China's engagement with Africa represents a major transition in the continent's strategic landscape, said an African expert.
"I think for many years there was a feeling among Africans that there was a very limited interest from Western countries, the traditional trading partners," Dr. Peter Lewis, director of the African Studies program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), told Xinhua in a recent interview.
He noted that the levels of direct investment and trade between Africa and Europe and the United States had not been increasing significantly from the 1970s to 1990s.
On the other hand, beginning around 2000 or 2001, China significantly expanded its engagement with Africa, pouring investment and aid into the continent, he said.
"In China, there is a perception that there are many opportunities in Africa, and Africa is a continent with many possibilities for growth and for enterprise and for trade and investment," said Lewis.
As an important strategic partner in Africa, China is offering the poverty-stricken continent a way out of destitution, said the scholar, who has written extensively on questions of economic adjustment, democratization, and civil society in Africa.
"China has reduced poverty, and China has become a major manufacturing power" over the past 20 years, Lewis said.
"I think that many African countries see they have more in common with China, which recently came out of poverty and underdevelopment, than they have with Western countries, which were colonial powers and have developed and industrialized for many years," he stated.
He said that there was a much more balanced view with China's relations with Africa here in the United State and less concern about direct competition between the country and China with regard to Africa relations.
"I think there will be a great appreciation in the West, as Chinese leaders are certainly increasing their engagement with African countries," he said.
Lewis believed that Africa benefited a lot from the relations with China in terms of improved infrastructure, and trade and investment opportunities and that benefit could be reciprocal.
"I think it is not necessarily a win-win situation in all instances but certainly there is a potential," he said.