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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
China woos Africa
Chinese worker erects Pepsi sign in Shanghai
China says global trade issues will top the agenda
By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing

Nearly 80 ministers from 44 African countries have arrived in the Chinese capital, Beijing, for the first ever China-Africa Co-operation Forum.

The event is being seen as an opportunity for China to strengthen its image as the leader and champion of the developing world.

The Chinese Government says its main goals in organising this China-Africa get-together are economics and trade.


The heavy debt burden is a challenge to the economic development for African countries

Vice-Trade Minister Sun Guangxiang
It says it want to strengthen economic co-operation with its African friends, and to that end will write off some of the debt owed China by the poorest African countries.

But trade between Africa and China is hardly booming - in the first half of this year it totalled less than $5bn, a mere fraction of China's trade with the United States.

Partnerships

China's political and strategic interests in the African continent are somewhat clearer.

Jiang Zemin
Chinese President Jiang Zemin opened the conference
The Chinese Government is keen to build new partnerships with countries that, like China, are not entirely happy with Western, and in particular, US dominance of international affairs.

In return, many African countries see China as a potential champion of developing world issues.

On the eve of the Beijing meeting, South Africa's foreign minister said she hoped China would push for reform of the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, to better reflect the needs of developing countries.

Taiwan

Although China has denied it, Taiwan may also be on the agenda.

Beijing has invited delegations from all eight of Taiwan's remaining African allies to attend the forum. At least two have accepted.

China's Foreign Ministry says there is no intention to use the forum to try and steal Taiwan's allies.

Nevertheless, it says its only a matter if time before all African countries cut their ties with the island.

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25 Apr 00 | Africa
China-SA landmark deal
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