Writes Thomas Bird from Kenya (Lunatic Express), where the China-built new Nairobi-to-Mombasa railway looks set to render the Victorian-era line redundant:
“Belt and Road Cooperation for Common Promutual Benefit,” proclaims a large street sign suspended above Beijing’s ever-congested second ring road.
China is investing massively in its 21st-century reimagining of the Silk Roads, even if the budget for fluid English translation remains insufficient. This rekindling of ancient trade routes is President Xi Jinping’s signature project and, in the year of the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress, the banners are flying the message of globalisation with Chinese characteristics.
Deals have been brokered from Vientiane to Vilnius, provoking critics to cry, “Empire!” and advocates to applaud vital infrastructure heading to countries most in need of investment.
Many of those countries are in Africa and, in May, an unveiling in Kenya highlighted the fact that China’s internationalist wheels are already very much in motion.
But first, a little history …