On this episode of China Uncensored, all aboard the Chinese train line in Kenya everyone loves! Uh…almost everyone. Hi, welcome to China Uncensored, I’m your host Chris Chappell. Well folks, great news! China has built a new railroad line in Kenya! Hooray! Fireworks! It’s a freight and passenger line that connects Kenya’s capital Nairobi to the coastal port of Mombasa. It’s called the Standard Gauge Railway, also known as the Madaraka Express. With a top speed of 75 miles per hour, it’s not exactly a high-speed rail, but it is three times faster than old British train line it’s replacing, which was finished in 1901. The one nicknamed the “Lunatic Express” because of the huge costs and the thousands of people who died constructing it, including being eaten by lions. It was also subject to constant delays and breakdowns. But it did profusely apologize for each delay. “Oh dear. Terribly, terribly sorry. My apologies. Does anybody fancy a spot of tea?” My apologies. Anyway, this new Madaraka Express is supposed to speed up travel, reduce transportation costs, and transform Kenya into an economic powerhouse. The rail was built by China Road and Bridge
Corporation, a Chinese state-owned company. Which explains the awkward slogan, “Connecting Nations, Prospering People.” Yes, may you live long and prospering, people. The train line is part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative. In a nutshell: One Belt, One Road is China’s plan for global domination. It involves building huge infrastructure projects around the world— like seaports, train lines, and bridges. They’re supposed to help with trade, which, in China’s view, means extracting raw materials from poor countries at low prices, and selling finished made-in-China goods back to them. Oh, and putting everyone in debt to China. Kind of like colonialism, but with less guns. So the Chinese regime has big plans for Kenya. The new Madaraka Express created thousands of jobs in Kenya. Let’s check in with the locals and see how happy they are. “The youth stormed the Chinese rail camp
site, attacking and driving away workers indiscriminately.” So, pretty happy. That footage was from a riot last August. You see, the railway did create thousands of new jobs. But not for Kenyan locals. According to Quartz, “One of the biggest gripes is that Chinese companies in Kenya import their own labor.” So a lot of jobs just go to Chinese workers. As for the Kenyans who do get work, well, those protests happened because workers wanted a raise— from two dollars fifty cents to five dollars… a day. People who asked for a raise were allegedly fired. But paying low wages is not the biggest problem. Since China Road and Bridge Corporation began construction of the railway a few years ago, it’s been accused of firing workers without cause, dredging sand from Kenyan beaches for construction material, and even stealing water from local communities. To be fair though, they have organized basketball games for local employees, a point they’re very proud of. Why, just look at all of these proud Kenyans! And China Road and Bridge Corporation’s treatment of workers is not an isolated incident. This article by the Open Society Initiative
for Southern Africa talks about the horrible conditions in Chinese-owned firms across Africa. One Chinese mine had to be “closed down five times, largely because of non-conformity to mine safety rules and poor sanitation.” There was “an outbreak of cholera.” And at one construction company, “Almost all workers lacked individual protection items such as helmets, boots, and gloves.” But back to the rail line in Kenya. It cost 3.2 billion dollars to build, and there are more rail line extensions with even bigger price tags in the works. But the Kenyan government is only paying for 10 percent of it in cash. The other 90 percent is financed with a loan from China’s Export‑Import
Bank. Basically, it buries Kenya in debt. According to the South China Morning Post, “Kenya’s external debt now amounts to seven times its annual budget, with China accounting for nearly 60 per cent of those loans. Loans from China have grown by 54% between 2010 and 2014.” And as this Kenyan commentator points out, “That’s our tax money. These are loans that our children will pay.” Oh, and there are concerns about corruption. Now I’m no expert in how much large scale railway projects cost. The most I ever owned was Reading Railroad and B. & O. One day, Short Line, you will be mine! But this railway in Kenya is apparently way more expensive than it should have been. Al Jazeera reports that ‘‘Kenya’s railway costs [per kilometre] are almost 40 to 50 percent higher’ than some of Kenya’s neighbouring countries.” To be fair, part of the higher costs are related to technology, but that doesn’t account for all of the large price tag. Where did the rest of the money go? There are also environmental concerns that many critics feel weren’t addressed. Phase two of the railway will cut right through an important national
park. And some are concerned construction was rushed so that the current president could have his flagship project completed just in time for elections in August. So all aboard the Madaraka Express! The price is just decades of debt to a new colonial power. So what do you think about this stunning example of the One Belt, One Road Initiative? Leave your comments below. Thanks for watching his episode of China Uncensored. Once again, I’m your host, Chris Chappell. See you next time. Good news, everyone! Today we’re launching the China Uncensored Mystery Crate! Subscribe, and every month you’ll receive a mystery box that contains an assortment of items related to topics we’ve talked about on the show, personally curated by me! Let’s see what’s in this month’s box. Oh, a bottle of China’s sacred territorial waters. A facemask designed to protect against Beijing smog. A slightly used suicide net from Shenzhen— don’t ask. A handwritten note… “Help, I’m stuck in a Chinese labor camp making cardboard boxes.” Hmm, wonder how that got in there. And finally, powdered rhino horn from the extremely rare silverback rhino, the last of which was killed to make this potent male vitality powder. What’s that Shelley? Ok, the powdered rhino horn is extremely illegal. The box was made by Chinese slave labor. And no one wants a used suicide net. What do you mean, I’m terrible at picking things to go in boxes? Fine. You know what? It’s time for Plan B. I’m going to leave this mystery box stuff to the professionals, by partnering with Loot Crate! It is also a monthly mystery box, but it will contain actually cool and totally legal stuff like collectibles, apparel, gadgets, art, and epic gear. It’s basically Comic-Con in a box. And they’ve agreed to give China Uncensored fans a 10% discount. Just enter promo code, BRIDGE10. Click here now to check out Loot Crate. Click here. And I’ll throw in some powdered rhino horn. Just kidding. Because that would be illegal.