources are essential, they are not as significant as produced capital from human and institutional factors.

What are we spending on R&D? What are we doing with education distinct from the charade of each head of our military arms setting up the university’s bureaucracy in their hometowns without the spirit and ethos of that universal crucible of knowledge?

Is anyone or group in the Federal Government, such as the Ministry of National Planning, understudying the Chinese? What strategies inform our engagement with them?

What are we learning from China, given our current romance with them?


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