The cover picture that hits our eyes here is that of General Huang Ming, the new commander of the People’s Liberation Army, (PLA)’s Central Theatre Command. That’s the guy in charge of the military infrastructure that protects Beijing, China’s capital city.
Why might his picture be important news item for an online platform with a Nigerian bias?
One reason for that is the way his picture speaks to the diversity of power. The common sense thinking about power is that it is up there, concentrated in one person or a centre or a camp. Yes, it is true no one will rise to this sort of position in the Chinese military and be still self-willed to run any agenda outside the Chinese Communist Party structure. Still, can anyone imagine the enormity of the intellectual, professional and technical power concentrated in a holder of this post in which there is no allowance for mistakes, misperception or miscalculation? The training, the grooming and the ideological reflexes must be tremendous.
Two, it draws the attention of other countries struggling to be anything in the world how much they still have to do. It is comparable to what the late Dr. Stanley Macebuh said after paying a visit to The New York Times in the 1980s. At the end of his visit, he declared he could run that paper from his bedroom. His hosts could not understand how anyone could run the paper from his or her bedroom. Macebuh explained that there is so much of the job that were touch button operations. He was drawing a contrast with Nigeria where, without the GSM then, it took three days for a reporter to send a story from, say, Maiduguri to the newsroom in Lagos. Most military commanders from Africa in particular are likely to say the same thing in military terms to their hosts in a country such as China, US, Moscow, Paris and even Delhi and Islamabad and so on. In other words, this cover picture is also a reminder to some of us of the challenges of being anything in the world.
Of course, any student of elementary Political Science would most likely start by saying it is a most muscular manifestation of the concept of the state. Such a student ought to score an ‘A’ because that is true by present understanding.
International Political Sociology scholars would, of course, insist that a commander of this stature for a great power speaks to all of humanity about what the concept of security is all about. Theirs would be a most contentious entry point but who can successfully challenge their argument that security is what the most powerful say it is? In international security, for instance, these handful of military commanders and their political heads decide what is a threat and what is not. Thus Ukraine is considered a threat but not the DRC which has been the site of horrific bloodletting since 2012. Oh yes!
So, when next you come across a picture of this type, take another look. It might be speaking to you rather than something far away from you. No one needs a PhD to develop the skills for ‘reading’ and connecting with the geopolitics of the everyday!