Rethinking China-Africa Relations during the Cold War: Military Modernization and the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Project



Date: 24 May 2012
Time: 15.30-17.00
Room: 1A27
Speaker: Prof. Jamie Monson, Humboldt University, Berlin

You are kindly requested to register for this seminar. 

Some 40,000 Chinese railway workers travelled to Eastern Africa between 1968 and 1975 to help with the construction of the TAZARA railway. They worked side by side with 60,000 African workers in machine workshops and base camps, laying track through some of the most remote and isolated areas of Tanzania and Zambia. This trans-national railway line, stretching some 1865 km from the Indian Ocean to the Zambian Copperbelt, was China’s largest global development intervention at the time. Built in the midst of Pan-African solidarity as well as Cold War rivalry, TAZARA became an enduring symbol of China’s friendship with Africa.

The workers who participated in the project did so in the context of competing Cold War modernization ideologies. China, the US and the Soviet Union were all seeking to gain influence in Africa through development practice. This ‘superpower standoff’ was not only ideological but also military and strategic. This seminar will consider the ways that everyday practices of industrialization and labour were shaped by military-strategic concerns during the construction of the TAZARA. Jamie Monson will argue that facts – and fears – of real war during the Cold War in the 1960s and 1970s contributed to a specific form of military modernization in China-Africa relations.

Jamie Monson’s research focuses on the relationship between China and Africa during the Cold War. Her current project is a transnational study of work on the TAZARA railway, China’s largest and most famous development project in Africa. She is currently a research fellow at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, where she is collaborating with a Chinese filmmaker to document the life stories of African and Chinese railway workers. Based at Macalester College in Minnesota, USA, Professor Monson has published on the TAZARA Railway, the Maji Maji War in Tanzania, and African environmental history.

Selma Zijlstra

04 maart 2012