President Hu Jintao's visit to Africa next week will follow up on action taken at the China-Africa cooperation summit held in Beijing last year, said analysts yesterday.
Chinese investment in Africa has reached new highs in recent years, highlighted by Hu's two previous trips to the continent since he took office in 2003.
His third trip, beginning next Tuesday, is intended to broaden the nation's reach and strengthen ties with the continent.
The 12-day tour will cover Cameroon, Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and Seychelles.
The trip follows 3-nation tours in 2004 and April last year.
Analysts say the upcoming trip, Hu's first overseas mission of 2007, will demonstrate that Africa is high on China's diplomatic agenda.
"Hu's visit is the follow up to the Beijing summit," said Liu Naiya, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Liu said the trip was aimed at putting the work agreed at the summit into action.
"The eight nations are representative of Africa as a whole," he said. "They cover the north, south, west, east and center of the continent."
He added that the wide-ranging itinerary underlined the importance the government attached to relations with Africa.
He also said Hu's visit to Seychelles, a Chinese president's first visit to the tiny Indian Ocean islands, demonstrated Beijing's policy of treating countries on an equal footing no matter how large they are.
China's diplomatic drive in Africa in 2007 started with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing's seven-nation tour of mostly smaller countries from December 31 to January 8.
In recent years it has become a tradition for new foreign ministers to start their tenures with a tour of African nations.
A series of visits including the president and premier's respective African trips thrust China-Africa relations into the media spotlight at home and abroad last year.
The events reached a climax in November with the Beijing Summit of China-Africa Cooperation Forum, attended by the leaders of more than 40 African nations.
At the summit, China proposed an eight-point package to support African development, including reducing debt, cutting tariffs on African imports, increasing aid, improving vocational training and increasing investment.
Liu said the major task of Hu's trip would be to ensure the package's pledges were being carried out.
Cooperation beyond oil
Economic and trade cooperation with Africa covers much more than just oil and raw materials supplies, said analysts.
Observers said the strategic partnership features cooperation in areas such as telecom, food processing, tourism and infrastructure, paving the way for Africa to become a processor of commodities and a competitive supplier of goods and services to Asian countries.
Addressing the Shanghai National Accounting Institute last Friday, Harry G. Broadman, an economic adviser with the World Bank, said China's trade with and investment in Africa presents a significant opportunity for growth and integration of sub-Saharan nations into the global economy.
He said trade and investment between developed countries and Africa in the past has concentrated on natural resources, whereas China was helping Africa's economy diversify.
China's recent reduction on tariffs for African goods had been particularly beneficial for the continent, he added.