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As Trump's America loses its top-dog status in the world, China takes over…


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: August 07, 2017, 11:59:15 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Ethiopia has a lot riding on its new, Chinese-built railroad to the sea

The line is key to the government's plan to lure foreign investors
but also showcases the problems besetting that effort.


By PAUL SCHEMM | 8:17AM EDT - Monday, October 03, 2016

A worker walks past a train at the Adama train station of Oromia region during a media guided tour of the Ethio-Djibouti Railways route in Adama, central Ethiopia on September 24th, 2016. — Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters.
A worker walks past a train at the Adama train station of Oromia region during a media guided tour of the Ethio-Djibouti Railways route in Adama,
central Ethiopia on September 24th, 2016. — Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters.


ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — The sleek, white train glides through the hilly Ethiopian countryside, the first to travel this route in nearly a decade.

The contrast is stark as the new, Chinese-made electric train passes horse-drawn carriages, oxen hauling plows and crowds of curious village children. But soon it crosses over a gleaming six-lane expressway and snakes past a row of newly erected wind turbines — all Chinese-built and, like the train, part of Ethiopia's ongoing effort to remake itself.

The standard-gauge rail line, which will be officially inaugurated this week, stretches 470 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the port of Djibouti, which handles 90 percent of the landlocked country's trade and is its main window to the outside world. Seventy percent of the $3.4 billion project is financed by China's Export-Import Bank, and it is one of the biggest of the mega-projects that Ethiopia says will transform its largely agricultural economy — once known for little more than famine and coffee — into East Africa's manufacturing hub.

“Our economy is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and the world, so at the end of the day, when the train is connected to the port and transporting that much freight, … it will add value,” said Mekonnen Getachew, the railway's project manager, speaking after a recent trial run for journalists.

Between 2005 and 2015, Ethiopia's economy grew at an average rate of 10 percent a year, and the country took pride in its reputation as Africa's latest success story. But that is starting to unravel, with the worst drought in 50 years halving the growth rate and widespread social unrest erupting in two of the country's most populous regions.

A finish-line protest at this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro by an Ethio­pian marathon runner alerted the world to the country's internal problems.

The drought's effect has been so dire that the new railroad was pressed into service in November, before construction was even completed, to get emergency imports of wheat closer to famine-stricken areas.

Without the train, Ethiopia's imports and exports must travel between Djibouti and Addis Ababa on a winding, pitted road plied by more than 1,500 trucks daily, a trip that takes two days. When the railroad is fully operational, travel time for freight will be cut to just 12 hours — and 10 hours for the faster passenger trains.

The new line actually replaces a narrow-gauge railroad built by France starting in 1894, when it controlled Djibouti. The French left behind elegant, arcaded train stations, inscribed “Chemin de Fer Djibouto-Ethiopien”, in the heart of Addis Ababa and in the eastern city of Dire Dawa, but the line was largely defunct by the mid-2000s, a victim of war and neglect.

The century-old tracks can still be seen in places from the new train, but the Chinese elected to build all new stations. The palatial multistory buildings stand well outside cities and towns, suggesting that the new line will be used more for freight than for passengers.




The rail link to Djibouti will be just the beginning, the government says. Plans have been made for 1,500 more miles of track to criss-cross the country, including to its borders with Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan — all part of an African Union goal of once more uniting the continent by rail.

Ethiopia is a lot closer to achieving its part of this goal than most African countries, largely because of the massive support and financing from China.

According to the China Global Investment tracker, Beijing has poured more than $20.6 billion into Ethiopia since 2005, much of it in low-interest loans to build infrastructure, such as roads, rail lines and telecommunication.

On the train, with its clean, blond-wood interiors, loudspeakers announce the stations in three languages: Amharic, English and Chinese. All the attendants are Chinese.

For its first five years, the new railway will be managed by a Chinese company to allow time to train enough Ethiopians to take over running it.

The train line is a key part of the government's strategy to industrialize the country by luring foreign investment — and the 70-mile trip last weekend between Addis Ababa and Adama attests to the plan's success so far. From the window, the view includes not just traditional farms but also greenhouses marking the country's burgeoning commercial flower industry and distant plumes of smoke from new factories.

Chinese cement and shoe companies, Indian painting and textile firms, and numerous Turkish enterprises have set up shop here in recent years, attracted by Ethiopia's cheap labor and electricity — and eventually, the government hopes, by its superior infrastructure.

Foreign direct investment has grown from just $108 million in 2009 to an estimated $2 billion in 2016.

A report by the World Bank last year, though, warned that Ethiopia still had far to go in its quest to move labor from agriculture to industrial jobs. About 80 percent of the jobs in the country are still in farming. Meanwhile, unemployment is at 17 percent nationally and at 24 percent in the capital.

The economy remains closed and state-controlled, and the small and medium enterprises that would probably produce the most jobs are having trouble getting financing. Even foreign firms, which are given preferential treatment, complain about bureaucracy, red tape and the difficulty of repatriating profits and acquiring hard currency.




The new factories are also being built on confiscated farm land, which helped spark the protests in the Oromo region that began in November and later spread north to the Amhara region. International rights groups estimate that some 500 people have been killed in the repression that ensued.

Just on Sunday, police fired tear gas at a political protest taking place at an Oromo cultural festival in Bishoftu, the next station on the train line after Addis Ababa, and provoked a stampede that killed 52 according to the government — with the opposition saying twice as many died.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, last week described the government response as an “intense and somewhat harsh crackdown.”

