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Stronger China-Africa relations no damage to other countries' interests: Chinese vice FM

(Xinhua)

08:14, July 13, 2012

BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun Thursday refuted criticism on China's policy towards Africa, saying that stronger China-Africa relations does not damage other countries' interests there.

Zhai made the remark when addressing the 7th Lanting Forum themed China-Africa cooperation held here Thursday afternoon in the Foreign Ministry.

"Some say that China has moved other people's 'cheese' as it strengthens relations with Africa... I wish to point out that Africa belongs to the Africans; it is not anyone's 'cheese,'" said Zhai.

"Any country that wishes to develop cooperation with Africa must respect the ownership of African countries," the vice foreign minister said.

Calling China's relations with Africa "open and inclusive," and "all about cooperation rather than confrontation with any third party," Zhai said such relations have delivered tangible benefits to Africa's development.

Africa's development also benefits the entire world, including for other countries' cooperation with Africa, he added.

"To those who view China-Africa cooperation as threatening their own interests, I would say that it is their own mentality and policy that needs to be examined," Zhai said.

The vice foreign minister said new issues and new circumstances have been emerging as the bilateral cooperation deepens, "but these are not the result of the policy of the Chinese government and they can be resolved through deeper cooperation and friendly consultation."

He said China has taken these issues very seriously and stand ready to work with Africa to deal with them properly.

In response to some voices claiming China is plundering Africa's energy and resources and pursuing "neo-colonialism," Zhai said the structure of China-Africa trade that based on energy and resources should indeed be improved, adding that the same situation exists between Africa and all its major trading partners.

To change their economic structure, it is essential that African countries improve their capability for self-generated development and realize diversification, Zhai said.

China has made active efforts and adopted a number of cooperation initiatives to this end, he said, calling on other countries to step up their efforts as well.

"One should also recognize that the unfair and unreasonable international political and economic order is still a major obstacle hindering Africa's development," Zhai said. "To reverse the situation, it is crucial that those countries leading international relations make an effort."

China has adopted measures, including tariff exemptions, to boost African exports in recent years.

In 2010, 49 African countries saw increases in their exports to China. From 2000 to 2011, African exports to China grew rapidly from 5.6 billion U.S. dollars to 93.2 billion U.S. dollars, respectively.

"There is no 'colonialism,' for Africa's relations with China are built on the principle of equality and mutual benefits," said Gebeyehu Ganga Gayito, a minister at the Ethiopian embassy in Beijing.

"Look at every quarter of Ethiopia. Infrastructure such as hospitals and railroads. You will see how we have benefited from such investment (from China)," he said.

Zhai also rebutted some voices claiming that China's commitment to the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs impedes Africa's democracy and good governance.

Stressing that the principle "has not gone outdated," Zhai said it remains an important tool for defending developing countries' rights and interests.

He criticized some countries' military intervention in regional hot-spot issues and pressure for regime change in recent years, saying the lessons learnt should all be remembered.

"Support for democracy and good governance in Africa is not the 'monopoly' of certain countries," said Zhai. "China firmly supports such efforts."

As for calls for bigger responsibilities of China in Africa, Zhai said China is willing to play a bigger role and will continue to increase support and help for Africa's development and its participation in peace and security affairs.

Meanwhile, as a developing country, China must consider its own capacity when providing assistance to others, Zhai said.

"We hope to receive greater understanding and support from others for China's policy and position," he added.

Madagascar's Ambassador to China Victor Sikonina expressed his concern about mutual understanding between the youth of both sides.

Sikonina said a new foundation should be built for younger generations to foster mutual understanding, as the education they have received differs from that of previous generations.

People should pay attention to Africa's diversity and create diverse policies to get along with African countries, he said.

"China-Africa cooperation today is different from that between traditional powers and Africa. And our cooperation has come a long way from what it was years ago," Zhai said.

"When Ghana became the world's fastest growing economy with a growth rate of 13 percent last year, more people began to turn their focus to the 'African speed'," he said.

Zhai said China is willing to adapt to new circumstances and explore a path of cooperation that suits the reality of China and Africa.

A conference for ministers from China and African countries will be held next week in Beijing.

Zhai said the two sides will use the conference to explore ways to deepen relations.

"Friendship and cooperation are the running theme of China-Africa relations. We have every reason to believe that with efforts from both sides, China-Africa relations will embrace an even brighter future," said Zhai.

The Lanting Forum, initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in December 2010, is a platform for communication and exchanges between government, the business community, academia, media and the public.

It aims to create a new channel to facilitate discussions on foreign policy and issues of common interest by concerned parties.

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