China’s Wen seeks to boost blossoming Africa ties

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao meets African leaders on Sunday, aiming to boost a relationship which politically goes back decades and is now economically booming — to the discomfort of some in the West.

All eyes will be on new offers of aid to Africa at the meeting in Egypt, after President Hu Jintao promised $5-billion in loans and credit at the last summit in Beijing in 2006.

Blossoming trade and business ties have drawn Western criticism that Beijing is only interested in African resources, while Chinese commentators retort that envious Europeans still treat the continent like a colony.

Wen himself underlined the strength of the relationship. ”Despite the great distance between China and Africa, the friendship between our two peoples has remained strong,” he told a business forum in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh before the main meeting.

Chinese officials have been coy about exactly how much more Wen may offer. But a draft action plan, details of which were obtained by Reuters, showed China will increase aid to African countries despite the effects of the global economic crisis.

”China has all along had an interest in Africa’s development, and genuinely wants to build homes for Africans and make a contribution towards improving livelihoods,” Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming wrote in the state-run International Business Daily this week.

China’s friendship with Africa dates back to the 1950s, when Beijing backed liberation movements in the continent fighting to throw off colonial rule.

Trade has jumped in the past decade, driven by Chinese hunger for resources to power its economic boom and African demand for cheap Chinese products.

Still, this has not been without its critics, who say China is only interested in African resources and supports governments with dubious human rights records as a means to get them.

Such criticism makes China angry, and draws rebukes that the West still views Africa as though it were a colony.

”The West is envious of China and Africa drawing closer,” popular Chinese tabloid the Global Times, published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, wrote on Tuesday.

”Europeans view Africa as their own backyard,” the newspaper quoted Chinese Africa expert Xu Weizhong as saying. ”Of course they feel uncomfortable about the arrival of the Chinese.”

Some Africans welcome how China’s approach differs from that of Europe or the United States.

”China’s policy is based on mutual development. Few Western countries have a foreign policy like this — most are about telling Africans what to do,” said Kwaku Atuahene-Gima, executive director of the Africa programme at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.

China says it is up to Africans to decide whether the relationship is good for them, and is sure they will say it is.

”Practice proves that the China-Africa relationship is mutually beneficial, and cooperation is win-win, embodying the wishes of the people and the demands of the times,” minister Chen wrote. – Reuters

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Ben Blanchard
Ben Blanchard works from Chicago, IL. PhD candidate in evolutionary biology @UChicago/@FieldMuseum. Editor-in-chief @ , @realDailyAnt. Ants, day in & day out. Tweets my own. Ben Blanchard has over 771 followers on Twitter.

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