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China Doubles Down in Africa
Will a weak economy dampen Beijingâ€šÃ„Ã´s appetite for further investment in Africa? Donâ€šÃ„Ã´t count on it. â€šÃ„ÃºSome developed Western countries hit by the financial crisis are reducing their investment in Africa. Objectively, this is a powerful opportunity for Chinese businesses to expand their investment and market share in Africa,â€šÃ„Ã¹ Cui Yongqian, a former Chinese ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, told a China-Africa trade forum this month.
Indeed, Africa is a high-return investment for China. So far, the political cost has been bearable (see Sudan note below), and China has continued to win reliable friends in the United Nations, not to mention its well-documented pipeline of resources. Though Chinaâ€šÃ„Ã´s ties to Africa are sometimes overstated by political conservatives in Washington, its sponsorship and support has emerged as no less important to the continent than that of the United States. As if to confirm Cuiâ€šÃ„Ã´s prediction of deeper ties, China, on Wednesday, announced that President Hu Jintao will leave next week for a major Africa-and-Middle-East trip, with stops in Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Mauritius, and Saudi Arabia. Though he is not visiting Sudan on this swing, Reuters points out that he also reiterated his support for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, despite the growing prospect of an arrest warrant issued against him for genocide.
â€šÃ„ÃºChina is willing to make joint efforts with Sudan to carry on their traditional friendship, boost pragmatic cooperation and push friendly cooperation to a new high,â€šÃ„Ã¹ the official Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as telling Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
In July, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked judges to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir, accusing him of orchestrating genocide in Darfur where international experts say fighting has killed two hundred thousand people.
China has said a war crimes indictment against Bashir would have a â€šÃ„Ãºdisastrousâ€šÃ„Ã¹ impact on the Darfur conflict and has called for the case to be postponed.
Hu, who sent the message to Bashir to mark the anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties, did not mention the war crimes case specifically.
These are some of the reasons that the former New York Times Shanghai bureau chief Howard French includes two books on Africa in his list of must-read China titles for a new American President preparing for a state visit to Beijing. Helping Obama set a wise course on China is a popular project these days; watch this space for more on that tomorrow.
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Evan Osnos – The New Yorker
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