Chinese “linguistic coup” in East Africa

As part of its goal to displace American influence, China is winning the linguistic hearts in East Africa (a bloc of 300 million people), publishing the Xi Jinping Thought Propaganda book in the local Swahili language. Millions of Swahili speakers in East and Central Africa are hearing the thoughts of China’s ruler in his native language.

Xi’s brain
“We love picking President Xi’s brain in the Swahili language,” said Suleimani Konjo, coordinator of the China-Tanzania Friendship Forum, an informal lobby group in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the region’s second-largest economy.

Swahili is a massive indigenous African dialect spoken by almost 200 million people in East African communities in the countries comprising Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. It is also the most widespread native language on the entire African continent. Colloquially called the Latin of Africa, Swahili mixes foreign Arabic words with African dialects. And China has set its sights on Swahili.

In mid-August, the Swahili language version of China’s governance was released. This provides the basis for the propaganda book, the full title of which is Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

“The publication of the book will help African readers understand the historical background and cultural roots of China’s development path, the governing philosophy of the Communist Party of China and Chinese wisdom on building a better world,” explained a State statement. Council Information Office, a ministry of the People’s Republic of China, in August.

Often called Xi Jinping Thought, the propaganda book is required reading for China’s public officials who extol the totalitarian system in China presided over by Xi. And it is spreading towards East Africa.

“We are excited that President Xi’s ideas will be distributed in the Swahili language here in Tanzania, and we will be sending the booklets to children in primary and secondary schools,” said Benard Kamiru, secretary of education at Tanzania’s Ministry of Education. Language magazine.

Before the translation of Xi’s propaganda, the countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda sent university language academics to follow the process in China, so that any translation from Mandarin exactly matches the meaning in the African language Swahili, Kamiru says .

“Due to British, German and French colonialism in East Africa, we were forced to read books by American and British presidents and authors, by Churchill, Roosevelt and Shakespeare, and they were never translated into the Swahili language. We feel very honored and respected that a great power like China wants to express the thoughts of its president in our Swahili language,” said Dedan Winjoro, director of diplomacy at the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a former Kenyan diplomat to China.

Duel between the United States and China
East Africa – the Swahili-speaking bloc – is a region where the United States trails China in public appeal and financial deals, and cultural resistance to English is growing.

China is the largest donor of financial aid to East African countries, and the China Road and Bridge Corporation has built massive infrastructure projects such as the $3.8 billion railway line in Kenya. In major East African economies such as Kenya, China holds 70% of the countries’ debt, underscoring Beijing’s march in the region. As well as being situated at the mouths of vital global shipping lanes such as the Red Sea, East Africa is also home to some of the world’s most precious rare earth metals cobalt, graphite and lithium, cementing the region as a strategic hotspot. key for Washington and Beijing.

“China is super smart and calculating,” said Yasin Kakande, an East Africa expert and author of why we comesaid Language magazine. “Presenting President Xi’s propaganda book to East African schoolchildren in the Swahili language shows that Beijing seeks to shape attitudes not only among bureaucrats but also among ordinary people walking the streets. “It is a linguistic coup that Beijing is attempting.” Deogracias Kalima