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S.Africa defends Chinese expansion in Africa

BEIJING, Aug 25 – South Africa has defended China\’s surging investment in Africa, saying Beijing is not pursuing a neocolonial policy and its growing interest in the continent is positive, a report said Wednesday.

China\’s expanding presence in Africa "can only be a good thing" because it will increase competition for resources and influence in the continent, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies told the Financial Times in an interview.

"We don\’t have to sign on the dotted line whatever is shoved under our noses any longer; we now have alternatives and that\’s to our benefit," said Davies, who is accompanying President Jacob Zuma on a state visit to China.

Davies said an appropriate response to Western critics who accuse Beijing of pursuing neocolonialist power in Africa was that "it takes one to know one".

China has been criticised over its support for unsavoury governments in places such as Sudan and Zimbabwe and its willingness to ignore governance, human rights and the environment in its pursuit of natural resources.

Zuma, who is leading a delegation of 350 business executives and a number of key ministers, on Wednesday reiterated that China is a "key strategic partner for South Africa", which is the continent\’s biggest economy.

Chinese and South African companies signed more than a dozen agreements Tuesday involving investment in railways, power transmission, construction, mining, insurance, telecoms and nuclear power.

Bilateral trade — which has been expanding since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1998 — last year totalled about 16 billion dollars, according to figures from both countries.

Zuma, who met Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior Chinese leaders on Wednesday, said Tuesday that the expansion of foreign trade was a way for his country to "improve the quality of life of all South Africans".

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China, which last year overtook the United States to become South Africa\’s largest export destination, mainly imports raw materials such as iron ore, as well as iron and steel, to fuel its booming economy.

Beijing also has unveiled a series of major investments since ploughing 5.5 billion dollars into Standard Bank nearly three years ago.

In May, Chinese companies reached deals to build a 217-million-dollar cement plant and invest 877 million dollars to take control of a small South African mining company and build a new platinum mine.

Zuma will wrap up his visit to China on Thursday in Shanghai, with a tour of the World Expo.

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