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China defends its role in Africa ahead of G8

China assures G8 leaders that its assistance to Africa is because of its traditional friendship with the continent.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2007 17:47 IST

China sought to defend its role in Africa on Monday ahead of this week's G8 summit, saying its long friendship with the continent was a force for good and shrugging off the threat of criticism at the meeting in Germany.

China's increasing presence as a lender to Africa has troubled some G8 ministers, who are worried Beijing is too willing to lend money without strings to African countries where they have just written off billions of dollars of unpaid debts.

China has also received international censure for its support of Sudan, where the United Nations estimates that fighting by government-linked militias and rebel groups in Darfur has killed 200,000 people and forced 2 million more to flee.

Beijing, which holds veto power on the UN Security Council, is a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, sells Khartoum weapons and has invested heavily in its infrastructure.

"China and African countries have had a very friendly, brotherly partnership since the establishment of new China, since the 1950s, and that has continued up to now," Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told a news conference.

"It can be said that this has been widely praised around the globe ," he added. "In this world there will always be people willing to criticize others. If they want to say something, then that's their business. Whether or not it's true, is another matter."

The Chinese government also on Monday released its position paper for the G8 meetings in Heiligendamm, Germany, on June 6-8, outlining Beijing's policy on Africa.

"China wishes to stress that there is neither an invariable model nor a one-size-fits-all standard for good governance," the paper said.

"It depends on whether the policy and system can promote a country's economic and social development and serve the fundamental interests of its people. The issue of conditionality of aid should be tackled with caution," it added.
China wants the United Nations more involved in preventing conflict, too.

"China maintains that the United Nations has a bigger role to play in conflict prevention and settlement and post-conflict reconstruction in Africa," the paper said.

But China has been opposing sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur without Khartoum's consent.
Beijing says it has been engaging the government on Darfur and encouraging it to be more flexible about accepting a U.N. force.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday praised China's "helpful" role in Sudan. "The Chinese government has been exerting its utmost efforts (on Darfur), as I understand and appreciate," he said.