“We think it could get worse if it's not addressed — sooner rather than later,” she told Voice of America.

The unrest poses a threat to Ethiopia's vision of foreign-driven industrialization.

On August 29th, in the Amhara region, mobs attacked at least seven flower farms belonging to Israeli, Italian, Indian and Belgian companies. In a statement on its website, the Dutch-owned Esmeralda Farms said its entire $11.2 million investment, including machinery and greenhouses, was destroyed.

In the first-person statement, the unnamed author laments how Ethiopia was once a safe country.

“Last year I traveled 24 times to Ethiopia to start up the farm,” the statement said. “It was one of the most peaceful countries in Africa.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Dozens killed in Ethiopia after police use tear gas on protest at festival

 • Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa won a medal then protested. Can he go home?

 • Ethiopia doesn't want you to know these things are happening

 • A year after Obama's visit, Ethiopia is in turmoil

 • Ethiopia confronts worst ethnic turmoil in years


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/ethiopia-has-a-lot-riding-on-its-new-chinese-built-railroad-to-the-sea/2016/10/03/c069d4da-84be-11e6-b57d-dd49277af02f_story.html
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2017, 11:59:32 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

China says it built a railway in Africa out of altruism,
but it's more strategic than that


Calculated Generosity: Rail line in Ethiopia shows a deeper Chinese investment.

By JONATHAN KAIMAN | 9:55AM PDT - Friday, August 04, 2017

The new train station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is one terminus of the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, which extends to the port of Djibouti. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
The new train station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is one terminus of the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, which extends to the port of Djibouti.
 — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.


AFRICA'S PAST is the mildewed train station in central Addis Ababa, where locomotives sit gutted and rusted tracks vanish in the grass. The line was once the greatest in Africa; built by France in the 1910s, it ran more than 450 miles northeast to neighboring Djibouti, where the desert meets the sea.

Africa's future is the new station a short drive away, a yellow-and-white edifice with grand pilasters, arched windows and a broad flagstone square. It's connected to a $4-billion, 470-mile-long rail line, the first electrified cross-border rail system in Africa.

The new rail network was built by China's state-owned rail and construction firms, which were eager to promote their investment in Africa's future. Red banners running down the towering facade of the new train station declare, in bold Chinese characters, “Long live Sino-African friendship”.

China has described its railroad adventures in Africa as an exercise in altruism.

Yet for China, investing in Ethiopia — one of the world's poorest countries — is more strategic than philanthropic. With U.S. engagement on the continent at a low ebb, economically and politically, China sees an opportunity to improve transportation through the Horn of Africa and make itself the dominant economic partner on a continent that is about to see an explosion of new cheap labor, cellphone users and urban consumers.



The Ethiopia-Djibouti rail line was once the greatest in Africa. Built by France in the 1910s,
it ran more than 450 miles from landlocked Ethiopia's capital,
Addis Ababa, to the neighboring coastal country of Djibouti.


For several decades, China's African investments were aimed primarily at creating political allies across the continent. Beijing invested heavily in hearts-and-minds projects such as soccer stadiums and hospitals. But a significant change is underway. China now sees Africa as an important economic opportunity. It has been pouring money into infrastructure across the continent, and this week it opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti.

By 2034, Africa is expected to have 1.1 billion workers, the world's largest working-age population, according to economic forecasts. By 2025, the continent's consumers will be spending $2 trillion a year.

“My vision is, by 2020, Ethiopia’s economy will be among the world's mid-level economies,” said Mekonnen Getachew, a project manager at the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, which oversees the rail line. “The rail will make every economic activity easier. Our economy will boom…. This railway is making Ethiopia great again!”




The Chinese march through Africa has come as U.S. engagement on the continent has been dialed down to its lowest level in years.

President Trump has barely mentioned Africa in his public statements, and his “America first” rhetoric, some Africa experts say, is pushing the continent further into China's embrace.

While Chinese companies have looked to make money in Africa and share with Africans some of the jobs, tax revenues, infrastructure and spinoff development that go along with new investment, the U.S. has focused on improving African lives through aid, social programs and conditional loans.

Western companies have often been reluctant to participate in African infrastructure projects for fear of overwhelming maintenance costs. In many cases, they could simply build new projects more cheaply.

“Americans still see Africa as a place where there are a lot of presidents for life, wars and famines,” said Reuben Brigety, dean at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to the African Union. “They don't understand what's happening on the continent economically and demographically.”

In Ethiopia, the country's rail executives said China seems more attuned to Africa's needs.

“China doesn't give simple aid,” Getachew said. “They do give loans. You work, and you return back. That's a good policy. Aid is just making slavery.”

For decades, the China-Africa relationship was almost entirely transactional: China gave African states easy loans, enabling them to build bridges and stadiums; in return, those states gave China access to natural resources, such as oil, timber and nickel, fueling China's economic boom.

But as China's foreign policy grows more sophisticated — and more ambitious — that era is ending, and the relationship is growing much deeper, with extraordinary implications for the continent's future.

Chinese nationals in Africa — once a scattered cohort of officials, mining executives and construction crews — are being joined by tourists, peacekeepers, poachers, soldiers and small-time entrepreneurs. Together, they are generating both riches and new political clout for Beijing and helping establish China as the world's newest superpower.

For Ethiopia, China's infrastructure expenditures are an essential element in plans to emerge from a long cycle of drought, poverty, famine and war. The railroad is a start.

Ethiopian officials say the line will eventually grow into a 3,000-mile rail network that stretches across neighboring Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya — where China recently completed another railway, for $3.8 billion.

