Xi Jinping wraps up tour with 'deepened ties' with Congo
Chinese leader wraps up foreign tour on a high note, sealing its role as African nation's largest trade partner through far-reaching deals
President Xi Jinping yesterday wrapped up his first foreign trip, which has seen him sign energy deals with Russia and scores of accords with countries in resource-rich Africa.
Xi ended his tour by making the first visit by a Chinese president to the Republic of the Congo, a small and impoverished country in central Africa which has significant oil resources and other untapped mineral wealth.
On his second and last day in Brazzaville he met members of the Chinese community and attended the inauguration of a Chinese-built hospital and the capital's largest university library before his plane took off for Beijing.
Xi, who was travelling with his celebrity soprano wife, Peng Liyuan, on Friday inked 11 communications, banking and infrastructure deals worth millions of dollars in the Congo.
He said that he hoped to "deepen mutual understanding and friendship [with the Republic of the Congo] and lift bilateral ties to a new and higher level", Xinhua reported.
They build on two further accords worth several billion dollars already under way, one of which will finance the building of more than 500 kilometres of highway between Brazzaville and the economic capital on the Atlantic coast, Pointe-Noire.
In a joint communiqué issued by the two countries yesterday, China and the Congo agreed to step up the co-operation in areas of energy, mining, infrastructure and farming.
Seeking to shore up ties with Africa, with which trade soared to US$200 billion last year, Xi also visited Tanzania and South Africa. He praised the "continous progress" on the continent.
In Tanzania, where he signed 16 trade, cultural and development accords, Xi hailed Africa as a "continent of hope and promise" and urged countries to respect its "dignity and independence".
Xi said China would "intensify, not weaken" its relationship and noted its commitment to provide a US$20 billion credit line to African nations over the next two years.
Many in the West question China's motives in improving ties with Africa, accusing it of neocolonialism and overlooking abuses as it seeks oil and other resources to fuel its growth.
On Friday, in an address to Congo's parliament, Xi said both nations shared a desire to develop. "We have the historic mission of achieving national development and the happiness of our people," he said.
"In the future, the development of China will represent an unprecedented opportunity for Africa, just as Africa's development will be for my country."
China is already Congo's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade ballooning to US$5 billion in 2012 from US$290 million in 2002, according to Xinhua.
China's business boom has seen trade ties rocket in recent years as it sources many of its raw materials from Africa.
Xinhua said, however, that more than 85 per cent of the staff of some 2,000 Chinese companies operating in 50 African countries were Africans.
Additional reporting by Staff Reporter