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Beijing moves around

There has been a systematic Chinese engagement with Africa and which is now focused on meeting Beijing?s voracious appetite for natural resources and markets.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 01:55 IST

There is an impressive method in the tours of Chinese President Hu Jintao. After visiting China’s biggest trading partner, the world’s sole superpower and putative adversary, the US, he hopped over the Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest single repository of exportable hydrocarbon resources. From there to Africa may seem to be a leap of sorts, but it is really a signal of the systematic manner in which China pursues its foreign policy goals. During this visit that begins on Monday, Mr Hu will seek energy and trade deals with Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya and will find a welcome from leaders who are comfortable with China’s pragmatic approach, which provides opportunities for investment and trade with no lectures on human rights and good governance.

Africa is, from the policy-maker’s point of view, a virgin continent. Wracked with corruption, poor governance and poverty, it is seen as a basket case by most. But China takes a longer term view of the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent in the world. A measure of this has been the c, and Africa’s for investment. Most Chinese ventures, and there are more than 700 of them, are in the fields of oil and natural gas, copper, cobalt, coal and gold mining. Mr Hu’s week-long tour is his second since he became leader three years ago. In January, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing toured several African countries signing a raft of agreements with various African countries.

China is, of course, willing to take considerable risks towards its goals. Where India opted out of a Nigerian oil deal because of political uncertainties there, China did not hesitate. The Chinese perspectives on ties with Africa have been outlined in a White Paper issued earlier this year, and there are expectations that Beijing will host a major Sino-African summit at the end of the year.