China, Kenya relations and the question of racial discrimination


The Chinese have established themselves as one of the biggest investors in Africa’s infrastructure projects. In Kenya, one of their flagship projects is the country’s new standard gauge railway, which is estimated to be worth $3.2 billion.

Several other Chinese projects have been initiated in the country, particularly in the manufacturing, construction and hospitality sectors. But this flourishing business partnership has not been without challenges. One of the biggest has been accusations of racial discrimination by Chinese nationals against their Kenyan counterparts.

A few weeks ago, an investigative journalist revealed that Kenyan workers at the Chinese-built railway were being subjected to repeated incidents of racial discrimination and abuse by their Chinese supervisors. The report also alleged that the China Road and Bridge Corporation, the Chinese conglomerate that operates the 473 km Nairobi-Mombasa railway, was implementing a deliberate segregation policy.

Other allegations were that Chinese nationals were doing jobs that should have been done by Kenyans, and that highly qualified Kenyan staff were assigned minor roles. It’s also alleged that Kenyan workers were segregated from their Chinese colleagues in eating areas, toilets, accommodation and travel. The journalist also uncovered pay disparities on the basis of race. Unfair treatment, long working hours, threats, and harassment were also reported.

In response to the exposé, the cabinet secretary in the ministry of labour formed a team to probe the allegations. At the same time, the government asked Kenyans to bear with the Chinese. It blamed the alleged racism on a misunderstanding and unresolved cultural differences.

Kenyans are well within their rights to demand equal treatment. The country has signed the International Convention against racial discrimination. Its constitution also protects people against racial discrimination, as do a number of its laws. So far, reported incidents of racism have been dealt with in a lacklustre manner or ignored. Kenya is failing to meet its obligations to its people.
Dealing with discrimination

This is not the first time Chinese nationals have been accused of racism in Kenya. Three years ago a Chinese restaurant was shut down after reports that it barred black patrons from its premises after 5 pm. It should be noted, however, that the restaurant was shut down for allegedly not having a valid business permit. This meant that the owners were not held to account for racially profiling black patrons.

Not unsurprisingly, incidents like this have elicited public outrage. They’ve been been denounced as an apparent display of racist behaviour. A few of these incidents make headlines: a racially insensitive email; a racist assault. But it’s very likely that many cases of racial discrimination don’t make news; perhaps because people don’t know their rights or that Kenya has a legal framework to deal with such cases.

Apart from international conventions, and its constitution, the country has specific laws that ban racist behaviour. For example, the Employment Act prohibits discrimination against employees or prospective employees on grounds of race or colour.

When it comes to racially instigated crimes, the National Cohesion and Integration Act outlaws the use of words intended to incite feelings of contempt, hatred, hostility, violence or discrimination against any person, group or community on basis of ethnicity or race. Those found guilty of violating the act can be fined or imprisoned.

The challenge is that enforcement is patchy. Sometimes the laws work, and sometimes they don’t. Examples of where they have worked include a ruling made by the Employment and Labour Court which awarded compensation to employees of a research institute who were discriminated against by their employer on racial grounds.
Road ahead

While Kenya may be applauded for having a legal framework that prohibits racial discrimination, the typical state reaction to racial bias does little to deter potential offenders. This has been seen clearly by the government’s lukewarm reaction to reports of Chinese racism.

With the exception of a Chinese national who was deported for a racist outburst against Kenyans – he also called President Uhuru Kenyatta a “monkey” – serious action is seldom taken to deal with incidents of racial discrimination against local people. In fact, one could argue that stern action was taken against the Chinese deportee only because he insulted the president.

It could be that the Kenyan authorities are determined to tread carefully in their dealings with their development partners, and particularly the Chinese. But they are doing it at the expense of the dignity of their own people. Every racist, no matter how valuable the government deems their contributions to be, must be subjected to prosecution and punishment.

It is laudable that due to social media and the press generally, incidents of racism against Kenyans are gradually being highlighted more. This public recognition and agitation is likely to deter brazen incidents of racism. This effort ought to be equally matched with punishment which gives a definite expression that racism is abhorred and will not be tolerated.

Obviously when you combine two different cultures you are bound to get several incidents like the ones you’ve mentioned above but all in all I think the Chinese mean well

Chinese culture feeds off Western caricatures of Africans and blacks. Hollywood has ruined the image of black peoples globally.

The only way to rectify is we learn how to speak and show the Chinese we’re not as Western media shows us to be. And they learn from us and we learn from them.

The Chinese do not run a charity, its a quid pro quo, it is all in the context of their strategic national interests being first, not ours (even though we sometimes seem to be under the illusion that the Chinese would put Kenyan interests ahead of theirs).

The question is what is our national strategic interest besides being perpetual debtors who borrow from Peter to pay Paul and repeat this perpetual cycle while enriching the Citibank’s and JP Morgan’s of this world? How shall we pay? Where shall the money come from? We’re not industrialising, we’re not creating new jobs and have the highest unemployment rates in East Africa at almost 40%.

It is likely wonder that they do not respect us when a vast majority of our elected leaders are jokers (we can say mpigs but not mnyanis?). The reality is respect is earned, not demanded. Did anyone bother to question what gave the deportee the idea that Kenyans are inferior? Let’s look around us and at ourselves first.

Most Chinese do not watch Hollywood.
You have forgotten who has been ruling them since 1949??They have their own local media which portrays us as… well…


After the Soviet Union fell Chinese got lots of access to the outside world. They watched movies to see how life is in America.

Now China is the number one consumer of Hollywood movies globally. Earning studios tons of cash.

Wolf Warrior 2 was a big Chinese movie hit and it depicted Africans down to the letter just like in Western movies.

You are referring to Chinese in Urban Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
That is like 200 million Chinese.
Most Provincial Governments have their own Censorship boards and most do NOT allow Hollywood movies to be screened in their regions.Under Xi Jiping, the focus is on local content in a bid to not be overwhelmed by America culturally.



What we need to do is to show some ferking spine and pride.

The Chinese became a superpower by standing up for themselves and refusing to rely on outside help.

What we are is a bunch of spineless begging cunts who will let just about any charlatan and pissant do what they want with our country.

No wonder half literate baboons like the Malongs can appear on TV and embarrass one of the biggest media houses in this country plus stash their ill gotten wealth without so much as a peep from our government.

try to pull their stunts in South Sudan and you’ll be sleeping with lice in their jails.

we are China and the West’s bitch. They know it and we know it too

our inferiority should be accommodated for without being mentioned.

Like fucking a fat girl out of desperation. You make accommodations for her weight but you don’t mention it.

That’s the case indeed for official content and television rights and such.

But that’s not going to stop consumers from accessing these films from even buying them from the black market.