The new electrified rail line snakes through the African desert, charting a course from a port along the Djibouti coast to Addis Ababa, the capital of land-locked Ethiopia.
The Chinese built the railway, and part of the port, and the new military base next door. On the other end of the line, Chinese dollars financed Addis Ababa’s new light rail, and the new ring road system, and the silver African Union headquarters that towers over the city.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, America has noticed.
From Djibouti to Ethiopia, Kenya to Egypt, the United States is sounding the alarm that the Chinese money flooding Africa comes with significant strings attached. The warnings carry distinct neocolonial undertones: With Beijing’s astonishing investments in ports, roads and railways, the U.S. says, come dependency, exploitation and intrusion on nations’ basic sovereignty.