China defends dealings with African nations

China defends dealings with African nations

BEIJING – China yesterday defended its booming economic links with African governments accused of human rights abuses, as it prepared to welcome officials from more than 40 African countries for a conference aimed at cementing ties.

Beijing has been looking to Africa as a source of energy, new markets and investment opportunities. Last year, China’s total trade with Africa reached US$40 billion (N$299 billion).Next week’s meeting in Beijing will focus on trade and economic development, and is expected to attract leaders and officials from more than 40 African countries, Chinese officials said.China has been criticised for dealing with governments such as Sudan that have poor human rights records.A conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region between government-backed Arab militias and the non-Arab population has killed about 200 000 people in the past three years.In an interview this week with a French newspaper, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Chinese banks ignore human rights and environmental standards when lending in Africa.”We do not accept such criticism,” Zhai Jun, an assistant foreign minister, said at a news conference.”When we develop trade and economic relations with African countries, we feel it can help local economic development … and help improve the living standards of the people and bring tangible benefits to the local people.”China believes no government “should interfere with other country’s human rights and internal affairs,” Zhai said.Wei Jianguo, a deputy commerce minister who appeared with Zhai at the briefing, said he had not heard of cases of Chinese companies destroying the environment in Africa.But if they do, “we will mete out severe punishment …and revoke their licence to operate anywhere outside of China,” Wei said.”The Chinese government attaches great importance to the responsibility of Chinese enterprises when they operate in Africa,” Wei said.”When approving possible projects, we would not agree to those projects which have the potential to have these effects on the environment.”The November 3-6 meeting in Beijing will “exert an important and far-reaching influence over the long-term development over China-Africa relations,” he said.China will introduce “a new series of steps and measures to benefit economic and social development of both China and Africa,” Wei said.He said a conference for 1 500 entrepreneurs from both sides will be held along the sidelines, focusing on cooperation on agriculture, water projects, construction, energy, transportation and pharmaceuticals.There will also be an African product exhibition to show off food, lumber, textiles and handicrafts, he said.Zhai said all of the 49 African nations that have diplomatic relations with Beijing say they will attend, including more than 40 heads of state, although the final numbers were not clear.China has invited rival Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Africa – Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Malawi, Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe – to attend, though Zhai said it wasn’t clear whether they would.China and Taiwan, which split amid civil war in 1949, compete for ties with other governments, offering aid and other inducements to persuade nations to switch recognition between them.The conference could be a chance for the communist mainland to highlight to Taiwan’s African partners the possible trade and economic payoff of switching relations to Beijing.”In less than a week, Beijing will be embracing a lot of guests.This has never been seen in the history of Beijing and China,” Zhai said.”We hope that Beijing can be a good host and demonstrate the best of the city…. We also believe that this conference can be a rehearsal of the 2008 Olympic Games.” Last week, state media reported that Beijing was urging people to take public transport to reduce traffic congestion during the summit.Nampa-APLast year, China’s total trade with Africa reached US$40 billion (N$299 billion).Next week’s meeting in Beijing will focus on trade and economic development, and is expected to attract leaders and officials from more than 40 African countries, Chinese officials said.China has been criticised for dealing with governments such as Sudan that have poor human rights records.A conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region between government-backed Arab militias and the non-Arab population has killed about 200 000 people in the past three years.In an interview this week with a French newspaper, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Chinese banks ignore human rights and environmental standards when lending in Africa.”We do not accept such criticism,” Zhai Jun, an assistant foreign minister, said at a news conference.”When we develop trade and economic relations with African countries, we feel it can help local economic development … and help improve the living standards of the people and bring tangible benefits to the local people.”China believes no government “should interfere with other country’s human rights and internal affairs,” Zhai said.Wei Jianguo, a deputy commerce minister who appeared with Zhai at the briefing, said he had not heard of cases of Chinese companies destroying the environment in Africa.But if they do, “we will mete out severe punishment …and revoke their licence to operate anywhere outside of China,” Wei said.”The Chinese government attaches great importance to the responsibility of Chinese enterprises when they operate in Africa,” Wei said.”When approving possible projects, we would not agree to those projects which have the potential to have these effects on the environment.”The November 3-6 meeting in Beijing will “exert an important and far-reaching influence over the long-term development over China-Africa relations,” he said.China will introduce “a new series of steps and measures to benefit economic and social development of both China and Africa,” Wei said.He said a conference for 1 500 entrepreneurs from both sides will be held along the sidelines, focusing on cooperation on agriculture, water projects, construction, energy, transportation and pharmaceuticals.There will also be an African product exhibition to show off food, lumber, textiles and handicrafts, he said.Zhai said all of the 49 African nations that have diplomatic relations with Beijing say they will attend, including more than 40 heads of state, although the final numbers were not clear.China has invited rival Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Africa – Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Malawi, Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe – to attend, though Zhai said it wasn’t clear whether they would.China and Taiwan, which split amid civil war in 1949, compete for ties with other governments, offering aid and other inducements to persuade nations to switch recognition between them.The conference could be a chance for the communist mainland to highlight to Taiwan’s African partners the possible trade and economic payoff of switching relations to Beijing.”In less than a week, Beijing will be embracing a lot of guests.This has never been seen in the history of Beijing and China,” Zhai said.”We hope that Beijing can be a good host and demonstrate the best of the city…. We also believe that this conference can be a rehearsal of the 2008 Olympic Games.” Last week, state media reported that Beijing was urging people to take public transport to reduce traffic congestion during the summit.Nampa-AP

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