Luanda (AFP) Nov 19, 2010
China signed a series of economic agreements with key African partner Angola on Friday during a visit by Vice President Xi Jinping to the oil-rich nation.
"There is a traditional friendship between China and Angola. But since 2002 and the end of the war, our relations have entered a new phase," Xi said during a signing ceremony with Angolan counterpart Fernando Da Piedade Dias dos Santos.
"Angola has been China's top partner in Africa for four consecutive years, until 2009," added Xi, who said that commercial exchanges between the two countries this year had topped 19 million dollars.
Deals included a partnership between Angolan state oil company Sonangol and Norinco, a Chinese defence conglomorate which also has interests in the energy sector, but few other details were available.
Xi, the heir-apparent to President Hu Jintao, earlier in the day held a one-hour meeting with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the southern African country since 1979.
"The purpose of my visit is to reinforce our strategic relationship with our Angolan partners," Xi told journalists on his arrival in Luanda.
On Saturday, Xi is scheduled to visit the Kilamba Kiaxi housing project on the outskirts of Luanda, which is being built by Chinese construction group CITIC.
Construction on the massive public housing project, which is expected to house up to 350,000 people, began in 2008.
After meeting with a group of expatriate Chinese entrepreneurs, Xi is scheduled to leave Saturday for Botswana.
The visit is part of an African tour that began this week in South Africa, where Xi signed a series of trade and energy deals.
Since the end of Angola's 27-year civil war in 2002, China has played a key role in the country's reconstruction, extending generous credit lines conditioned on the hiring of Chinese companies and repaid in oil from Africa's top petroleum producer.
From January to September this year, trade volume between the two countries reached 19.8 billion dollars (14.5 billion euros), up more than 80 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Xinhua news agency.
Chinese ambassador Zhang Bolun told Xinhua that China has 50 state-owned companies and 400 private companies working in Angola.
He estimated that China has extended 4.5 billion dollars in credit to Angola since 2002.
That figure does not include loans from the Chinese Investment Fund, which are managed in Angola by the Cabinet for National Reconstruction, which reports directly to the president and does not publish loan information.
China has assembled an expansive investment portfolio in southern Africa, particularly in Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Its resource and energy deals with the continent are seen as key to fueling its blistering economic growth, forecast to reach 10.7 percent this year.
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