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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 15:11 GMT
Beijing facelift for Africa summit
By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
BBC News, Beijing

The Chinese capital has undergone a really extraordinary transformation this week as Beijing welcomes 48 heads of African governments.

Chinese walk past a billboard of a giraffe
Posters of Africa's unique wildlife decorate Beijing's streets
Out in the street now there is a hoarding that must be about 30ft (9m) high and 50ft (15m).

On it are 10ft-high zebras and giraffes and an enormous African elephant - and these hoardings are all over the city.

Beijing is festooned with pictures of Africa, with new flower beds that have been rolled out overnight, even with Christmas decorations.

The Chinese are really rolling out the red carpet for this China-Africa jamboree.

To give another example: the street behind me at this time of day is usually completely clogged with traffic.

China now imports more oil from Angola than it does from Saudi Arabia

But today there are virtually no cars on the streets, because half a million vehicles have been ordered out of Beijing for this week in order to keep everything flowing nice and smoothly.

Above me the sky is blue, another rather unusual event in the Chinese capital. Many factories have also been closed down.

Special relationship

This is in many ways a dress rehearsal for the 2008 Olympics.

A poster of zebra in Beijing
China is placing increasing value on its relationship with Africa
It also shows just how important the Chinese now consider their relationship with the African continent.

But what is that relationship really about?

Well, the slogan on the wall behind me here says "Friendship, peace, co-operation and development".

It is very clear what the Chinese are getting out of this relationship. China now imports more oil, for example, from Angola than it does from Saudi Arabia.

The Chinese economy has a voracious appetite for all sorts of resources from Africa, from timber to iron ore to diamonds.

What I think is far less clear is what this new relationship is bringing in terms of benefits to the economies and, more importantly, to the people of Africa.

In pictures: China-Africa summit
02 Nov 06 |  In Pictures
China and India 'boosting Africa'
17 Sep 06 |  Business
China and Africa: Who benefits?
22 Jun 06 |  Africa

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