No change on Africa strategy, minister says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi vows to increase co-operation with Africa despite the wave of uprisings in the north of the continent and criticism of China's investment strategy.

At a press conference in Beijing yesterday during the annual session of the National People's Congress, Yang said that despite 'uncertainties and instabilities', Africa was generally peaceful and stable.

Yang said China had very good co-operation with African countries and the African Union (AU).

He said work on the China-funded 51,887-square-metre AU conference centre and office complex in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, would be completed this year. It is the second-largest Chinese assistance project in Africa, after the Tanzania-Zambia Railway.

Beijing's increasing influence in Africa has drawn criticism from the West in recent years. Risk management and investment analysts say the continuing Libyan turmoil would force Beijing to take a harder look at the dark side of its 'no strings attached' African investment strategy.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming said yesterday on a separate occasion that his ministry would soon send a work group to investigate the situation in Libya, where the political uprising prompted China to evacuate more than 35,000 nationals.

Chen said there was no Chinese company in the crisis-torn country, but added '29 Chinese companies have signed the construction contracts for building 50 projects, worth a total of US$18.8 billion'.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US and China were competing for global influence, highlighting the resource-rich Pacific as another region where Washington and Beijing were jockeying for influence.

Yang, in a vague reference to Clinton's remarks, said China might be a competitor with some countries in the economic and other arenas, but all countries should co-operate to a certain degree and co-operation was still the theme. Yang said China would continue to help developing countries to increase their competitiveness and that one example of that was China's investment in infrastructure in Africa.

'We also strive to join forces with developed countries in aiding other developing countries,' he said. 'We should keep an open mind on competition ... but in pursuit of a country's own interests, one should take into account other parties' interests.'

Yang described the current atmosphere in Sino-US relations as good, while reiterating Beijing's opposition to any US arms sales to Taiwan. However, he sidestepped the question when asked how Beijing might react if Washington approved further arms sales.

Sino-US military ties ground to a halt after the administration of Barack Obama approved a US$6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan in January last year that included helicopters, Patriot missiles and mine-hunting ships. The relations resumed slowly towards the end of the year, but Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said early this year that Taipei still hoped to acquire F16 C/D fighter jets from the US.

On moves to restart the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korean denuclearisation, Yang said China supported bilateral discussions among members of the forum.

'China has been supportive of bilateral dialogue, contacts, meetings between concerned parties. We think such contacts and the six-party talks could promote each other,' Yang said. He urged all parties to seize present opportunities and redouble their efforts to resume the talks.

He also defended China's procurement of the debts of some European countries, saying China was very concerned about the sovereign debt crises in Europe and that its actions should not be treated with suspicion.

'If we help our friends or not, we get criticism,' Yang said.