Author: Liu Haifang, Jamie Monson.
During the construction of the TAZARA railway in Tanzania and Zambia in the 1970s, African and Chinese workers not only laboured side by side but also engaged in what was known as 'technical cooperation' as Chinese railway experts trained their African counterparts in the workplace and in technical training workshops. This cooperation continued to develop over the years following the railway's completion, as a total of 14 successive teams of Chinese experts were sent to Dar es Salaam to provide technical support. Far from being a 'white elephant' stuck in the politics of an earlier era, as some critics have claimed, TAZARA has been changing over the past 34 years in the context of political and economic liberalisation. Yet it has at the same time retained many of the qualities that made it a 'vanguard' of Chinese development assistance at its inauguration.