The China Monitor: 11/15-12/02

Photo Credit: BBC

What does China’s Ambassador to Kenya have to say about debt traps and Chinese loans? How are Chinese community leaders responding to discrimination in South Africa? What is the “Social Media Bill” being debated in Zimbabwe and Nigeria? What inspired it and how are the respective citizens responding? 

Every two weeks, The Carter Center’s China Program releases an overview of major events involving Chinese and US global engagement, with a focus on emerging issues in Africa. In addition to using news sources, the news roundup analyzes papers and reports from academic journals, governmental bodies, and NGOs, and summarizes debates and other events organized by think tanks on select issues. The news roundup is intended to be a platform and resource for China watchers and for readers interested in political and economic development in developing countries. It aims to deepen the understanding of China’s foreign policy, and emerging issues and trends in developing countries, as well as to enhance the prospect of multinational cooperation among China, the U.S., and developing countries in Africa and around the world. 

BBC Africa Interview with China’s Ambassador to Kenya about Debt Traps and Asset Seizures 

Credit: The China Africa Project, 25 November 2019 

On November 18, Dickens Owele from BBC Africa interviewed Wu Peng, China’s ambassador to Kenya. Although most Chinese ambassadors avoid media-attention from western outlets. Wu Peng’s interview covered several key topics. When discussing debt traps, Peng stated that China’s cooperation with developing nations have helped them develop and avoid the “trap of under-development.” On the contrary, Peng said that China has always been concerned with debt sustainability for these developing nations. Peng also stated that the people of Kenya need these projects to create employment opportunities. Lastly, Peng also asserted that China will not use loans or debt to seize control of property or assets in Kenya.  

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Chinese Community Leader Testified Before South Africa’s Equality Court Over Chinese Hate Speech Case 

Credit: News24, 27 November 2019 

In March 2019, The Chinese Association (TCA) in South Africa brought a hate speech case to the Equality Court in Johannesburg. It was brought against 12 respondents who left comments on the Facebook pages of Carte Blanche, an investigative television show, and the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary early in 2017. The TCA stated that the comments implied that Chinese people were barbaric, vile, and inhuman. Erwin Pon, chairman of the TCA, and Henry Wing, a member of the TCA, both testified. Wing specifically stated that the comments resurfaced negative emotions and memories from the apartheid years. 

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Nigeria and Zimbabwe Move Forward with Controversial Chinese-Inspired Social Media Laws 

Credit: The China Africa Project, 2 December 2019 

Both Nigeria and Zimbabwe are moving forward with their respective “Social Media Bills,” inspired by Chinese norms of social media control. Early in November, the Nigerian Senate re-introduced the bill. On November 29, the First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari, backed the proposed legislation in a public address at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs general assembly meeting. In Zimbabwe, the Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill of 2019 is currently being drafted for publication. It was passed by President Emmerson Mnangagawa’s Cabinet in November as well. Both bills will effectively allow the government to imprison those who are critical of their respective national governments. 

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Nigerian Social Media Bill Under Fire as First Lady Suggests Emulating China 

Credit: The Irish Times, 2 December 2019; Photo Credit: Kota Sulaimon/AFP 

On November 29, 2019, Nigerian First Lady, Aisha Buhari, made a statement in support of the new “Social Media Bill,” stating that “If China can control over 1.3 billion people on social media, I see no reason why Nigeria cannot attempt controlling only 180 million people.” The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, currently being debated by parliament, would criminalize insulting the government on online platforms. Activists are rallying against this Bill. One Nigerian activist, Deji Adeyanju, called the Bill “draconian.” Adeyanju stated that by trying regulate social media to this degree, the government is “taking tyranny to the next level.” Former government employee and current journalist, Ohimai Amaize, also agreed with Adeyanju. Amaize noted that the Bill is an attempt to silence the voices critical of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency. 

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