China may be preparing to take control of Kenya’s largest port as a result of debt-trap diplomacy, according to recent African media reports.
The Kenyan government is at risk of “losing the lucrative Port Mombasa to China should the country fail to repay huge loans advanced by Chinese lenders,” African Stand wrote on December 20.
Since 2013, Kenya has accepted some $4.9 billion for the construction of the Stand Gauge Railway (SGR) connecting Mombasa, the largest port in East Africa, and Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The SGR is the largest infrastructure project Kenya has undertaken since its independence. But in its first year of operation, the project reported losses equivalent to $98 million, making Kenya’s servicing of the loans unmanageable.
Kenyan Auditor General Edward Ouko warned last month that the terms of the deal were designed to favour the China Exim Bank, which loaned Kenya Railways Corp. the funds to build the sgr. “[I]f Kenya Railways Corporation defaults in its obligations and China Exim Bank exercises power over the escrow account security,” his office wrote in a November 16 audit report, “[t]he China Exim Bank would become a principle” over some Kenyan assets.
Africa Stand noted that, besides the Mombasa port, Kenya could also be pressured to hand the Chinese control of the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi. “Implications of a takeover would be grave, including the thousands of port workers who would be forced to work under the Chinese lenders,” it wrote.
Authorities in both Kenya and China have refuted reports. But if China were to take control over some Kenyan assets due to its failure to repay loans, it would not be China’s first time.
A Worrying Precedent
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced his plans to rebuild the Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes that facilitated flow of goods, ideas and culture across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The revived version, called the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) aims to connect 60 percent of the global population to China with vast infrastructure projects.
Sri Lanka was among the most enthusiastic nations to welcome China’s quick cash to build BRI-related infrastructure. It accepted billions of dollars in loans for such projects as the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port in Hambantota.
This port is at a key location for China’s maritime “road.” But for the Sri Lankan economy, the port was a bust. Instead of fuelling growth, the port (and other Chinese-funded infrastructure projects, such at the “world’s emptiest airport” in Mattala) sunk Sri Lanka deeply into debt.
By 2016, a third of Sri Lanka’s total government revenue went toward servicing Chinese loans, and the nation was forced to apply for debt relief with the International Monetary Fund. But the imf provided only temporary relief, and the Sri Lankan leadership soon felt that the only course of action was to give China a controlling stake in the Rajapaksa Port for 99 years. The handover set off alarms in Sri Lanka and beyond because it represented a Chinese victory with potential military applications. “The acquisition provided Beijing with a deepwater port in the region in which it can dock its navy, off the coast of its key regional competitor, India,” Foreign Policy wrote on October 29.
Sri Lanka is often cited as the textbook case of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy.” But Pakistan, Montenegro, Djibouti, Zambia and the Maldives are all in similarly precarious positions, thanks to China’s BRI loans, and pundits worry that they may be forced to hand over assets to Beijing. And now Kenya may be added to this growing list.
“China wants to avoid the impression that it is sinking its dragon claws into other countries,” said Lu Xiankun, senior research fellow at the Shanghai centre for Global Trade and Economic Governance, during a 2016 imd Discovery Event. But as BRI progress continues, it is becoming clearer that for many nations, that is essentially what is happening.
The ‘Times of the Gentiles’
Bible prophecy says that in the “end time,” shortly before worldwide war breaks out culminating in the return of Jesus Christ, the world will enter an era called “the times of the Gentiles.” Jesus Christ used this phrase in Luke 21:24, saying, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
In the July 2014 Trumpet issue, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote about this quickly approaching era. “These ‘times of the Gentiles’ are yet to be fully realised,” but “we are in the outer edges of this catastrophic storm,” he wrote (“What Are the Times of the Gentiles?”).
He explained that the term Gentile refers to “non-Israelite peoples,” adding that the Israelite peoples constitute “a lot more than the little nation in the Middle East.” In end-time prophecy, “Israel” refers mostly to modern-day America and Britain. (For a thorough explanation, order a copy of our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.)
Mr. Flurry continued: “Once you understand who Israel is, then you can understand how the Gentiles—the non-Israelite peoples—have started to take charge of the world right now.”
For many decades, American and British supremacy has brought stability to much of the world. But in “the times of the Gentiles,” power is being transferred away from them and toward two main blocs of non-Israelite nations. “While there are many Gentile nations around today, when this prophecy is completely fulfilled there will be two major powers,” Mr. Flurry wrote. One of these will revolve around Germany, and the other around China and Russia.
China’s increasing expansion of the BRI and related initiatives is shifting global power away from the Israelite nations and toward these other nations. The project’s imbalanced loan terms for nations such as Kenya and Sri Lanka makes the dangers of the shift more plain.
Mr. Flurry explained that a primary reason for the global shift in power is “America’s disappearing will.” He wrote:
The big reason these powers are rising today traces back to the power vacuum created by America’s weakness—and the disappearance of America’s will. … In recent years, America has demonstrated its lack of will to use its power in several international arenas. … Recognising that weakness, China is asserting its power.
China’s actions prove that Gentiles are rising to power before our eyes! And this is just one of many Gentile nations growing more aggressive on the world scene.
The U.S. is no longer asserting itself as it should, which is putting its allies on shaky ground. While many will rejoice at the United States’ demise, this trend is building to catastrophe like never before seen!
Mr. Flurry pointed out that though the shift in global power now underway is deeply worrisome, it is connected to good news. He wrote:
This is terrifying news. Luke’s record of Christ’s prophecy says it will be a time of “men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:26).
However, notice the very next verse! “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (verse 27). These times of the Gentiles lead directly to the return of Jesus Christ! … Now that is good news!