2 - Shifting Meanings of China’s Belt and Road Initiative: The Case of Kenya

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Silveroak I, Ground Floor

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a vast infrastructure and development project which spans a vast portion earth’s surface. In order to get an analytical handle on such a large project, this paper examines the impact of the BRI through the prism of two infrastructure projects currently taking place in Kenya on the East coast of Africa: the Lamu Port development on the northeast coast and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) connecting Mombasa and Nairobi. While the projects have been heralded by local officials as an economic game-changer for the country, both have mobilized a series of social responses, including discourses on corruption and the fostering of political factionalism, as well as anxieties surrounding environmental impacts and local livelihoods. In discussing these issues from a local perspective, it is noteworthy that the question of Chinese agency, rather than looming in the foreground, recedes far into the backdrop. Such observations raise questions of scale and agency in
relation to the BRI: in its broadest sense, a Chinese-branded geopolitical strategy becomes, in a narrower sense, a reterritorialization of domestic politics and the environment. The paper ends with a discussion on possible ways in which these two very different domains may be conceptually reconciled.

Ross Anthony

Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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