I was waiting in a fashionable café for Tang Xiaohe* in the Dongzhimen district in Beijing. Every bit of the décor in the café signalled the prosperity of China’s capital city. So did the price of a cup of cappuccino. 

Xiaohe is a 35-year-old mother-of-one who works in a large tourism company. She contacted me when I put a call out via WeChat seeking women born under China’s one-child policy in the 1980s who were willing to talk about their transitions to employment and parenthood for my ongoing research. Xiaohe chose this café, which is two miles away from her office, to avoid any lunchtime haunts frequented by her colleagues. 

The complex relationship between Africa and China has become even more complicated this year. Initially, 2018 was set to reaffirm the bond through the latest Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held in Beijing in September. The summit delivered its usual pageant of African leaders, side deals, and the announcement of a USD$60 billion financing package. The year also saw the recurrence of misgivings about the relationship.

The most explicit theme of this conversation was debt. Donald Trump’s US administration added fuel to smouldering anxiety, and China found itself having to defend its lending to Africa – at home and globally. At the same time, African governments are battling rumours that they are about to hand over state assets to the Chinese. 

The Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone on Wednesday awarded scholarships to 18 university students across the country. The scholarships were awarded to students across the three constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone including Fourah Bay College, Institute of Public Administration and Management and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences.

Addressing the gathering during the ceremony at the Embassy on Spur Loop in Freetown, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wu Peng, said the scholarships were awarded in recognition of the students' excellence in academics coupled with their good understanding of China and their contribution to China-Sierra Leone friendship.

Wu said that some of the students were troubled by economic constraints and could hardly afford tuition, adding that the embassy always stands ready to help poverty-stricken Sierra Leonean students fulfill their studies and realize their dreams.
Vice Chancellor of University of Sierra Leone Foday Sahr said the scholarship was not the first but a continuation of what has been happening for the decades of relationship between China and Sierra Leone.

He said Sierra Leone has benefited from China in various areas including infrastructure, business, health, education and other areas. He called on the beneficiaries to count themselves lucky to be awarded the scholarship and make use of the opportunity by studying harder. 

Xi stresses boosting healthy development of new-generation AI

BEIJING, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has stressed the importance of boosting the healthy development of the country's new generation of artificial intelligence (AI).
Presiding over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Wednesday, Xi spoke of the need to strengthen leadership, make good plans, clearly define tasks and consolidate the foundation to promote deep integration of AI with economic and social developments.

Chinese-built modern trains carry 2 mln passengers amid improved service in Kenya

NAIROBI, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) commuter trains have ferried more than two million passengers between Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa since its launch in May last year, the operator confirmed on Wednesday.
Li Jianfeng, deputy general manager of SGR passenger train operator, Africa Star Railway Operation Company Limited, said it has resonated with local and foreign travelers thanks to improved safety, convenience and customer service.
"By Oct. 28, 2,013,000 passengers enjoyed passenger train service since launching. We have also achieved a seating occupancy at 97.2 percent (including inter-county seats reuse)," said Li.

He revealed this to senior Kenyan policymakers, lawmakers, scholars from leading think tanks and media practitioners during a tour of the Nairobi SGR terminus on Tuesday to learn about operations of both the commuter and cargo services.
Li said the SGR freight service has ferried about 2,605,000 tonnes of bulk cargo since its launch, hence easing congestion at the port of Mombasa.
The SGR commuter train dubbed Madaraka Express has revolutionized travel while stimulating commerce along the 480 kilometers railway built by a Chinese company.
Li said the operator of this modern train service has focused on rebranding and paid attention to improved management, communication, social responsibility and timely response to customer's needs.
"The company has been improving operation concept, management and working methods. We aim at win-win in terms of both economic perspective and social benefits," said Li.

He revealed the SGR commuter train operator has also set up an online platform and customer service center to enhance interaction with passengers.
"Questionnaires and passenger survey returns are carried out at intervals to continuously improve service skills and quality," said Li.
"Service phones and customer service center are available to assist passengers and handle complaints upon request. Designated staff are available for disabled passengers," he added.
Li said that Kenyan staff continue to benefit from advanced training on railway operations in China.
Kenyan lawmakers expressed confidence in the operations of both the SGR commuter and freight transport services terming them a game changer in the quest for socio-economic transformation in the country.
Shakeel Shabbir, Member of Parliament for Kisumu East in western Kenya, said the modern trains were contributing significantly to the country's development.
"We have great faith in the SGR passenger and cargo services that have contributed to rebuilding of our economy and passing of skills to local youth," Shabbir said.

Kenya's Nairobi gears up for slum film festival

NAIROBI, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- A film festival will roll out in Nairobi on Monday featuring 2,600 entries from 120 countries, many about slum lives or shot by slum communities. Organizers of the annual Slum Film Festival, now in its seventh year, said on Sunday that the films will be screened in two of Kenya's largest slums, Kibera and Mathare. George Karanja, the Director of the Film Festival, said the bulk of African entries were received from Nigeria, Cameroon and Kenya, which will be screened alongside non-African films from the United States, India, Pakistan and others. The community-based film event features stories by, and about people living in urban slums globally. The highlight of this year's event is the award-cum-closing ceremony set for October 6 and which will be graced by influential players in the film industry, both local and foreign. He said winners from nominated entries in over 10 categories ranging from best African film, best international film, best cinematography, best director to best sound, will be awarded during on the gala night. The festival aims to offer a platform for films from slum communities to reach broader audiences as well as promoting dialogue about life in slums by using stories from such communities. "The festival demonstrates that slums are also a home for very talented, creative and culturally active artists," said Karanja.


CPC meeting analyzes economic situation

BEIJING, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held a meeting Wednesday to analyze the current economic situation and arrange the country's economic work. The meeting, presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said that China has achieved sustained and healthy economic and social development this year. In the first three quarters, the country achieved overall economic stability with steady progress, and economic performance was kept within a proper range, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

China, Myanmar sign MoU on feasibility study of Muse-Mandalay railway
NAY PYI TAW, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- China and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Monday to conduct feasibility study of a railway linking Muse, a border town in Myanmar's northeastern Shan state, with Mandalay, the country's second largest city in the north.
Under the MoU, inked between China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co. Ltd and state-run Myanma Railways, the feasibility study will be conducted within two years covering environmental and social impact assessment.