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China’s Ambassador to Kenya Pushes Back Against Debt Fears in Rare Interview

Chinese ambassador to Kenya, Zhou Pingjian, during an interview with the Kenyan newspaper The Star at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi. Image via The Star.

China’s ambassador to Kenya, Zhou Pingjian, sidestepped the controversy about Chinese lending in a rare one-on-one interview with The Star’s Eliud Kibii. Their conversation covered a broad range of topics, including debt, trade, and COVID-19. While he avoided many specifics, the interview gives an all-too-rare glimpse into the thinking of one of China’s most senior diplomats on the continent. Before becoming ambassador to Kenya, Zhou was posted to Nigeria.

Kenya’s debt to China will be a key issue in the upcoming election. Zhou pushed back against allegations that China is a predatory lender. Instead, he emphasized the growth potential and rapid development of Chinese-funded projects in the country, and how they dovetail with Kenyan development goals. He also dismissed concerns about the opacity of Chinese loan contracts, blaming both controversies on outside misinformation.

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