China says African oil trade is above board

Mar 12, 2007 01:00 AM

China defended its booming oil trade with Africa and said Europe and the United States should look at their own engagement on the continent before criticising Beijing.
China has huge oil investments in Sudan and rights groups say its engagement there is frustrating international efforts to stop the civil war and atrocities in Darfur. Africa as a whole accounts for more than one-third of China's crude imports, with Angola its biggest source on the continent.

"What China has done for Africa is out of a sincere feeling, out of friendship from the bottom of the heart forged in past decades, but I have heard some criticism," Bo Xilai, the commerce minister, told a news conference on the sidelines of China's parliament.
"An important criticism is that China is taking oil from Africa, but according to statistics, last year, of Africa's total oil exports, China took 8.7 %. Europe took 36 % and the United States 33 %. If importing 8.7 % means exploitation, how about 36 % and 33 %?" he asked.

Centrepiece for China
China has made Africa a centrepiece of its diplomacy, seeking access to energy and resources on the continent to feed its rapidly expanding economy, as well as the strategic benefits that come with the backing of Africa's 53 countries at the United Nations.
Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, offered Africa $ 5 bn in loans and credit during a China-Africa summit in Beijing last year. He followed up by announcing ahead of a trip there in February that China would lend $ 3 bn in preferential credit over three years and double aid and interest-free loans.

Hu's eight-nation tour also included a visit to Sudan, where he offered an interest-free loan of 100 mm yuan ($ 12.9 mm) for it to build a new presidential palace and wrote off up to $ 70 mm in Sudanese debt to China.
The blitz of aid and investment has led to criticism from Western aid groups who say China is encouraging corruption and misrule by failing to demand conditions.

China "helping Africa"
ButBo rejected such charges, saying China's engagement was helping the continent develop.
"We hear non-stop that China is becoming a new colonialist," Bo said. "Africa in past let its natural resources be taken away at low prices, but now it is not the same. China and Africa, according to reasonable market prices, conduct normal and reasonable buying and selling," he said.
Last year, trade between China and Africa reached $ 55.5 bn, up more than 40 % from 2005, according to data from China's ministry of commerce.

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