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. China says foreign minister to visit Africa

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 8, 2009
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will soon pay an official visit to Africa, the government said Thursday, in what has become a New Year ritual amid China's courtship of the continent.

"At the beginning of every year China's foreign minister pays a visit to Africa. This a good tradition and there will be no exception this year," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

"Foreign Minister Yang will visit Africa."

Qin said specifics such as where and when Yang goes would be finalised "soon," and gave no other details.

China has built close partnerships with African nations in recent years, partly to secure resources such as oil, minerals and timber to help fuel its economic growth.

The courtship has drawn some criticism in the West due to Beijing's links to regimes with poor human rights records, including those of Sudan and Zimbabwe.

However the World Bank said in a report last year that China's overtures to Africa had led to a massive infrastructure revolution on the continent that was vital to reducing poverty.

Many African nations have also welcomed China's no-strings-attached economic policies.

Yang visited four African countries in January last year.

President Hu Jintao visited several African nations early in 2007, while Yang's predecessor, Li Zhaoxing, also made New Year trips in 2006 and 2007.

The trips have typically resulted in China landing oil and gas deals, as well as a strengthening of ties in other areas of trade.

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