The New York Times | China’s New Leader Tries to Calm African Fears of His Country’s Economic Power

Posted March 27, 2013 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Business ~ 4,213 views


HONG KONG — China’s new president, Xi Jinping, sought to assure African countries on Monday that his government would heed complaints that relentlessly competitive Chinese companies were suffocating African efforts to nurture industry and jobs, and he promised aid, scholarships and technology transfers in an effort to counter those fears.

Mr. Xi delivered his defense of China’s economic stake in many African countries in a speech in Dar es Salaam, the seaside economic hub of Tanzania, where he arrived Sunday as part of his first tour abroad as national leader.

China has long boasted of its role under Mao Zedong as a supporter of African efforts to throw off Western colonialism, and Mr. Xi’s two-day visit to Tanzania has carried echoes of that past. On Sunday, he was greeted by hundreds of shouting well-wishers in an organized show of good will, Tanzanian and Chinese news reports showed.

But some African officials have voiced fears that China’s dominance as an exporter of cheap garments, appliances and other goods, and its appetite for unprocessed raw materials, have skewed economic ties and undermined African hopes to advance into industrial prosperity.

In his speech to Tanzanian politicians and officials, Mr. Xi contended that China was helping Africa to grow. But more candidly than his predecessor, Hu Jintao, he acknowledged that the relationship also faced strains.

“China frankly faces up to the new circumstances and new problems in Sino-African relations,” Mr. Xi told the audience, which regularly interrupted his speech with applause. “China has and will continue to work alongside African countries to take practical measures to appropriately solve problems in trade and economic cooperation so that African countries gain more from that cooperation.”

Mr. Xi spoke in a conference center built with Chinese loans and support, a symbol of the vaunted generosity he sought to emphasize, but potentially also of the competitive power that has irked some African politicians, trade unions and businesses.

China’s trade with all African countries, including North African nations like Libya and Egypt, reached $198 billion in total value in 2012, an increase of 19.3 percent from 2011, according to Chinese customs statistics. Oil, ore and other commodities from Angola, Nigeria and other resource-rich countries make up much of that trade. Trade unions and manufacturers in South Africa, Nigeria and other countries have said China’s relatively cheap manufactured goods are a threat to jobs and long-term growth.

“China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones,” the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, wrote in The Financial Times this month. “This was also the essence of colonialism.”

Mr. Xi said China would abide by a promise made in 2012 to provide $20 billion in loans over three years for African infrastructure development, farming and businesses. He announced a plan to provide training for 30,000 Africans over the next three years, including 18,000 scholarships to study abroad — apparently in China, although Mr. Xi did not say so.

“We will strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with African countries in agricultural, manufacturing and other spheres, helping these countries convert their resource advantages into developmental advantages,” he said in the address, broadcast on Chinese television.

Tanzania is the second leg of Mr. Xi’s first trip abroad since he was appointed president this month. That appointment completed a formal leadership succession that began in November, when he succeeded Mr. Hu as Communist Party chief.

China supported Tanzania after it emerged as a new state in the 1960s, and in the 1970s China helped build a railway line that linked Tanzania to Zambia, a project that came to symbolize Mao’s ambitions to spread his revolutionary fervor to Africa.

Mr. Xi flew to Tanzania from Russia, and he will next visit South Africa, where he will attend a summit meeting of the so-called Brics emerging countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. His final stop will be the Republic of Congo.

Since taking the top job, Mr. Xi has declared his ambitions to see China rise as a major power. But he told his audience in Tanzania that his government remained committed to strong ties with African countries.

“This will not change at all because of China’s own growth and rising international stature,” he said. “I can clearly tell all my friends here that under new circumstances, the importance of Sino-African relations will not decline, but will instead rise.”

Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from Nairobi, Kenya.

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