Trade and energy on Wen's agenda

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2006, 12:00am

China seeks to gain deals on African resources: analyst

China is seeking to convert its political capital in Africa into lucrative economic and trade deals, a mainland analyst has suggested ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao's scheduled trip to the resource-rich continent next weekend.

Mr Wen's eight-day visit covers Egypt, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Angola, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, and comes just two months after President Hu Jintao's three-nation African trip.

Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei said China aimed to promote ties across the board, with energy co-operation and trade high on the premier's agenda.

'Mr Wen's trip will be another major Chinese diplomatic move on Africa this year,' Mr He said yesterday, adding China would increase financial, medical and humanitarian aid, and unveil tax breaks and debt relief. The premier would also sign energy and other trade deals, he said without elaborating.

China's trade with Africa hit a record of nearly US$40 billion last year, with imports from Angola, China's biggest African oil supplier, reaching US$6.58 billion.

Pang Zhongying, a professor of international relations at Tianjin's Nankai University, said China's economic clout gave it confidence in pursuing its economic interests on the continent.

'Africa's role is on the rise in China's economic development and China is using its sound political ties with African nations to expand economic ties,' he said.

China's goals in Africa, he said, reflected a shift in foreign policy priorities, away from global powers to underdeveloped countries.

'On the one hand, it is due to China's demand for oil, but on the other hand, Africa has provided a stage for China to compete for influence with other international powers,' Professor Pang said.

But Mr He dismissed criticism China's growing interest in Africa was driven by oil and that China had sought to co-operate with repressive regimes in Africa, such as Sudan, regardless of their human rights records.

'It is one-sided or wrong to say China's growing ties with Africa are purely for oil,' he said. 'The aim of Sino-African co-operation is mutual benefit ... it is particularly conducive for the development of African countries.'

Professor Pang also defended China's growing involvement in Africa, saying: 'It is more noteworthy to listen to what African countries say about their co-operation with China.

They generally think positively of the Sino-African ties.'