China touts relations with Africa

2012-07-18 12:39
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Beijing — China touted its close relations with Africa on Wednesday even as some countries there have grumbled about problems arising from being locked in a tight embrace with the resource-hungry Asian economic power.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming wrote in the China Daily newspaper that total trade between China and Africa hit a record high of $166bn last year. Chen said direct Chinese investment in Africa reached $14.7bn by the end of last year, a 60% increase from two years earlier.

Chen's comments came as African leaders arrived in Beijing for two days of talks on expanding co-operation.

Also attending the opening ceremony for the meeting was United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, who praised China's relations with Africa in his talks on Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Close co-operation between the sides enabled them to weather the 2008 global crisis, Chen wrote. "As a result, the trade and economic co-operation has witnessed faster growth across wider areas in more diversified forms, bringing more tangible benefits to the Chinese and African people."

Abuse of workers


China has emerged as Africa's main trading partner and a major source of investment for infrastructure development, pouring billions of dollars into roads and developing the energy sector across the continent. But its presence has also sparked concerns about labour abuses and corruption.

In May, Zimbabwe's labour minister said the government was investigating persistent reports of rampant abuse of workers by Chinese employers. In Zambia, complaints about Chinese business practices stretch back years.

Human Rights Watch
said in a November report that despite improvements in recent years, safety and labour conditions at Chinese owned copper mines in Africa are worse than at other foreign-owned mines, and Chinese mine managers often violate government regulations.

In a speech on relations with Africa last week that was by turns celebratory and combative, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun hit back at unidentified critics of China's growing influence in Africa.

 Zhai denied China is practicing a new form of colonialism. Instead, he said, China's economic and political backing is giving African countries options they never had before under a Western-led world order.

"We stand fully with African countries in upholding sovereignty and dignity and exploring development paths," Zhai said. He later said: "The unfair and unreasonable political and economic order is still an obstacle hindering Africa's economic development."

Zhai also outlined modest goals for the Beijing meeting, saying ministers would take stock of past co-operation and lay out an action plan for ties in 2013-15.

- AP
Read more on:    hrw  |  zambia  |  china  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa
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