Attack will not derail African strategy, say experts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am


Related topics

The risk of violence for its workers in Africa would not stop China's expansion of trade and investment with the continent, experts in international relations said yesterday.

The remarks came a day after rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked an oil exploration site run by a subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp in eastern Ethiopia, killing nine Chinese workers (Xinhua says seven) and 65 locals. Another nine Chinese workers were kidnapped. In March, two Chinese workers were kidnapped in Nigeria and are still missing. In February, 14 Chinese workers with a Chinese oil company were abducted and released in the same country.

Shu Yunguo , director of the Centre of African Studies at Shanghai Normal University, said closer economic ties between China and African countries were an 'unstoppable trend' and would not be affected by Tuesday's attack.

'Chinese workers were the victims of an internal conflict in Ethiopia. The incident will not have a big impact on Beijing's long-term strategy of developing economic ties with Africa,' Professor Shu said.

Zhang Xiaodong , senior research fellow at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, under the China Academy of Social Science, said China as the so-called 'world factory' had little choice but to import energy and resources.

'We all know importing crude oil from Saudi Arabia is safe but China can't really do that because the market has been monopolised by western companies. There is little option left,' he said. 'It's why China has to deal with Sudan or Iran when other countries are denouncing them.'

China has increased its presence in Africa in recent years with big oil exploration and infrastructure projects.

Official figures show China had invested US$6.27 billion in Africa by 2005, mostly in oil exploration. Five per cent of China's crude oil imports come from Sudan and 13 per cent from Angola.

Professor Shu said although the current investments in Africa were win-win for both parties, China would gradually change its investment focus from energy and raw materials to other sectors such as education to make the investment more beneficial to locals.

Beijing has been strongly criticised by western countries for wooing Africa with billions of dollars of debt waivers and big infrastructure projects while ignoring human rights violations. But Chinese leaders insist China has improved the well-being of countries where it invests.

For example, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Jia Qinglin , who is on a tour of four countries in the continent, said on Tuesday that 20 per cent of Africa's economic growth was attributed to trade with China.

Professor Zhang said Chinese companies should contribute to local communities instead of acting like the colonists of the past.