[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 11:36 GMT
China's growing focus on Africa
By Jill McGivering
BBC News

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing is sweeping through Africa on a concerted charm offensive - signing economic deals, raising Beijing's diplomatic profile and highlighting along the way China's newly trumpeted policy of strategic partnership with Africa.

Oil plant in the Niger Delta
China eyes Africa's oil reserves
There is no doubt of Africa's importance in fuelling China's remarkable growth.

China's rapacious energy needs are increasingly shaping its foreign policy, especially in regions like Africa, rich in natural resources and eager for investment.

China began its concerted effort in boosting trade with Africa more than a decade ago.

But more recently, the pace has accelerated.

Chinese state media says the volume of trade with Africa has quadrupled in the past five years - to reach about $37bn.

Of an estimated 700 Chinese-funded ventures in the region, many are in the field of energy and natural resources: oil and gas development, copper, cobalt, coal and gold mining.

Cheaply manufactured goods from China, from clothing to household goods, are now flooding markets in Africa just as they are in many other parts of the world - and causing local manufacturers similar consternation.


But the change now is China's fresh resolve to define publicly its policy on Africa.

Oil pipeline
China is investing heavily in infrastructure projects

When Mr Li was just two days into his African tour, the Chinese government in Beijing issued an official paper titled: "China's African Policy".

The principles it sets out are very much in keeping with China's foreign policy in general.

For example, an emphasis on what China calls the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, which enshrines mutual territorial respect, non-aggression and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.

That is a much less constraining philosophy than that of most Western governments - who may have ethical concerns about doing business with countries with non-democratic governments and/or human rights concerns.

Last year, for example, Beijing had no qualms about rolling out the red carpet for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.


China's white paper also sets out practical steps for formalising its relationships and broadening them far beyond friendly trade deals.

In politics, it advocates continued visits and exchanges between political parties.

On trade, it promises, where conditions are ripe, to negotiate free trade agreements with African countries and regional organisations - and emphasises too the Chinese government's own commitment to Chinese enterprises investing in and doing business with African countries.

The first Sino-African summit is expected to take place towards the end of the year in Beijing.

It also promises increased support in developing Africa's infrastructure.

This is a field in which Chinese companies are already engaged - building a railway line in Angola and roads and bridges in Rwanda, for example.

That pragmatic diplomacy looks set to accelerate.

The Chinese government will now "vigorously encourage Chinese enterprises", the white paper states, to take part in building African infrastructure and scale up existing contracts.

The emphasis, it says, will be on helping Africa to build its own capacity - with Chinese support targeted in strengthening areas such as management and technology.

It's a positive approach likely to reassure and please many African governments.


All this is being watched with some concern by one of China's main rivals in the global race for energy: India.

One Indian newspaper, The Indian Express, highlighted the white paper as the latest evidence of their difference in approach.

India is sleep-walking through new opportunities, it said, while China has put the continent at the top of its strategic priorities.

Although Indian trade with Africa is also growing, it is still a fraction of China's - and Delhi isn't providing the same strategic drive and context as Beijing.

There are far fewer high level political visits than from China which, used with careful effect by Beijing, can re-enforce economic commitment and broaden the relationship.

The white paper goes a long way in clarifying China's growing African strategy - and could prove a winning card in offering practical and diplomatic help in return for the economic and energy rewards China so craves.

China-Africa trade jumps by 39%
06 Jan 06 |  Business
China climbs world economic table
20 Dec 05 |  Business
China to maintain 'rapid growth'
29 Nov 05 |  Business
China unveils new growth model
12 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China's global hunt for oil
09 Mar 05 |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific