Thursday, April 21, 2011

China in Kenya

On Wednesday April 20, 2011 HE Mr. Li Changchun a member of standing committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China gave a keynote address at the University of Nairobi. The key note address was titled; ‘Strengthening China-Africa Friendship & Co-operation to build a better tomorrow’.

As the name denotes the speech was intended for the whole of Africa. Considering that China has come up with a policy of engaging the whole of Africa under the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) initiative that predates early 2005.
So this was a major scoop for Kenya considering this kind of lectures would have perhaps been done in Egypt. Now that there is Uprising in the Arab world Kenya is now the reference point for China-Africa Co-operation.

The run up to the Public lecture saw the University of Nairobi turned into a small ‘China Town’ of sorts. An exhibition was put up in record time from Monday April 18, 2011 to late Tuesday April 19, 2011. The exhibition: ‘As Others See US-China in the Eyes of African Artists’ was one of the best exhibitions put up by Chinese I have come to see to date.
It has around 30 paintings from 15 artists from all over Africa (Mainly the stations where China is HIGHLY present). Some of these countries and artists exhibited are Lesotho (Thakane Lerotholi), Ethiopia (Daniel Asfaw Tadesse), Zimbabwe (Tonely Ngwenya), Zambia (Gordon Shamulenge), Cape Verde (Bento Oliveira), Senegal (Amadou Camara Gueye), Tanzania (David Hezekia Mzuguno), Cameroon (Irene Mejane Epie), Tunisia (Mohammed Regaieg), Mauritius (Pascal Jean Francois Gaspard) and Kenya (a fine arts lecturer from KU).

The public Lecture was commencing at 2.40pm and we had to be seated by 2pm. The security was tight but did not have the signature hullabaloo of the Americans. The Chinese perhaps a cognizant of this fact and do NOT like rubbing feathers in their hosts country. The University was awash with banners/posters going by ‘Warmly welcome HE Mr. Li Changchun to UON’ and ‘warmly welcome HE Mr. Li Changchun to CIUON’.

There were lots of Chinese in the Taifa hall auditorium taking photos with high end user camera’s (A sign of the high purchasing power of the Chinese in Africa).

At exactly 14.40hrs HE Li Changchun arrived to the hall accompanied by Hon. Helen Sambili (Minister for Higher Education, Science & Technology-Acting), Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, Chair of the University Council Prof. John Simba, The V.C. Prof. Magoha, PS Prof. Kiamba and the Chinese itinerary of HE Mr. Li.

The Principal CHSS Prof Mbeche made some opening remarks and welcomed HE Mr. Li to give the Keynote Speech.

HE Mr. Li began his speech by bowing to the audience and the high table. He then followed that his visit was meant to promote get together between the people of China and Africa. He extended the warm wishes of his people to the brotherly people of Kenya and Africa. He observed that Kenya was a friend in East Africa and a strong partner.

He noted that since the last presidents delegation in Beijing China had honored its end of commitments to Africa despite harsh economic times. In total China have over 500 projects in Africa worth around 30 billion.

He also mentioned that China and Africa have been able to maintain the strong bond because they have fought colonialism, advocated Independence. He noted that China was a country that respects countries despite their sizes (Large or small) and has been against bulling from western governments. China also advocates for equality and their relationship has provided tangible benefits to both parties.

HE Mr. Li noted that his country is looking for deep and pragmatic friendship from Africa and hinted that a pragmatic strategic relationship was on the works from Beijing.
He also suggested the following four points to Africa which they should cultivate with China;

  1. Enhance Political Relationship with China
On this he encouraged and high level exchange between members of Kenyan Political Parties and Chinese Communist Party. On his visit to Kenya he mention of meeting the President, the Vice President and the Speaker of the National Assembly.
He invited the high level members in their respective parties to visit China and learn a thing or two from the Communist Party of China.
He also mentioned that his country China was looking to cultivate high level friendship among members of government, legislature and political parties.

  1. Promote Economic being and reciprocity
China was joining Africa in mutual trade opportunities. Some of the areas China is looking to invest is Agriculture, Medical care etc. China was looking to promote development of Africa as a whole.
On his part Mr. Li shared with us that China was encouraging capable and trustworthy Chinese Companies to work in Africa. This he said will contribute to employment and economic well being to Africa.
China will also provide assistance to Africa in the following areas;
    • Education
    • Agriculture
    • Healthcare
    • Energy Conservation & Environmental Protection
During his last day in Kenya he will over see the signing of a concession loan worth 750,000 Chinese Ruan. Some of these monies will over see the construction of a referral hospital in Kenyatta University.

  1. Encourage People to People Exchange
This he noted will foster and deepen friendship through cultural exchanges. He personally was going to encourage the interaction of Chinese youngsters, women, media, institutions of higher learning/academics etc with Africa.
He doubled the number of scholarship China had offered to Kenyan Students from 32 to 64 on this day.
On tourism he directed China TV, CCTV to produce more documentaries about Kenya especially the Rift Valley so that more Chinese tourists can come and visit the country. This he noted will contribute to lowering of the deficit that exist between Kenya-China.

  1. Strengthen Communication (Consultation & Coordination)
This is to enable the developing country have one voice in the international community. He looked forward to more consultation especially from African Union, AU to come up with common stand points on the following issues;
    • Sovereignty
    • Security
    • Territorial Integrity
    • Food Security

Present Day China
He noted that the communist party will be celebrating its 90th Anniversary. He noted under the 90 years the party had undergone revolution, contestation and reform (last 30years of reform & opening up).
Under the last 30 years he noted the party had adopted ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’.
HE Mr. Li seemed to be a realist person in that he noted as much as people are talking about China being a super power there was a huge discrepancy in its GNP Vs Per Capita income. He briefly talked about the Delegates Coference in March and how china was adopting a new blue print for the next 5 years whose theme or backdrop is ‘scientific development’.
He noted that development of the world and that of China was interlinked and that no one should fear China as it is seeking a harmonious world of lasting peace and prosperity.

He correctly pointed out that most of the audience were young people and he quoted Mao Zedong ‘World belongs to you (youth) and us (old)’.
On a light note he said the youth present made him feel young and he was relishing the university years (40 years ago!).
He noted a lot of volunteers were coming to Africa and China was institutionalizing this and we should expect more Confucius Institutes in Africa.

Bottom Line
HE Mr. Li Changchun seemed to be genuine about his message he was delivering on behalf of his people. However, there was no Q&A which was removed at the last minute due to ‘time’ constraints.

NB: The lecture was given in Chinese with an interpreter translating it to English.
Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China Central Committee's Political Bureau dances with students from Nairobi University, in Nairobi, Kenya, April 20, 2011. Li gave a speech at Nairobi University on Wednesday.(Xinhua/Zhao Yingquan)

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