Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) vowed on Friday that his country would “always be a champion” of African causes as he began a two-day trip to Senegal.
He hailed the improved relationship between Beijing and Africa after touching down in Dakar on the final leg of a four-nation tour aimed at boosting trade links between Beijing and its partners on the continent.
“The friendship between China and Africa will continue to deepen over time ... in an atmosphere of pragmatism and openness,” Wang told a joint news conference with his Senegalese counterpart, Mankeur Ndiaye.
“In its relations with African nations, China will promote justice. China will always be a champion of African nations and defend their interests,” he added.
China has increasingly eyed Africa to fuel and fund its burgeoning economy, which last year is estimated to have grown 7.6 percent, according to a Chinese government report.
Chinese senior ministers and presidents Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Xi Jinping (習近平) have personally courted African nations, with deals signed in sectors from oil and gas to agriculture and infrastructure.
Beijing is often accused of focusing on the potential profits from Africa’s vast mineral wealth at the expense of human rights.
In recent years, Beijing has sought to win hearts and minds with huge Chinese-funded infrastructure projects, including Senegal’s national theater, built in 2011.
Other China-backed projects in the pipeline in Senegal include a national arena and a 150km highway connecting Dakar to the central city of Touba.
Trade between Senegal and China increased by 20 percent in the 12 months to August last year, according to the Chinese embassy in Dakar, to US$633 million.
“Despite the long distance between us, the quality of our relations allows our two countries to overcome the geography,” Ndiaye said.
Wang, whose tour has also taken in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Ghana, held talks with Senegalese President Macky Sall and is due to tour Chinese-funded development projects and meet Senegalese Prime Minister Aminata Toure before leaving yesterday.
He told reporters Sall would be visiting Beijing in next month.
In Ghana, Wang had described this year as a year of “ever-deepening reform” in China, with the target of “national rejuvenation.”
Chinese trade with Africa stood at US$200 billion in 2012, prompting talk of the continent as a potential battleground for a proxy economic Cold War with Western powers.