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Michael Georgy and Louis Oelofse
President Hu Jintao, apparently seeking to ease concerns over China's investment drive in Africa, yesterday said Beijing's business interests would not hurt the continent.
Speaking to a large audience at the University of Pretoria, Hu frequently used the word "trust" to outline his vision of China's economic ties with Africa.
On Tuesday the Chinese president signed economic and agricultural deals with President Thabo Mbeki at the start of the South African leg of his eight-nation tour of Africa, where the Asian giant's growing influence has been met with some unease.
"The Chinese are a peace-loving nation," Hu said yesterday. "We live in cooperation and harmony among nations and we hold that the strong and the rich should not bully the weak and the poor."
Though many African governments have welcomed closer ties with Beijing, analysts say the poor countries must guard their weak manufacturing sectors against cheaper Chinese imports.
"China has never imposed its will or unequal practices on other countries and will never do so," Hu said.
"It will certainly not do anything harmful to the interests of Africa and its people."
Hu said China would continue to work to eradicate its trade imbalance with Africa.
"China takes seriously the concerns about the imbalance in the structure of Sino-African trade and the scope of Chinese investment," he said.
China is one of South Africa's largest trading partners, but the trade balance is overwhelmingly in China's favour, a fact that has previously been highlighted by several South African government officials.
Tapping into those concerns, Hu said the Chinese were working hard on the issue.
"We have taken, and will continue to take, effective steps with African countries to deal with those concerns. I am confident that with our concerted efforts, cooperation will continue to enjoy steady progress," said Hu.
He said there was scope for improvement in economic areas other than trade.
These included investment, technology and project contracting.
"Priority should be given to agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing and public welfare projects vital to people's livelihoods," said Hu. - Reuters,Sapa