The China presence is growing as evidenced by the number of Chinese officials and academics paying attention to Eastern Africa.
They appear to have a focused mindset to surpass the rest of the world in everything and to do it in a systematic non-confrontational way.
They are careful not to appear to be a threat as they ensure success of their agenda.
They are listening and even seek opinions on what Kenyans think.
They admit errors and reprimand their citizens who damage Chinese image.
To hear from the academics, not platitudes but the reality, the Chinese linked with the Foreign Service Institute to organise two meetings in two weeks involving Chinese and Kenyan academics and thinkers.
The Chinese learned that Kenyans admire and are suspicious of Chinese intentions.
The admiration is in the Chinese work habit that has two characteristics.
First, the Chinese do not know day and night, Sundays or holidays.
Second, they are very efficient, particularly in building highways.
The suspicion is also due to two factors. First, the Chinese have a social problem in that their workers do not mingle well with the hosts. Second, they are not good in propaganda campaigns compared to Euro-powers whose control of the international media enables them to set the global agenda. Thus, they are denied credit by jealous Euro-powers.
From the Chinese, Kenyans learned two things. First, China's willingness to help as long as Kenya or any other African country want help and it is clearly understood to entail mutual interest and respect. Second, the Chinese emphasis on getting things right.
The ambassador, Liu Guangyuan, pleaded with Kenyans not to import substandard goods and to report any Chinese organisation doing so. He discounted the claim that Chinese tourists do not spend money as he pointed out that Kenyans have very little to offer to the Chinese tourists.
There were philosophical challenges disclosing African weaknesses.
While the Chinese are clear on what they want, argued Kangethe Iraki, Kenyans have not studied Chinese culture and philosophy to understand them. And Kenya has no blueprint on what it wants from China. The Chinese think big projects, James Shikwati claimed, but Africans lack big thinkers. This inability to understand philosophies or to think big has led to African failures in projecting interests properly.
China presents multiple opportunities with participants stressing the need for diversification and alternatives to the Euro-control.
Kenya, commented Zaddock Syong'o, needs to adopt a multiple foreign currency reserve policy to hedge the shilling against dollar vagaries.
Given that Nigerians have already adopted multiple currency reserve policy and the South Africans are reportedly thinking about it, Kenya can also start paying its international debts using the yuan.
Delinking the shilling from the dollar may be difficult, noted Johnson Weru, because Kenya is deeply tied to the unit. Most of the imports draining the shilling, added Michael Chege, are capital goods used for infrastructure developments.
Defence was of concern.
Although Kenya has an Indian Ocean defence pact with China, commented Weru, it needs to beef up its defences and assume the role of regional military power to protect its regional commercial interests.
Since it is in China's interests to ensure regional stability, opined Simiyu Werunga, it should engage in mediation of conflicts. The Chinese took all this in and promised to co-operate.
Prof Munene teaches at USIU.