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A Visit to China: Lessons learnt (Part 1)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

From 19th July 2016 to 30th July 2016 I, as part of an African delegation, visited China at the invitation of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee though the Chinese Embassy in Botswana. It is from this visit that I wish to share some experiences with my readers.

The picture that has been painted about China is that it is a country where the government rules by the sword; where the State tramples on citizens’ rights at will; and where such democratic ideals as freedom of the press, the rule of law; and independence of the judiciary are almost non-existent.

It has also been claimed that since China is a one party State where the State owns and/or controls almost all the means of production, it is only the State which is rich and citizens live in abject poverty and squalor while a few in the echelons of power drown in wealth.

These few who live in lavish wealth, it is argued, corruptly syphon state resources without sanction because they are either in government or are prominent members of the Communist Party of China (CPC).  

China, it is argued, through heavy industrialization, pursues economic growth at the expense of its people’s health by recklessly exposing them to high levels of air pollution with no measures to mitigate the health risks.

These ills, it is argued, are an indication that the Communist and/or Socialist political ideology which China follows cannot succeed in today’s world order and that Capitalism is the ideal political ideology for today’s world. China, it is predicted, like such other Communist and/or Socialist countries as the former Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela, will fail.  

So, when I visited China, though it was only for about ten days, I expected to see these ills manifest themselves in the Chinese people’s daily lives and in life generally, including the environment in the literal sense of the word.

In this three part series, I make a review of the aforesaid allegations about China, which some call the ‘Chinese paradox’, arguing that given its history and economic might China should not be suffering such socio-economic and political ills.

In this article I discuss air pollution, the rule of law, in particular equality before the law, and some elements of China’s economic growth. In the next article I finalise the discussion on the rule of law and China’s economic growth.

In the final article, I discuss China’s political construct and political party system and make a critique of whether or not it will enable China to achieve the ‘New Normal’ which it envisages to achieve through its 13th Five-Year Plan for 2016 – 2020.

It is in that article that issues of respect for human rights and such freedoms as freedom  of the press and speech will be considered against such a guideline as ‘opening up’ which China has set for itself as a barometer for its “New Normal.”     

First, air pollution. According to Bloomberg’s report of 13th August 2015 “…air pollution is killing an average of 4,000 people a day in China, according to researchers who cited coal-burning as the likely principal cause…”

The report continues to say “… deaths related to the main pollutant, tiny particles known as PM2.5s that can trigger heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and asthma, total 1.6 million a year, or 17 percent of China’s mortality level, according to the study by Berkeley Earth, an independent research group funded largely by educational grants…”

While I have not ascertained the veracity of Bloomberg’s report, it is incontrovertible that air pollution is a problem in China, especially in the capital, Beijing. It is not, however, true that the government is not doing anything to arrest the problem because of pursuit of economic growth.  

According to the BBC’s report of 16th November 2011, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme, Achim Steiner, when in Beijing to launch the "green economy" report, said “… hundreds of thousands of people were affected by premature death and respiratory illnesses because of poor air quality…”

However, Steiner praised China stating that “… the government is planning policies that could result in a cleaner, greener China… It is now the world's biggest investor – spending $49bn last year – on renewable energy, a figure that will grow over the next five years.”

Therefore, to suggest that the Chinese government is not doing anything to address air pollution is devoid of truth. We visited Yonker Environmental Protection Company in the Hunan Province. The company’s sole mandate is to develop environmental protection solutions to address, among others, air pollution in China.

At a State level, China has recently signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 Degrees Celsius and to strive for 1.5 Degrees Celsius.

Also, according to PWC’s Global Annual Review 2015, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) adopted the blueprint for the 13th Five-Year Plan  for 2016 – 2020 which underlines five guiding principles, being (i) Innovation, (ii) Coordination, (iii) Opening up (iv) Sharing and (v) Green development. With respect to the latter, China intends to vigorously promote environmental protection and low carbon growth.

Second, the rule of law. Of course, I could not have experienced the respect or lack thereof for the rule of law given the few days I spent in China, but a cursory review of the literature suggests that at least in the area of equality before the law China is not doing as badly as alleged.

According to The Telegraph’s online edition of 3rd July 2016, “China punished almost 300,000 officials for graft last year as President Xi Jinping continued to wage a high-profile war against corruption…Ten centrally appointed and administered officials were given drastic demotions for serious violations against the Communist Party’s code of conduct.”

The paper continues to say “one of China's most high-profile former officials, Zhou Yongkang, has been sentenced to life imprisonment on bribery charges and for leaking state documents to an individual…” Of course, the whole world knows about the 2013 trial and subsequent conviction of Shandong Province’s rising star and one of the most powerful men in the CPC, Bo Xilai.

I was particularly impressed when, during a workshop on law-based governance of the country held in Changsha, it emerged that China has adopted a legal system with Chinese characteristics in terms of which the people are involved in dispensing justice.

Not only that. The law is demystified and citizens are trained in basic principles of the law from an early age. In addition, basic knowledge of the law is a requirement for employment in the civil service. Access to justice is also ensured through a State run Legal Aid system and a requirement for all attorneys to do pro deo and pro bono work for the public good and charitable causes respectively.

Third, China’s economic development. One of China’s success stories is its economic development which some claim was achieved at the expense of human rights, e.g. child labour and employees being subjected to appalling working conditions. I will discuss this claim in the next article.

According to  “…the Chinese economy advanced at an annual rate of 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2016, compared to a 6.8 percent expansion in the previous period … While it is the weakest growth since the first quarter of 2009, fixed-asset investment, industrial output, retail sales and new yuan loans all increased more than estimated in March, suggesting the economy is accelerating…”

It continues to say “… GDP Annual Growth Rate in China averaged 9.85 percent from 1989 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 15.40 percent in the first quarter of 1993 and a record low of 3.80 percent in the fourth quarter of 1990…”
On the other hand, the GDP Growth Rate in the United States is reported to “… have averaged 3.23 percent from 1947 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 16.90 percent in the first quarter of 1950 and a record low of -10 percent in the first quarter of 1958.”   

Clearly, China is doing something right. In terms of industrialization, infrastructural development and Information Communications Technology, China is ahead of time. For instance, because of the highly developed railway network and the high speed trains we travelled distances of over one thousand kilometers in about five hours. Automated self-service machines are used when applying for such documents as national identity cards and residence permits.

Equivalents of our Village Development Committees(VDCs) have offices and run integrated facilities with day care centers for children and the elderly, rehabilitation facilities for those living with disabilities, feeding facilities for the poor and the elderly, libraries and security and surveillance control centers, e.t.c.

Such factories as car manufacturing factories, air conditioning factories and electronic equipment factories are in multitudes. With respect to the latter, according to Wikipedia “… China's mobile phone industry … has a high growth rate, raising its share on the global mobile phone market. During 2007, 600 million mobile phones were made in China which accounted for over 50% of the global production…”

China has also invested heavily in Agriculture. As one travels around the country endless farming fields can be witnessed, with evident use of highly advanced farming equipment and technologies. In hotels, there is a wide variety of traditional Chinese dishes of agricultural products as well as sea food.

One of the areas we visited was the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center (CNHRRDC) in Changsha. Established in 1984, and headed by agricultural scientist and educator, Professor Yuan Longping, dubbed the "Father of Hybrid Rice",  the CNHRRDC's mandate is to eradicate malnutrition and poverty through the development and distribution of new strains of hybrid rice. The CNHRRDC carries out research and development on hybrid rice.

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting


Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness


The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.


The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.


Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “” or visit

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “” or visit

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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