The new Ethiopia-Djibouti line's trains are near-identical copies of the carriages that traversed China before the government, about a decade ago, began swapping them out for high-speed rail. They have the same ramrod-straight seat backs; the same boiling water dispensers in nearly every car, essential for instant noodles and green tea.

Ethiopia relies on Djibouti's ports for 90% of its foreign trade. But since the old railroad collapsed in 2009 after decades of decline, the landlocked country's billions of dollars of imports and exports — fuel, coffee, livestock — have had to travel by truck, a three-to-four-day journey along rutted, dusty roads.

The new rail line, which will be fully operational by October, will cut the trip to 12 hours.

“The coaches are very new. It's electric. It's very comfortable. You enjoy the scenery along the corridor,” said Yehualaeshet Jemere, a top official with the Ethiopian Railways Corporation. “It's like a dream come true for us.”

Here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, China is driving an urban renaissance. It has built whole neighborhoods, a $475-million light-railway system and even the African Union headquarters, a $200-million complex that dominates the city's skyline. In the country's hinterlands, it has constructed several industrial parks, anticipating a manufacturing boom.

Beijing's first overseas military base had its official opening on Tuesday near the terminus of the new rail line in Djibouti. The 90-acre complex includes housing for thousands of soldiers and berths for commercial and military vessels.




But Beijing's reach already stretches well beyond Djibouti and Ethiopia. China surpassed the U.S. as Africa's largest trading partner in 2009, and the numbers continue to climb. (Foreign direct investment has dropped in recent years, along with declining global resource prices.)

China stands to gain tremendously from its investments. Chinese businesses, hampered by slowing growth at home, are increasingly treating the continent as a major overseas market.

In Beijing, the political will driving such projects extends to the top. Through the “Belt and Road Initiative”, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, China is funding $1 trillion of infrastructure and trade projects throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In December 2015, Xi met with African leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa, and pledged $60 billion for development projects across the continent over the next three years.

“Today's Africa is a continent of encouraging and dynamic development,” he said in a speech. “Such a momentum of independent development is unstoppable.”


Zhang Huarong, chief executive of Huajian Shoe Co., inspects the production lines. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Zhang Huarong, chief executive of Huajian Shoe Co., inspects the production lines. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.

In the Chinese-owned Huajian Shoe Company Factory in Addis Ababa, more than 6,000 workers build shoes for American brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess and Lucky. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
In the Chinese-owned Huajian Shoe Company Factory in Addis Ababa, more than 6,000 workers build shoes for American brands
such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess and Lucky. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.


Tthe end of the shift at the factory. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Tthe end of the shift at the factory. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.

In a Chinese-built industrial park along the new rail line, in a Chinese-run factory, thousands of employees of Huajian Shoe Co. — all of them Ethiopian — work 13-hour days gluing, inspecting and boxing women's shoes. Above them hang propaganda posters in Chinese, English and Amharic, Ethiopia's national language, imploring workers to “win honor for the country” and to “absolutely obey”.

Zhang Huarong, the company's chief executive, wandered through the immaculate rows of workers on an inspection tour, a crowd of subordinates trailing behind him. “Africa is too poor,” he said. “It needs entrepreneurs like me to balance out the global economy, so that more people can live a happy life.”

Zhang was proud of his Ethiopian investments. The new rail will knock shipping prices from $5,000 per container to $3,000, he said. And for the cost of one Chinese worker, Zhang can hire five Ethiopians. He plans to employ 50,000 within eight years.

“Ethiopia is like China was 40 years ago,” he said. “Even though this place is pretty tough, we think within five or 10 years, its economic development will be pretty good.”

Every pair of shoes produced in Huajian's factories, in China and Ethiopia, is exported to the U.S.; its clients include the labels Tommy Hilfiger, Guess and Lucky.

As the sun set at the factory, about a dozen Ethiopian workers lined up in formation, closing out the workday. An Ethiopian manager waved his arms, as if conducting a choir, and together they sang a Chinese military anthem from the 1950s.

“Unity is strength. Unity is strength,” they sang in Mandarin. “Open fire on the fascists. Bring death to all non-democratic systems.”



At the Chinese company Huajian Shoe Co.'s factory in Addis Ababa, thousands of employees
work long days gluing, inspecting and boxing women’s shoes,
all of them bound for the U.S. market.


Adama, a city of 300,000 people 60 miles down the rail line from Addis Ababa, is preparing for a boom — but not everyone considers it progress.

Small blue auto rickshaws jostle for road space with hulking Chinese trucks, and rows of half-built concrete houses stretch up into the plains. At the end of a half-built road is the city's new train station — another massive edifice, its interior covered in dust.

Since construction began six years ago, the price of land in Adama has increased sevenfold to about $140 per square foot, said Shambel Worku, the station's manager.

Yet progress is slow, and locals are suffering, highlighting the hidden costs of rapid economic development. In late January, the road was still a mess of pylons and ditches. And the machine-gun-toting security guards overseeing the empty station lacked water, forcing them to walk hours for a drink.



The Chinese-built railway could bring an economic renaissance to Adama, a city of
300,000 people 60 miles down the rail line from Addis Ababa.


Farmers in Lugo Village, an impoverished cluster of slapdash houses a few hundred yards from the station, said the rail project has made life unbearable, in part because locals can't cross the rail construction zone, but must go around it.

It “divides the village into two,” said Tashoma Kafani, 72. Before construction began, he said, he could walk to his barley and maize fields in about two hours; now, he needs about five.

