Zambia, like several African countries, is inching toward a debt crisis, sparking discussion about whether China is to blame. With debt-servicing payments already crowding out development spending, ordinary Zambians are feeling the pinch—and their patience with the government’s coziness to Beijing, and with China's so-called "debt-trap diplomacy," is beginning to wear thin.
LUSAKA, Zambia—Sitting in the lobby of a Lusaka hotel last month, James Lukuku was feeling energized.
The leader of Zambia’s Republican Progressive Party, a fringe opposition group, Lukuku had gained notoriety in recent months as one of the most outspoken critics of Zambia’s relationship with China—a bond he and others say is characterized by increasingly reckless borrowing that puts Zambia’s sovereignty at risk. The 37-year-old made headlines in September when he staged a one-man protest in Lusaka, the capital, holding a sign that equated China to Hitler while wearing a T-shirt with the words “Donald Trump Help” scrawled in red and black magic marker.