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Economy - Development | Politics

China woos Taiwan's African friends

afrol News, 7 November - As China seals its trade with Africa, it still has one more thing to conquer - break the relations between few remaining African countries and Taiwan. But going by the tone of the speech of the Chinese President Hu Jintao, it is evident that China is set for that mission.

Though Beijing stressed that its partnership with Africa is not an alliance targeting any group or nation, it has however asked African countries that have signed diplomatic ties with Taiwan to do the same with China.

Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Malawi, The Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe still prefer to stick to their signed diplomatic relations with Taiwan - a country not represented in the UN that is fighting vigorously to win international recognition by pumping huge amounts of money to poor countries to rally their support.

At the close of the three-day historic China-Africa Cooperation Summit, which was graced by leaders of 48 African nations, China unveiled its plans to double trade with Africa. But China's government-controlled news agency 'Xinhua' reported that China-Africa relations should go beyond win-win economic cooperation and cultural exchanges because it was "vital" to hinge the partnership on political equality and trust.

Both parties agreed to premise their relations on support for cooperation based on the principles of peaceful co-existence and multilateralism and international democracy. But relations would also maintain respect for sovereignty and "territorial integrity" of both parties - a reference to the Taiwan question.

Analysts are however concerned over China's neo-colonial culture in Africa as well as forging full diplomatic ties with predators of human rights in the continent. This claim has been dismissed by several African officials, such as the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Abdoul Gheit, whose country signed a US$ 938 million deal with China. This allows China to set up an aluminium plant in Egypt.

From 1995 to 2005, trade between China and Africa increased tenfold - from US$ 4 to US$ 40 billion. China is now the third largest trading partner of Africa - only ranking behind the United States and France.

The Beijing summit pledged to form a new strategic partnership and adopt an action plan to deepen political and economic links between China and Africa over the next three years. Having signed trade deals worth US$ 1.9 billion with Africa, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said plans are afoot for the two sides to double trade to US$ 10 billion in four years time.

And according to the Chinese Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing, Beijing would respect the views expressed by African countries, for his country did not want to impose its development agenda on any country in the world.

Nevertheless, most African leaders arriving Beijing before the weekend were greeted with statements referring to their diplomatic ties to Taiwan, or urged to make statements regarding this policy. While Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao claimed no pressure would be put on African state leaders referring to Taiwan, the examples of references to this issue were overwhelming.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika today "reiterated" Algeria's "adherence to the one-China policy" and his opposition to any form of "Taiwan independence" when signing trade agreements with his Chinese counterpart. A totally equal statement was made by the Egyptian Foreign Minister. Zambian President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa promised his country would "stick to the one-China policy" in exchange for strengthening Chinese ties.

As bilateral meetings went on between China's President Jintao and his African counterparts, the same message was repeated over and over again: Africa deifies Taiwan. " Beninese President Thomas Boni Yayi, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé, Eritrean President Issayas Afewerki, Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja said their countries will firmly pursue the one-China policy," China's government newspaper 'Peoples Daily' proudly noted today. No pressure, of course, had been put on them.

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