“We have repeatedly contacted the local authorities,” he said. “We have been expressing our problems and voicing our concern about the absence of a bridge. But so far, they haven't been responsive.”

As for the Chinese planners who designed the project, Kafani can't even imagine how to communicate with them.


Central Djibouti City. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Central Djibouti City. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.

The rail line crosses into Djibouti about 360 miles to the northeast. It ends in the capital, Djibouti City, where, on the western edge of its main port, China is building the new military base — an unprecedented projection of power for China's rapidly expanding army.

Djibouti is a former French colony of 850,000 people, and its capital — a patchy grid of dusty streets and sun-bleached Moorish buildings — feels like an island, hemmed in by endless miles of massive, walled-off foreign compounds.

China's base is about eight miles from Camp Lemonnier, America's only full-scale base in Africa. France, Germany, Italy and Japan also maintain bases in Djibouti, both for its political stability — its president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, has ruled the country since 1999 — and its proximity to terrorism hot spots in Africa and the Middle East.

Chinese officials call the base a “supply center”, intended primarily to support China's anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden — a crucial shipping route — and protect its commercial interests.

“People are very sensitive about [the Djibouti base], but I don't think that's fair,” said Xu Guangyu, a retired People's Liberation Army major general in Beijing. The U.S. maintains hundreds of overseas bases, he said. “We in China think it's silly, to have so many overseas military bases. We have built only one supply center. So why all the speculation about this news?”

Peter Dutton, professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, said China's new base says more about the country's economic heft than its military ambitions. “What we're talking about is fundamentally geoeconomics, rather than geo-strategy,” he said.

On the other hand, China is “walking away from some of the premises that have undergirded its foreign policy for 60 years,” he said. “They're beginning to act like a great power which takes a role in international politics and security. And that's a fairly significant change for China.”

China has given Djibouti's government billions of dollars in loans and investment, helping fund new ports, two airports and a pipeline for drinking water from Ethiopia. It's also planning a series of power plants and a tax-free manufacturing zone. Nearly a quarter of Djibouti's population lives beneath the poverty line — its unemployment rate in 2014 was 60% — and locals say the country desperately needs the help.

Djibouti inaugurated the rail line in January in a mass celebration featuring Djiboutian celebrities and African heads of state. By early February, the line hadn't yet opened, and the festive atmosphere had died down, but locals were feeling hopeful nonetheless.

At the rail line's penultimate station — another empty monolith — Degan Mohamed, 31, stood alone but for five security guards, sweeping up dust. She was hired as a janitor in October, her first-ever job.

“I had no alternative,” she said. “I am earning money, so I am quite happy.”


• Jonathan Kaiman is the Los Angeles Times' Beijing bureau chief. He was previously a correspondent for The Guardian, a freelance writer and a Fulbright scholar researching folklore in China's rural southwest. He graduated from Vassar College.

This is the first in a series of reports on a massive program of Chinese investment that is reshaping Africa. Los Angeles Times staff writer Jonathan Kaiman and visual journalist Noah Fowler traveled to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Ghana with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-china-africa-ethiopia-20170804-htmlstory.html
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2017, 12:56:03 am »

FFS......it ain't rocket science buddy.....don't be so naive.....you are all about bad America....but you need to look at the alternatives and Think.....but hang on...you are employed by kiwirail.....so you have already had the operation...brain removal😳
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2017, 02:01:10 am »


from the Los Angeles Times....

‘China has conquered Kenya’: Inside Beijing's new strategy
to win African hearts and minds


Beaming into Kenya homes: A Beijing satellite TV company gets the Chinese message across.

By JONATHAN KAIMAN | 3:00AM PDT - Monday, August 07, 2017

A StarTimes satellite dish is installed on Francis Gitonga's roof in Kajiado, Kenya. Gitonga said the new digital TV package, with Chinese and Kenyan programs, gave him better reception than he'd once thought possible in the town. — Photograph: Immanuel Muasya/Los Angeles Times.
A StarTimes satellite dish is installed on Francis Gitonga's roof in Kajiado, Kenya. Gitonga said the new digital TV package, with Chinese
and Kenyan programs, gave him better reception than he'd once thought possible in the town.
 — Photograph: Immanuel Muasya/Los Angeles Times.


IT TOOK the StarTimes satellite TV salesman about 30 minutes to install a pipeline for Chinese propaganda into Francis Gitonga's squat, cinder-block home here in southern Kenya, near Africa's Great Rift Valley.

First, he climbed onto Gitonga's roof, drilled a satellite dish onto the chimney, and dangled some wires through the door frame. He plugged it all into a StarTimes set-top box, and turned it on.

Gitonga, 43, flipped through the channels, and Chinese programs filled the screen: an old kung fu movie, a Chinese news broadcast, a Chinese documentary about Japan's wartime atrocities, most dubbed into English.

Gitonga was elated. His new digital TV package gave him better reception than he'd once thought possible in Kajiado, a small town on the savannah where Masai tribesmen wander past rickety storefronts and goats cluster in the shade.

“I didn't know about China before,” he said. “I can say it's good. They have changed this country in a big way, very fast.”


David Mugita is StarTimes' sole salesman in Kajiado, Kenya. StarTimes, a privately owned, Beijing-based media and telecommunications firm, has been sweeping across Africa since 2002. — Photograph: Immanuel Muasya/Los Angeles Times.
David Mugita is StarTimes' sole salesman in Kajiado, Kenya. StarTimes, a privately owned, Beijing-based media
and telecommunications firm, has been sweeping across Africa since 2002.
 — Photograph: Immanuel Muasya/Los Angeles Times.


