Chinese foreign minister begins Africa tour

January 13, 2009

, BEIJING, January 13 – Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Tuesday began a four-nation trip to Africa, the government said, kicking off a traditional visit to build China\’s relationship with the continent.

Yang\’s tour of Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi and South Africa would last until Saturday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told journalists.

"He will exchange views on bilateral issues, China-African cooperation, and other international and regional issues and sign a series of cooperation documents," she said.

"We believe the visit will enhance and improve friendly cooperation between China and the four African countries."

Following his swing through Africa, Yang will visit Brazil and Portugal from January 17-21, she added.
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 relationships have 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.

In recent years, China has traditionally kicked off its diplomatic New Year by sending its foreign minister to Africa.

Yang visited four African countries in January last year and his predecessor, Li Zhaoxing, made New Year trips to Africa in 2006 and 2007.

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

Jiang did not detail the nature of the agreements to be inked during Yang\’s trip.

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