Only 11 days since taking over as Chinese president, Xi Jinping is already in Africa.
He spent Monday in Tanzania and will next attend the BRICS summit in seaside Durban, South Africa, before winding up his tour in Congo-Brazzaville. Speaking in a new Chinese-built conference hall in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, Xi conveyed a continuation of China's policy toward Africa under the previous top leadership.
"China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa with no political strings attached," according to Reuters. He added, "We get on well and treat each other as equals."
Xi hailed Africa as the "continent of hope and promise," and spoke of Beijing's "sincere friendship" with Africa. He also indirectly addressed the criticism that China is only interested in exploiting Africa's natural resources.
"Africa belongs to the African people," he said, according to Agence France-Presse. "In developing relations with Africa, all countries should respect Africa's dignity and independence." Xi is no newcomer to the continent—this is his sixth visit to Africa, the last being in 2010.
Throughout the trip, Xi and his team will be announcing an array of trade and development deals. At the BRICS summit, the Chinese are expected to jointly back a development bank along with fellow members Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Xi is scheduled to sign around 20 trade, development and cultural agreements, before journeying to Durban.
He renewed an offer of $20 billion in loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015 and noted that trade between China and Africa had reached some $200 billion in 2012. However, much of the attention may be focused not on Xi but rather on his glamourous wife Peng Liyuan, a famous folk singer in China who stole the show during the first stop on the trip, in Russia.
China imports many raw materials, including minerals, from resource-rich Africa. Chinese imports from the continent reached $113 billion last year, a 20-fold increase over a decade. GlobalPost senior correspondent Benjamin Carlson called Xi's visit Africa "a fascinating, intriguingly symbolic second choice for a foreign visit after Russia."
Xi's visit may be a sign that China's primarily economic interest in the continent may be extending to political influence as well. "Chinese media is filled with glowing reports about China's harmonious relationship with African countries now, so clearly there's a propaganda imperative to portray relations as improving now," Carlson said.
Source: Global Post