Although StarTimes — a privately owned, Beijing-based media and telecommunications firm — is virtually unknown in the West, it has been sweeping across Africa since 2002, overhauling the continent's broadcast infrastructure and beaming Chinese content into millions of homes. It has subsidiaries in 30 African countries, including such war-torn states as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

"Our aim is to enable every African household to afford digital TV, watch good digital TV and enjoy the digital life,” StarTimes Vice Chairman Guo Ziqi told China's official New China News Agency in December.

But there's a catch. StarTimes has substantial backing from the Chinese state — and an explicit political mandate.

China's relationship with Africa — for decades defined by resource-for-infrastructure deals — is evolving, as Africa becomes wealthier and China's foreign policy objectives grow more ambitious.

Beijing has invested billions of dollars into “soft power” campaigns aimed at convincing the world that China is a cultural and political success story. Yet beyond China's borders, its heavily censored state media broadcasts go mostly unwatched; its newspapers go unread; and outsiders often continue to associate China with pollution, opacity and repression.


StarTimes' cheapest package, called “Novo”, costs about $4 per month. Novo features a mix of Kenyan and Chinese channels. Access to other international channels, such as Al Jazeera, France 24 and BBC, costs more than most Kenyans can afford. — Photograph: Immanuel Muasya/Los Angeles Times.
StarTimes' cheapest package, called “Novo”, costs about $4 per month. Novo features a mix of Kenyan and Chinese channels.
Access to other international channels, such as Al Jazeera, France 24 and BBC, costs more than most Kenyans can afford.
 — Photograph: Immanuel Muasya/Los Angeles Times.


StarTimes signals a change in tack, one that highlights the depth and complexity of Beijing's efforts to win hearts and minds — with much of that effort now being directed at Africa, one of the world's great emerging media markets.

As a digital infrastructure provider, StarTimes is helping African states transition from analog television — a technology akin to FM radio, rife with snow, static and dropped signals — to digital, which ensures high-quality image and sound. As a pay-TV company, it is stacking its networks with pro-China broadcasts.

As both, it is materially improving the lives of countless Africans, then making China's role in those improvements impossible to ignore.

“There's a huge ideological element” to StarTimes' African operations, said Dani Madrid-Morales, a doctoral fellow at the City University of Hong Kong who has researched the company. “It's a huge effort to get Africans to understand China. Even the selection of TV shows is very carefully done. It's very specific shows that showcase an urban China, a growing China, a non-controversial view of China.”

Pang Xinxing, StarTimes' chief executive, who could not be reached for comment, has told Chinese state media that he expanded to Africa to counter “exaggerated and biased reports” about China in the Western media.

“There's a mindfulness among China's leadership that China doesn't get fair treatment overseas, and something needs to be done about it,” Madrid-Morales said.

StarTimes established its Kenyan subsidiary in 2012; now, it has 1.4 million subscribers, accounting for nearly half of Kenya's pay-TV subscriptions. Its cheapest package, called “Novo”, costs about $4 per month. Novo features a mix of Kenyan and Chinese channels, including several belonging to the Chinese state-run broadcaster, the China Global Television Network, or CGTN.

Access to other international channels, such as Al Jazeera, France 24 and BBC — which are more inclined to portray China in a negative light — costs more than most Kenyans can afford.

In December 2016, StarTimes launched a “pilot program” in Kajiado “as part of its long-term agenda” to bring digital television to rural Kenyans, according to the state-run China Daily. The company gave free StarTimes set-top boxes and subscriptions to 120 households. Sun Zhijun, a Chinese vice minister overseeing propaganda and media censorship, traveled to Kajiado for the inaugural celebration.

By January, StarTimes was everywhere in town — bright orange StarTimes advertisements glowed on schoolhouse walls, and StarTimes satellite dishes sprouted like carnations from corrugated sheet-metal roofs.

The Kajiado project “is being subsidized by the Chinese government,” Mark Lisboa, StarTimes Kenya's vice president of marketing, acknowledged, without giving an amount.

The company “embarked on a massive sales drive” following Kenya's switch to digital TV infrastructure in 2014, he said; it now employs 1,100 people, most of them Kenyan. He added that StarTimes will begin building an Africa headquarters, a dubbing center and production facilities within the year.

“This is just the beginning, I'll put it that way,” he said.

China's footprint across Kenya spreads far beyond access to the airwaves. As in the rest of Africa, China has been investing heavily in infrastructure. But as China's impact deepens, Kenyans have often reacted with suspicion. They blame China for stealing local jobs. They fear that China — Kenya's largest creditor — is saddling the country with unmanageable debt, and that Chinese infrastructure projects are endangering the country's pristine national parks, some of the world's most biodiverse.

In late May, a Kenyan delegation signed a $2-billion deal with a Chinese firm for a 1,050-megawatt coal-fired power plant about 13 miles north of Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa. Critics say the project could pollute the air, damage fishing grounds and push hundreds of residents off their land. Locals were outraged that the Chinese company, China Power Global, would import 40% of workers on the project from China.

Lamu residents have staged silent protests, marching through the town bearing anti-coal placards, and though the Kenya National Environment Management Authority signed off on the project last year, the plant's fate remains undecided.

To get a sense of what's at stake for China in Kenya, visit Nairobi National Park, a pristine nature preserve in the capital city's shadow, where zebras graze against a backdrop of skyscrapers.

