PRC FM Visits Africa to Discuss Exploitation of Resources

"States have no friends, only interests"... Chinese checkbook diplomacy in action by Jeune Afrique-L'Intelligent, 2 February 2006:

Chinese Foreign Minister LI Zhaoxing's African tour from 11 to 19 January has once again brought to light the striking evidence. It was a tour skillfully prepared by respecting the continent's geographical balances, without eever forgetting the Celestial Empire's interests (Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Liberia, Nigeria, and Libya).

"We are ready to work with African nations ... to reinforce cooperation in various fields, namely that of energy exploration," said the head of the diplomacy. This has the merit of clarity.

Boosted by a two-digit growth rate for over a decade now, the Chinese economy is stricken by an unquenchable thirst for cotton, timber, cocoa, steel, aluminum phosphate, iron, manganese, and especially oil.

In Praia, Beijing tried to reinforce its ties with the axis of Portuguese-speaking countries led by Portugal, Brazil, and also Angola.

In return for $2 billion devoted to the financing of infrastructures in hydrocarbons, China has become the second purchaser of Angolan crude oil behind the United States.

The Chinese group SINOPEC has obtained a new exploration license, while trade relations between the two countries have more than doubled since 2003....

Senegalese cotton growers, given a rough time by US subsidies, may derive profits from the Chinese textiles. Meanwhile, low-cost shoes and household appliances and cheap toys are a big hit in the Senegalese capital.

"That competition is unfair," protested Mamadou Lamine Niang, the chairman of the Dakar Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture.

In Mali, there is also cotton, but above all, a huge potential in terms of infrastructure. For the time being, Bamako has to content itself with a grant of $3.6 million.

Li Zhaoxing then went to Monrovia to attend the swearing-in ceremony of new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. After 14 years of war, Liberia has to reconstruct itself, thus offering many opportunities, namely in construction and public works.

"In that sector, the Europeans can no longer resist," acknowledged Anthony Bouthelier, chairman of the French Council of Investors in Africa, "insomuch as we are not on an equal footing," alluding to the job seekers coming straight from china, hidden in shacks behind the sites.

In Nigeria and Libya, Beijing is simply disrupting the deal. As the top-ranked oil producer in Africa, in early January Nigeria made the most important private transaction on the continent (see issue No. 2349) with the company China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), which invested $2.3 billion to obtain an oilfield in the Niger Delta....

The message was heard in Tripoli, which, for the time being, has dealt primarily with the Americans.

Africa now represents one fourth of Chinese oil supplies. All sectors included, the value of trade went up from $10 billion in 2000 to about $40 billion in 2005.

Beijing intends to raise that figure to $100 billion within five years.

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