Tue, Jan 13, 2015 - Page 6 News List

China will avoid ‘path of Western colonists’ in Africa

Reuters, BEIJING

Beijing will not follow the path of “Western colonists” in Africa, Chinese Minster of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) said during a five-nation tour of the continent, parrying criticism that China’s hunger for resources has led to one-sided policies and damaging projects.

China is Africa’s biggest trade partner and has sought to tap the region’s rich resources to fuel its own economic growth over the past two decades. However, Beijing’s involvement has been called “neo-colonial” by some African leaders, who fear that China-funded projects do not really benefit locals if the materials and labor they require are imported from China.

“We absolutely will not take the old path of Western colonists and we absolutely will not sacrifice Africa’s ecological environment and long-term interests,” Wang told Chinese Central Television from Kenya in comments published on the foreign ministry’s Web site late on Sunday.

In July last year, China said that of the US$14 billion it gave in foreign aid between 2010 and 2012, more than half went to Africa. It says there are no strings attached to the funds, but some of its projects have drawn attention for seemingly supporting governments with poor human rights records and transparency, such as those in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Angola.

In addition to Kenya, Wang’s itinerary includes stops in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Speaking to reporters in Sudan on Sunday, Wang defended China’s mediation efforts in South Sudan, rejecting the idea they were intended to safeguard its own oil interests.

China is the biggest investor in the oil industry of the fledgling country, which split from Sudan in 2011. It has played an unusually large diplomatic role in the country and committed about 700 UN peacekeepers amid a civil war that has killed more than 10,000 people.

“China’s mediation of South Sudan issues is completely the responsibility and duty of a responsible power, and not because of China’s own interests,” Wang said in comments posted on the ministry’s site.

China has also been increasing support to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak ravaging west Africa, although diplomats say it is also quietly toughening travel restrictions on visitors from the region.

Beijing-based ambassadors from Liberia and Sierra Leone — the countries which, along with Guinea, have been hit hardest by the outbreak — say some of their nationals are staying away from China due to the new procedures.

Liberian Ambassador to China Dudley Thomas McKinley said he planned to raise the issue with the foreign ministry, which has denied the reported tightening.

Sierra Leonean Ambassador to China Victor Bockarie Foh said he faced stepped-up screening when he returned to Beijing after a recent trip to his home country.

However, he said he did not fault China for stepping up restrictions: “If you fly with a disease like this, it is like flying with a bomb. They [China] have not closed their doors. They are only being careful.”

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