China's Africa summit has ended in Beijing, with the Chinese government pledging to double both aid and trade with African nations.
Analysts agree that China's Africa ties are growing substantially
China expects annual trade with Africa to total $100bn (£53bn) by 2010 after the event, attended by nearly 50 African heads of state and ministers.
With China also promising $5bn in loans and credit for Africa, analysts said it showed Beijing's growing clout.
Yet critics said China was too happy to support repressive African regimes.
Others warned that Western nations were losing further ground to China in Africa, both in terms of accessing future raw materials and political influence.
"[China] gave a party and everybody came, it's a big deal," said David Zweig, an analyst of Chinese foreign policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
"I think it's significant. It's the biggest event in terms of China refocusing its attention on the developing world."
The state-run Chinese media has taken no time to trumpet the summit as a "milestone".
In addition to doubling aid to Africa by 2009 and bilateral trade by 2010, China also unveiled $1.9bn of immediate trade and investment deals.
These include a $300m new aluminium production plant in Egypt, a $300m contract to upgrade a highway in Nigeria and a $200m copper project in Zambia.
Human rights questions
China is increasing its economic and political ties with Africa because its booming economy has developed a tremendous appetite for raw materials, such as Nigerian and Sudanese oil.
Yet critics of its growing presence in Africa are unhappy that, unlike loans from the US and global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, China's cash offers do not come with democracy or human rights ties.
In particular, they point to China's support for the Sudanese government, strongly criticised internationally because of the violence in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
"Now some countries can get aid and investment without improving on [human rights and democracy] issues," said Chen-Shen Yen, a researcher at Taiwan's Institute of International Relations.
"China needs energy from Africa. It needs to import a lot of oil nowadays since its economy is growing so fast, and China can get it from African countries through the summit."