China provided most of the funding, in loans and investment, for a $3.8-billion railway joining Nairobi and the Kenyan port city Mombasa, 380 miles away — part of which will cut through the park. The line opened in June; its high concrete pillars rise like a mirage from the dry, yellow savannah.

The new train will travel at an average of 74 mph, cutting transportation time between the two cities from about 10 hours to five; it will transport 22 million tons of cargo per year. Ultimately, it could anchor a Chinese-backed rail network stretching into South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where transportation networks are now rudimentary, consisting mainly of dilapidated roads and remote airstrips. Improved access to ports could improve trade and open markets.

But critics in Kenya say the railway is overpriced, costing a fifth of the national budget, and could put Kenya in debt for generations — 90% of the project was funded through loans from the Export-Import Bank of China, often known simply as China ExIm Bank.

Some of the deliberations with government officials over the project happened behind closed doors, drawing accusations of corruption — though no one has offered much beyond suspicion.

“In my opinion, the [rail] project is one of the biggest scandals ever witnessed in Kenya,” Kenyan politician Joshua Odongo Onono wrote in a commentary last year. “May God have mercy on us.”

Environmentalists have raised a loud alarm about the rail line's effect on wildlife. The flurry of initial construction is thought to have led to the deaths of 10 elephants. Several lions escaped from the park — one of which died — and some have blamed that, too, on the construction activity, though that's less clear.


The Chinese-funded railway in Kenya from Nairobi to Mombasa cuts through part of the Nairobi National Park. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
The Chinese-funded railway in Kenya from Nairobi to Mombasa cuts through part of the Nairobi National Park.
 — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.


Protesters gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi, chanting, “ExIm China, respect our laws!”

“It's heartbreaking,” said Paula Kahumbu, the Nairobi-based CEO of the conservationist organization WildlifeDirect. “We're concerned that if they can get away with this in the capital city, God knows what could happen elsewhere.”

The controversies were barely reported by Chinese news outlets in Kenya.

Those reports have tended to focus on the rail line's efficiency, economic benefits and ambition. “The line is expected to speed up the transformation of the Eastern African region as a whole,” reported CGTN in September.

Kevin Otiende, a former employee in CGTN's Nairobi bureau, said that its Kenyan journalists had little say over what ultimately went on air. “I felt personally, there was no freedom of expression,” he said. “Everything had to be nice. And anything that was not perceived to be correct was immediately killed.”

Chinese business advocates paint Beijing's media investments as a win-win for Chinese investors and African consumers — and an important prerequisite to China's ongoing ambitions on the continent.

Huang Hongxiang, the Nairobi-based founder of China House Kenya, which provides consulting services to Chinese companies in the country, said that if China does not take steps to improve its image in Africa, “there will be conflicts sooner or later resulting from misunderstandings.”

“Why would China want to do the railway? Of course it's because it's beneficial to China's economy and Chinese companies, and to China-Africa relations,” he said. “Between China and Africa you have a lot of material exchange — the railway, and so on. But people-to-people exchange really isn't enough.”

How much impact China is achieving through its media investments remains unclear. Experts questioned whether Kenya's StarTimes subscribers, while benefiting from StarTimes' signal quality, were actually watching Chinese shows.

Linus Kaikai, chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild and a manager at the Nairobi-based National Media Group, said Kenyan audiences have been shifting away from foreign content for years, as local shows grow more popular. To most Kenyans, he added, Chinese culture carries little cachet.

“Kenyans have been separating and placing — if I can put it this way — a Chinese wall between infrastructure and culture,” he said. “Kenyans don't see [China] as a model in the space of democratic or political processes. But they see it as a very, very good model when it comes to economic growth.”

David Mwangi, owner of a small shop in Kajiado, said he has learned to appreciate Chinese news reports. “BBC is shallow. But CGTN has more, a lot of African stuff,” he said. “I thought China was a small country, but now I know it's a big country with a lot of technology and infrastructure.

“China is improving a lot,” he continued, glancing at his television. He paused, briefly.

“China has conquered Kenya,” he said.


• Jonathan Kaiman is the Los Angeles Times' Beijing bureau chief. He was previously a correspondent for The Guardian, a freelance writer and a Fulbright scholar researching folklore in China's rural southwest. He graduated from Vassar College.

This is the second in a series of reports on a massive program of Chinese investment that is reshaping Africa. Los Angeles Times staff writer Jonathan Kaiman and visual journalist Noah Fowler traveled to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Ghana with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-china-africa-kenya-20170807-htmlstory.html
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aDjUsToR
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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2017, 05:44:14 pm »

The loony left often salivate over China "taking over". That doesn't seem very bright to me. China is run by a military dictatorship. If you like the idea of "fairness" you'll have rocks in your head if you secretly play with yourself over the idea of China ruling the world.
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« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2017, 06:09:56 pm »

Couldn't agree more.....it's been a long time🙄
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« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2017, 08:54:13 pm »


What is happening in Africa is what occurs when you have a STUPID “Make America Great Again” RETARD in The White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.
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« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2017, 09:46:22 pm »

China was setting up shop in Africa and elsewhere during Obama's reign and even further back. They didn't just think "fcuk this Trump guy is pissing us off so let's start expanding our influence" 😁
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aDjUsToR
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« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2017, 09:48:10 pm »

Trump's energy policy seems pretty smart. I was watching his statements about opening up greater US research into leading edge nuclear power. Certainly not "retarded".
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« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2017, 09:51:40 pm »

....correct....

