S Africa's Mbeki defends China-Africa relations

Updated: 2006-11-12 13:59

CAPE TOWN -- Africa's recognition that the Chinese economy is one of the biggest in the world does not mean the continent's countries should define themselves as recipients of charity, President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday.

Writing in his weekly newsletter on the ANC website on Friday, Mbeki attributed the growing relations between China and Africa to China's booming economy.

The South African president made the statement shortly after his recent visit to China for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing, where leaders from China and 48 African countries mapped out strategic plan to enhance the continent's bilateral relations with that country.

"The World Bank says that the Chinese economy is the 4th biggest in the World, with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 12th positions occupied by the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and India," Mbeki said.

"This emphasizes the need for us as Africans to correctly respond to the realities of the world economy, but without defining ourselves as helpless and pitiful victims of globalization, whom the rest of the world must treat as mere recipients of charity, described as humanitarian assistance," he added.

He said while China's growth means that it has to export some of its goods to Africa, it also means the country will have to import its raw materials, including oil and gas, from Africa.

"To pay for the import of all these products from Africa and others from the rest of the world, China will have to sustain its export drive," he said.

However, some critics were skeptical of the close ties, arguing China could have selfish motives, and might only be interested in expanding markets.

South Africa recently imposed restrictions on the import of certain categories of Chinese textile products after trade unions blamed textile factory closures and massive job losses on cheap Chinese imports.

"There are some in the world who fear this message of hope and the possibility it presents to define the process of globalization in a manner that benefits the poor of the world," Mbeki wrote. "They see the developments exemplified by the China-Africa Partnership as a threat to their selfish interests."

Taking a swipe at both domestic and international critics of the China-Africa Partnership, Mbeki accused them of seeing evil in everything good.

"Each of these... within the context of their circumstances, will, with regard to the China-Africa Partnership, do everything possible to project what is manifestly good as inherently evil, so that we, who have dire need of 'close friends, reliable partners and good brothers' become frightened of those who come to us genuinely extending a hand of friendship, partnership, brotherhood and sisterhood," he said.

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