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一个肯尼亚女孩在中国的奇幻之旅 The Fairy Tour —A Kenyan Girl in China(2)

Waves of globalization and history ofSino-African communications

Human beings are never isolated, whichbecame more profoundly true as we entered the 21st century. Asian genetic mapsreveal that Africa is where we first evolved and the Great Rift Valley is hometo one of our oldest known direct ancestors, Lucy Situated in East Africa witha coastline lasting 536 kilometers on the Indian Ocean, Kenya is historically aplace inviting trade and settlement. During the 7th Century AD, the Arabianempire rose and extended, with a territory east to the Indus River and Pamirs,west to the Atlantic coast, north to the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea and southFrance, and south to the Sahara and the Arabian Sea. Arab traders built portssuch as Malindi (once known as Melinde) and Mombasa on the Indian coast.Swahili, a lingua franca rooted in trade was born and rose. It has now becomeone of the official languages in Kenya. During the same time, in the east, theTang Empire of China was reaching its golden age. As the inclusive Chinesecivilization met the ambitious Arab civilization, material products andintellectual fruits produced by the human race were spread across thecontinents of Asia, Africa and Europe. This global movement can be arguablycalled the early globalization, while the universal and rapid movement ofpeople and information would not happen until over1300 years later. It was thefirst time that China and Kenya were parallel to each other in the space ofglobalization.

In the year 1414 AD, Zheng He, a faithfulservant of the Yongle Emperor of China’s Ming Dynasty, started his fourth voyageto the west, and his fleet crossed over the Arab Peninsula and reached the portof Malindi. It was the first time China was geographically connected withKenya. Zheng He visited Malindi on both his fifth and sixth voyages. His armadaeven arrived in Mombasa, which was 104 kilometers southwest of Malindi. Theseexpeditions brought subsequently back from east Africa rare animals such asgiraffe, lions and ostriches. The book Ying-yai Sheng-lan: The Overall Surveyof the Ocean’s Shores by Ma Huan, a translator on board, recorded the ports andcountries Zheng He had visited on these voyages.

One of the legacies of Zheng He’sexpeditions had a surprising echo in 2010. A girl called Mwamaka Sharifu fromLamu Island proclaimed to be a descendent of Zheng He’s sailors and came toChina to “find her roots” in 2005. It was reported that 600 years ago a Chinesecommercial ship sank near Lamu Island. The surviving sailors swan ashore andsettled down there, marrying the local women. In February the 23rd 2010, the NationalMuseum of China and Peking University cooperated with the National Museums ofKenya to conduct underwater surveys and excavations near Lamu Island and beganto unearth ancient sites in Malindi.

As a result of the Age of Discoverybeginning from the 15th century, Africa gradually became a colony of thewestern powers. Kenya was officially declared a British colony in 1920. Chinawas turned into a semi-colony around the same time. It was until 1949 thatChina finally became independent. Fourteen years later, Kenya declaredindependent on December the 12th, 1963. The two countries establisheddiplomatic relations in that year. Chinese people born in the 1950s and 1960sstill remembered vividly the slogan of “Asian-African-Latin American Friendship”raised by Chairman Mao, founder of the People’s Republic of China. Similarexperience in breaking away from the colonial rule of western powers broughtChina and Africa together again in history: both were referred to as “the thirdworld”.

Entering the new millennium, Sino-Africanrelationship turned a new page. With the founding of the Forum on China-AfricaCooperation, both sides are willing to establish and develop long term mutuallybeneficial partnership. The Forum has achieved amazing results so far. Sino-Africantrade reached 220 billion dollars in 2014, 22 times more than in 2000. Chineseinvestment in Africa topped 30 billion dollars in 2014, 60 times more than in2000. Through assistance and financing, a total of 5675 kilometers of railwaysand 4507 kilometers of highways were completed or under construction by Chinain Africa. President Xi Jinping outlined China’s policy on the development ofSino-African relationship and pledged $60 billion in funding support to Africaduring the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg in September 2015.Furthermore, the One Belt One Road initiative launched by the Chinesegovernment brings new opportunities for entrepreneurs both in China and Africa.

“With China’s One Belt One Road initiativeand the strategic background of Sino-African cooperation, Africa means futuretrends and opportunities,” Mr. Li Jianhua told China Investment. “Manycompanies on the platform Bai Tuan Qian Qi have already moved abroad and headedtowards Africa, with some of them making investment in Uganda and South Africa.Africa is the main direction for us in the future and we are going to makethorough investigation of the market there. The most important thing is tounderstand the continent truthfully and comprehensively.”

