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Geo-Strategic Trend

China Built Another Railway in Kenya

On October 16th, a new railway was put into operation in Kenya. China built another railway at a cost of US$1.5 billion. The track connected the capital city Nairobi with Naivasha, a small town in the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. The Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the opening ceremony of the railway.

The railway is an extension of a rail line built earlier to connect Nairobi and Mombasa, the second-largest city in the country. The Nairobi-Mombasa railway, which cost US$3.2 billion, started operating in 2017. China funded and built that as well.

Kenya’s railway development has been part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. It includes multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects designed to enhance overland and maritime trade between China and Europe, Asia and Africa.

Kenyatta was re-elected in 2017 for anther five-year term. He pledged to develop infrastructure in Kenya, and railway construction has always been his favorite project. The Kenyan government has been borrowing in order to fund infrastructure projects. The national total public debt is currently about 55 percent of GDP. It was at 42 percent when Kenyatta took office in 2013.

Source: Voice of America, October 16, 2019

LTN: Kazakhstan President Ordered Investigation of One Belt One Road Project

Major Taiwanese news network Liberty Times Network (LTN) recently reported that Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered an investigation into the US$1.5 billion light rail project under China’s One Belt One Road initiative. The project was supposed to be completed in 2017. Not only is it still not completed; it is financially dead. The Tokayev administration said that the project “should never even have been established.” Also, it was financially “suspicious.” Tokayev asked for an anti-corruption investigation that would carefully examine the officials in the previous administration. The previous CEO of the light rail company has already fled overseas due to corruption charges. Kazakhstan is the first country on the west side of China to have joined the One Belt One Road initiative. Observers have widely expressed the belief that Tokayev’s public position may damage the image of China’s One Belt One Road grand plan.

Source: LTN, October 8, 2019

DW Chinese: US Competitiveness Rank Fell to Second Place

Deutsche Welle Chinese Edition recently reported that The World Economic Forum (WEF) just released its annual Global Competitiveness Report. The United States fell from number one to number two this year. The top five globally are Singapore, the United States, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. China ranked number 28 globally and number 8 in the Asia-Pacific region. Compared to last year, Germany’s rank suffered a very big decline globally, from the third to the seventh place. This was mainly due to the low implementation rate of fiber network deployment (number 72) and mobile bandwidth (number 58). The slide in the U.S. rank was primarily the result of trade tariffs and the worry about their long-term investment impact. However, Singapore’s move to the top was largely due to the increased port benefits at the time of a trade war between the two largest economies. The WEF report is based on data in categories of infrastructure, health, the labor market, the financial system, market openness, and the ecosystem for innovation.

Source: DW Chinese, October 9, 2019

HKET: Apple Removed HK Police Tracking App Again

Hong Kong Economic Times (HKET), the leading financial daily in Hong Kong, recently reported that Apple once again unlisted the popular app from its AppStore. The app tracks, in real-time, the police activities around Hong Kong. It’s highly valuable at a time when the police are brutally cracking down on demonstrators in the city who are demanding freedom and democracy. Apple earlier unlisted the app once already, citing legal reasons. However, critics around the globe pointed out the decision was not aligned with Apple’s image of defending the rights of freedom-loving people. Soon after that Apple put the app back into the AppStore, which caused the Mainland Chinese media such as People’s Daily to issue major warnings. The Chinese official newspaper asked Apple, in an open commentary, to think really hard on whether this was good for its business or not. Apple then removed the app for the second time from the AppStore. The explanation was that it was supporting the Hong Kong police. The app has remained unavailable since then.

Source: Hong Kong Economic Times, October 10, 2019

RFI: Chinese Official Media Didn’t Mention Thousands of Indian Students Wearing Xi Jinping Face Masks during Welcome Ceremony

Xi Jinping’s visit to India received a lot of attention. In China, the media covered Xi’s visit except for one welcome ceremony when two thousand Indian students wore Xi Jinping face masks. On October 11, Xi Jinping went to Chennai to meet with Indian Prime Minister Modi. During the welcoming ceremony, two thousand local students wore face masks with Xi Jinping’s picture on it while they formed Xi Jinping’s name in Chinese characters. Even though it was such a grand welcoming ceremony, China’s official media did not mention the scene. One of the reasons could be related to Hong Kong’s facial mask law. The Hong Kong authorities have put forth an effort to ban facial masks and people wearing masks are the image of Hong Kong protestors. The Indian students wearing a mask that had the image of Xi Jinping smiling on it might not go over well given the current circumstances in Hong Kong.

It was not easy for Xi Jinping to visit India. China and India have differences: a long-standing unresolved border issue, as well as Kashmir’s territorial disputes, and China’s close ties with Pakistan who is an enemy of India. This is the second time that Xi Jinping and Modi have met. The location was Chennai. Their talk avoided Kashmir and the atmosphere of the talks was still peaceful. Modi even said that the India-China relationship has begun a “new era.”

Source: Radio France Internationale, October 13, 2019

The 10th World Chinese Language Media Forum

On October 12, the 10th World Chinese Language Media Forum was held in Shijiazhuang city of Hebei province. The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office under the State Council, the provincial government of Hebei Province, and the China News Agency sponsored the event. According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, more than 600 from senior management along with influential media leaders from over 400 Chinese media outlets in 61 countries and regions attended the forum.

Shen Yueyue, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress gave a speech at the opening ceremony. She said that the Chinese language media “have made important contributions to shaping China’s image, spreading Chinese culture, and promoting exchanges between China and foreign countries.” Shen hoped that “Chinese media would take advantage of having access to both Chinese and foreign resources to tell the China story well.”

Source: Xinhua, October 12, 2019