This story is part of an ongoing series on how China is reshaping our world.

Before the Chambeshi River in northern Zambia feeds into the all-important Congo River, it takes a break, stopping to form the massive Lake Bangweulu. The name refers to “water that meets the sky.” It stretches so far that, when it’s still, cloud and lake get all mixed up at the horizon. At the center of this vast expanse, Zambians on tiny fishing boats take leisurely phone calls and send brisk WhatsApps.

Throughout Africa, countries are being connected to the digital economy for the first time, making the internet accessible where it once was not, like in the middle of Lake Bangweulu. In Zambia, communication, banking, and public services are all going digital. As in many African nations, this is all happening with the help of China. But China isn’t just spotting good investment opportunities; nor is it trying to win favors from smaller countries. It’s changing how we think about the internet.

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