The other poster has a bad case of "demented anti America syndrome"

...he's a long time sufferer😏

....and  has therefore lost the ability to use logic and reason🙄
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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2017, 09:46:14 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

One-armed bandits hit the savanna: Inside the Chinese-led
gambling epidemic in rural Ghana


In rural Ghana, slot machines brought by the Chinese spread a gambling epidemic
among farmers and even children.


By JONATHAN KAIMAN | 3:00AM PDT - Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Chief Ubor Dawuni Wumbe in his palace in Bunbong. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Chief Ubor Dawuni Wumbe in his palace in Bunbong. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.

WHEN the machines arrived last winter, the villagers were mesmerized.

In Zamashegu, a farming community of 1,000 people in northern Ghana, they may as well have come from outer space — four electric slot machines installed in two roadside shacks, chirping and clattering, bathing the packed-dirt walls in a pale, kaleidoscopic glow.

Their lure was magnetic. Soon, villagers stopped farming, leaving their yam and cassava fields fallow. Children stayed home from school. Instead, they'd queue up at the slots and play all day, until their pockets were empty or the village ran out of change altogether.

About twice a week, a Chinese man would arrive in a pickup truck. He would unlock the machines, hand some cash to the shacks' owners and drive off — carrying about $100 in coins and, many villagers came to understand, their community's hope for the future.

China's influence across Africa has been deepening for decades — China surpassed the U.S. as the continent's biggest trading partner in 2009 — and Ghana, a rapidly developing democracy of 26 million people on West Africa's Atlantic coast, has been one of the relationship's greatest beneficiaries.

Beijing has funded Ghanaian roads, dams, stadiums, hospitals and government buildings; it has flooded the country with inexpensive goods. Trade between the two nations hit $6.6 billion in 2016, up from less than $100 million in 2000. Ghanaian officials have welcomed the rise — in February, Finance Minister Kenneth Ofori-Atta called for an “enhanced relationship” with Beijing.

Yet Chinese entrepreneurs in Ghana are increasingly overstepping the once tightly prescribed limits of state control, and the widening presence of Chinese migrants selling cheap, low-quality goods at Ghanaian markets is undercutting — and infuriating — local sellers.

In 2013, the Ghanaian government arrested 168 Chinese nationals on suspicion of illegal gold mining, following reports of environmental devastation and social unrest.

Then came the gambling.

Chinese slot machines began appearing throughout rural Ghana early last year. And though the scope of the phenomenon remains unclear, interviews with dozens of villagers and officials in the country's Northern Region — an area about the size of West Virginia, home to 2.5 million people — suggested that the machines have proliferated widely and precipitated an epidemic of gambling addiction that the government has been unable, or unwilling, to quell.

“For me what China is doing here is economic colonialism,” said Esther Armah, a prominent radio host and lecturer at Webster University in Accra. “Part of Ghana's challenge is creating an economy that serves Ghanaians first and foremost. We don't have that. We have an economy that first and foremost serves foreigners.”


Villagers bring two gambling machines out from a hut in Zamashegu, in Ghana's Northern Region. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Villagers bring two gambling machines out from a hut in Zamashegu, in Ghana's Northern Region.
 — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.


Alexander Afenyo-Markin, a member of parliament for the Efutu Municipal District near Accra, about 300 miles south of the Northern Region, said local authorities have been lax on enforcement — and national officials, bound by Ghanaian law, are sometimes powerless to help.

“Most of these gambling centers have been opened without any authorization,” he said, adding that he knows of 15 in Efutu alone, run by several Chinese companies. “Now this has a lot of kids out of school, and it is also encouraging stealing and robbery.”

He has urged Efutu's Municipal Assembly to muster a task force and crack down. “As a member of parliament I don't have that capacity,” he said. “I can only do advocacy.”

The Northern Region is particularly vulnerable. About half its population lives below the poverty line. Many villages have no access to clean water. Child malnutrition is rampant. Yet the machines are everywhere, though mostly hidden from view: in a pharmacy; in an electronics store; tucked away in a dusty lot, flanked by small children.

At first, Ubor Dawuni Wumbe didn't even notice the machines.

Wumbe, the chief of Bunbong, a village of 2,500 people at the heart of the region, lives and governs — overseeing village projects, settling villagers' disputes — in a brilliant white hut complex, insulated from the chaos of village life. But one day, “I noticed there was always a car that was parked here,” he said, gesturing to a dusty patch just outside the complex. Its driver was Ghanaian; its passenger looked Chinese.

In mid-2016, the Ghanaian government completed a major highway through the Northern Region, cutting travel time from Bunbong to Yendi District — a commercial center about 18 miles away — from several hours to about 30 minutes. “I think all of a sudden, [the Chinese] realized there was access,” Wumbe said. “That this was virgin territory, where they could ply on ignorance, or human emotion, to get rich quick.”

Soon he began seeing slot machines across the village; he counted 30, spread across 15 convenience stores, cafes and homes. They were strikingly crude: plywood boxes, each about the size of a mini refrigerator, sealed with a rusty padlock and outfitted with a coin slot, a metal tray and a flimsy plastic facade. They were emblazoned with famous figures — Super Mario, soccer player Lionel Messi — the faces sun-bleached and streaked with dirt. Minimum bets were 5 to 10 cents.

They were wildly popular. “You'd go there and it was packed,” he said. “People weren't going to their farms anymore. People began to think that this was a way of earning income. They'd play all day, hoping they would win. But you never could beat the machine.”