“What drew our attention is not a story ofan internet celebrity, but what lies behind the story. It is about Sino-Africanrelationship, not about the buzz on the internet.” Personal experiences helpedMrs. Xiao look beyond all the noise and the Animal World generation to locatethe real link between China and Africa in the river of history.

On June the 6th 2016, a letter sent byChina Investment reached Nairobi. It was promised to Seve that her travellingexpenses and the cost of all the other activities in China would be covered.More importantly, because of this letter, she got the tourist visa from theChinese Consulate in Nairobi.

 

How the world’s interconnected

Children grew up in the 1990s in Chinalargely knew about Africa from Animal World, a wild life series broadcasted onChina Central Television. The wild animals such as wildebeests, lions,leopards, gazelles, hyenas, elephants and giraffe living in the Great Savannahcaught their imagination.

During the same period in Kenya, a youngSeve learned about China through daily appliances. The plastic shoes she wore,the cup she drank from, the comb she used, the mirror, towels and pump used inher house, everything came from China, according to her mother. This made hervery curious. What is China really like? She wondered.

As she was growing up, Seve noticed moreand more “Chinese markings”: a road built by the Chinese here, a bridgedesigned and constructed by Chinese companies there. And finally she was ableto buy a mobile phone made in China. It costed 2000 to 3000 Kenyan shillings(about 20 dollars). China was a great nation with rich resources and its peopleenjoyed good and prosperous life in her mind.

Seve happens to live in an era whenglobalization has swept across the world. China signed trade agreements withKenya and changed from an aid provider to a trade partner as early as in 1978,In 2001, after 15 years of hard negotiations, China finally joined the WorldTrade Organization. Chinese investment and economic and technologicalcooperation also came to Kenya. During the over twenty years from the early1990s to now, Chinese economy has grown rapidly and become the second largeston earth, as the “world factory” and number one trade partner to Africa.Chinese people appear in Kenya, not the royal sailors on the “treasure ships”coming every three or four years, but ordinary people living or doing businessin the country. There are Chinese investors, engineers and constructors aswell. They have brought with them Chinese restaurants, Chinese clothes, Chinesemobiles and Chinese ways.

Around 600 years ago, the armada of ZhengHe set sail from Liujia Port in Taicang of Jiangsu Province, crossed the SouthChina Sea, navigated through the Strait of Malacca, entered the Indian Ocean,passed the southern tip of the Indian Peninsula, sailed towards the Arabian Seaand the Red Sea, went around the Arabian Peninsula and reached the coast ofEast Africa. Over the 28 years from 1405 to 1433, Zheng He led sevenexpeditions to the “western” ocean, with more than 200 ships and 27000 peopleevery time. Movement of such magnitude was unimaginable without huge costs.What a test to human wills!

From the physical perspective, the world ismoving towards the lightness: human beings always harbor the ambition to breakaway from gravity. While it took three hours on bus travelling the 221kilometers from Meru to Nairobi (the road isn’t flat), the land distance fromNairobi to Beijing is 13193.7 kilometers. Travelling by car, you will drivethrough eight countries in between: Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Asmara (Eritrea),Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait City (Kuwait), Baghdad (Iraq), Tehran (Iran)Ashkhabad (Turkmenistan) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan), and then enter China, passUrumqi (Xinjiang) and Hohhot (Inner Mongolia), and arrive Beijing at last. Itwill take six days and nights (143 hours and 43 minutes). In the real world,Seve’s flight took off at noon June the 13th Nairobi time (there is a 5 hourtime difference between Nairobi and Beijing) and she took a connecting flightin Doha to arrive in Beijing in the afternoon of June the 14th. It took herabout ten hours to travel across half the world easily and comfortably.

In the process of “becoming lighter”, theworld has achieved interconnection through the movement of people and products.The rapid development of digital communication technology in the 21st centuryhas provided a brand new way for this interconnection: the encounter andinterchange of people in virtual reality. The communication among human beingshas formed an immense neural network, where information of the mind travels farmore swiftly than physical objects. This is why Steven Spielberg could createJurassic Park, and Seve could “pretend to be in China”.

The ultimate goal of individuals has to beachieved in the physical world. You may see the story of Seve as a Hollywoodlegend or a successful upgrade from a two-dimensional universe to athree-dimensional one. But the way you see the world does not change the natureof it.

Behind this dream-come-true story, the interconnectionof the world is what really makes it happen.

Wang Meiling and He liwei of ChinaInvestment also contributed to the report.