Foreign Minister sets off for Africa
Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan
FOREIGN Minister Tang Jiaxuan left for a five-nation tour of Africa yesterday aimed at boosting ties and countering the chequebook diplomacy of rival Taiwan.
Mr Tang will kick off the visit with talks in Egypt and Kenya, both close Beijing allies on the issues of Taiwan and human rights.
He will then tour Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia before visiting France.
'These particular destinations were chosen as China's first diplomatic activity in the new year to demonstrate the great importance the country places on Sino-African relations,' Xinhua reported.
Beijing was determined to boost relations with African nations to counteract Taiwan's diplomatic efforts in the region, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Niger, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal have all 'defected', the official said.
Foreign Ministry officials are also keen to reiterate their commitment to Third World brotherhood, even though developing countries are anxious as China moves to build closer ties with developed nations.
'China will not neglect its ties with Africa while it improves its relations with powers,' Liu Guijin, director of the African Affairs Department of the Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying.
Mr Liu said Mr Tang would discuss with leaders of the five African nations bilateral relations, the regional situation in Asia and other issues of concern.
During a tour of six African nations in 1996, President Jiang Zemin put forward a five-point proposal for advancing long-standing co-operative relations.
Former premier Li Peng visited seven African nations in 1997.
Beijing was shocked when Senegal succumbed to what it called the 'sugar-coated' diplomacy of Taiwan and switched diplomatic recognition to the island in 1995.
Beijing now extends subsidised, preferential loans instead of interest-free loans to its African allies.
The mainland has found itself at a disadvantage in the face of the enormous aid and business opportunities that Taiwan can offer potential partners in its campaign to score more diplomatic victories.