China's top political adviser, Jia Qinglin, was at the opening ceremony of the 18th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa yesterday to inaugurate its new, Beijing-funded headquarters there.
The US$200 million, 113-metre-high complex was built on 110,000 square metres of land provided by the Ethiopian government, according to the AU website.
'The AU Conference and Office Complex, built with China's assistance, is a symbol of our profound friendship that will go down in the history of China-Africa friendly relations,' Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said on Friday.
'Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 42 years ago ... China and Ethiopia have had fruitful exchanges and co-operation in political, economic, trade, cultural and other fields and enjoyed ever closer co-operation in international and regional affairs,' he said.
Construction of the building - which now dominates the skyline of the Ethiopian capital and is the city's tallest - began in January 2009, with some 1,200 Chinese and Ethiopian workers involved.
Most of the building materials used were imported from China and even the furnishings were paid for by Beijing, earlier reports said.
The centre will offer all the facilities of an international-standard conference centre and the AU will host key meetings there.
Jia is the most senior official from Beijing to attend the summit. The Foreign Ministry said he would also hold talks with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and current holder of the AU's rotating presidency.
Jia held talks with Ethiopian president Girma Woldegiorgis and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and pledged more investment in the country.
Jiang Yuechun , a professor at the China Institute of International Studies, a foreign ministry think tank, said Jia's high-profile presence at the summit indicated that both sides were willing to develop long-term diplomatic and economic ties.
'Beijing has good experience dealing with our African friends, not only getting their votes in the United Nations, but also in terms of economic co-operation,' Jiang said.
'China holds the biggest foreign-exchange reserves and we need to find an overseas market for our investment. Africa is the biggest potential market because of its rich resources and land.'
He said many Chinese enterprises, such as Haier - the world's largest refrigerator and washing machine maker - were also looking to Africa as a potential new market.
'This is a win-win because China has the money, the labour and the experience of building infrastructure, which our African friends need, and we need their rich resources to help us to boost our economy,' he said.
Sino-African trade rose more than 23.5 per cent to over US$160 billion in 2011, up from US$129.6 billion in 2010, deputy commerce minister Gao Hucheng said on Friday.
China overtook the United States as Africa's biggest trading partner in 2009. China's cumulative investment in Africa totals US$40 billion, including US$14.7 billion of direct investment, with more than 2,000 Chinese-invested firms there, Gao said.