Wumbe confronted the Chinese agents — by this point, he said, there were several — and demanded they remove the machines. The agents complied. Later, they returned offering a bribe of six soccer balls, imploring him to change his judgment. Wumbe refused. “We knew there were going to be a lot of problems in the near future,” he said. “You know it's going to bring drugs, prostitution, robbery.”


Residents of the Northern Region frequently travel by bicycle and moped. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Residents of the Northern Region frequently travel by bicycle and moped. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.

But most villages seemed to be doing nothing. Across the region, the one-armed bandits were winning.

“I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way as I feel,” Wumbe said. “It's just that nobody acts. We all just sit and talk about it. But nobody acts.”

Gambling in Ghana is legal and highly regulated; casinos line the streets in Accra, and online gambling, sports betting and lotteries are popular farther afield. Yet the primitive slot machines, and their link to underage gambling, have proved politically contentious.

In January 2016, officials in the Bolgatanga Municipal District, a two-hour drive from Bunbong, granted a Chinese company permits to distribute slot machines in local villages. Almost immediately, they were flooded with complaints: Children were skipping school to play, stealing from their parents. In June, they revoked the company's permits, but the problem persisted. In September, they assembled a police-military task force and conducted a series of raids, confiscating 38 machines in total.

According to Bolgatanga's municipal records, the machines belonged to a company called Pusheng Game Ghana Ltd., registered to a post office box in Accra. Yet officials in Bolgatanga could give no further details about Pusheng. The company has no website or public telephone number; its management could not be reached for comment.

“The headquarters is in Accra,” said Ayimbila Abubakar Ateer, Bolgatanga's convener for justice and security. “If it's in Accra, they are operating countrywide.”

In January, officials in Kyebi — a town in Ghana's Eastern Region, about 430 miles from Bolgatanga — confiscated 40 Chinese-run slot machines, also because of underage gambling, local media reported.

In April, a Chinese slot machine owner “unleashed thugs” on a bar owner in Awutu Breku — a small town in Ghana's Central Region — after accusing him of pocketing the machine's take, according to the popular Ghanaian news website Adom Online. The bar owner, Isaac Akufu, reportedly landed in the hospital with knife wounds.

Yet not all local governments have reacted to the machines with ire. Yakubu Abubakari, presiding member of the Mion Municipal District assembly, also in the Northern Region, said he was wary about the machines' social impact, but approved of their existence.

The machines' Chinese owners saw him as a threat at first, Abubakari said, but warmed to him once they realized that he'd let them operate. He said one Chinese businessman, after a meeting with the assembly, handed him an envelope containing 150 Ghanaian cedis (about $30). He accepted the money.


Half of the population in Ghana's Northern Region lives below the poverty line, yet the slot machines are almost everywhere. — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.
Half of the population in Ghana's Northern Region lives below the poverty line, yet the slot machines are almost everywhere.
 — Photograph: Noah Fowler/Los Angeles Times.


The machines are “a form of business in the community,” he said. “So the person who is gambling with the machine [does so] at his discretion.

“Some win, and some lose, and that's the game.”

On a Saturday morning in Zamashegu, about a dozen villagers gathered around Azindo Nchegiri's roadside shack — and his two Chinese slot machines — to share their grievances. The air was thick with dust and the sun blazed overhead, driving even the goats and chickens into the shade.

Nchegiri, a farmer, said he's hosted the machines for about a year. Every three days, a Chinese man takes the earnings and gives him a cut — and every time, he loses it back to the machines. In total, he said, he has lost about $115, a hefty sum in the village. “I like playing,” he said. “But the money goes. That is painful.”

Wumbi Abubakr, 13, said the first time he saw the machines, about a year ago, he didn't even know where to put the coins. An agent taught him how to play, and soon he was addicted.

“I was very happy then. I put in the money and won, and the sound that came out of the machine was very interesting,” he said. “I won 1.50 cedis [about 34 cents], then I played again and won 5. Then I continued until I went home with empty hands. That night I wasn't happy.”

The other villagers saw no way to get rid of the machines; unlike in Bunbong, their chief has not lodged a protest. Villagers play obsessively, praying for a stroke of luck, and local hosts are disinclined to surrender a source of easy income.

“One time I told the [Chinese] man to take the machines and go, because I didn't win,” said villager Jijiri Nchegiri, Azindo’s brother. “But he didn't do anything.”

Suddenly, a child ran up to the crowd and shouted that “the Chinese” had arrived. The villagers hustled to the highway, where a white pickup truck sat idle. Its driver, a Ghanaian man, paced on the road, talking on a cellphone.

Moments later, a Chinese man emerged from a nearby shack. He was tall and pale, wearing a beige T-shirt and black baseball cap. He gave only his surname, Zhang. He said he'd been working as a cook in Hohhot, the capital of northern China's Inner Mongolia region, when a Chinese agent approached him with an opportunity overseas. He had now been in Ghana about a month and planned to stay a year.

“I'm really just here as a worker,” he said. “Because local people didn't know how to do this business, my boss brought me over.” As the crowd pressed in, he fell silent; his eyes darted uncomfortably. He said he was busy. He and the driver hopped into the truck and sped off down the road.


• Jonathan Kaiman is the Los Angeles Times' Beijing bureau chief. He was previously a correspondent for The Guardian, a freelance writer and a Fulbright scholar researching folklore in China's rural southwest. He graduated from Vassar College.

This is the last in a series of reports on a massive program of Chinese investment that is reshaping Africa. Los Angeles Times staff writer Jonathan Kaiman and visual journalist Noah Fowler traveled to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Ghana with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-china-africa-ghana-20170808-htmlstory.html
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