China to keep an open mind about cooperation with US in Africa

Updated: 2012-06-16 02:29

By Cui Haipei (China Daily)

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China said on Friday that it will keep an open mind about discussions with the United States on cooperation in Africa. The remarks came after the White House unveiled a new strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa, with US President Barack Obama predicting that Africa will be "the world's next major economic success story".

"China and the US are both important cooperative partners of Africa, with respective characteristics and advantages," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular news briefing.

Saying that Africa's peace and stability concerns the prosperity and stability of the world, the spokesman stressed that the will of African countries should be respected and that cooperation should be based on the principles of equality and reciprocity.

The US strategy, outlined on Thursday, sets forth four strategic objectives in the region — to strengthen democratic institutions; spur economic growth, trade and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development.

Calling support for democracy in Africa "critical to US interests" and "a fundamental component" of American leadership abroad, the blueprint said it is in the interest of the US to improve the region's trade competitiveness and encourage the diversification of exports beyond natural resources.

Currently African countries face both new opportunities and difficulties, Liu said, calling on developed economies, including the US, to make positive contributions to Africa's peace, stability and development. "They should respect the will of Africa, take Africa's concerns into consideration and actively fulfill their commitment of assistance," Liu said.

Acknowledging that only Africa's governments and people can resolve the security challenges and internal divisions that have plagued the continent, the strategy envisions "a positive difference" that can be made by US involvement.

This report shows that the US is integrating Obama's economic and military policies into a new overall strategy for Africa, said Yang Lihua, a researcher in African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

She said US investment in Africa is not dominant when compared with China, and the US needs to further increase its input to reverse this position.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's poorest region, Yang said. Infrastructure and power are potential areas in which China and the US could cooperate on that continent since the shortages are significant obstacles to economic development.

The US military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa, establishing a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Yang said the US has long sought to set its African military headquarters in the region and expanded its military presence in Africa to fight terrorism and dispel instabilities.

"But whether this goal can be reached depends on the attitude of the African Union, because African countries are generally wary of the interference of foreign military forces," she said.

The effort spans from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrains along the equator, the report said, noting that operations had intensified in recent months as part of a growing war against al-Qaida affiliates and other militant groups.

"As we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular," Obama wrote in the prelude to the new strategy.

"Africa's economies are among the fastest-growing in the world, with technological change sweeping across the continent and offering tremendous opportunities in banking, medicine, politics and business," he said.

Obama, the first African-American president of the US, went to Ghana on an official visit in July 2009.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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