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'China's presence welcome in Africa'

By Agencies in Pretoria, South Africa and Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-01 09:11

US president says involvement of Beijing is 'beneficial for all'

During his trip to Africa, US President Barack Obama said he sees no threat in China's push for business on the continent - remarks that observers interpreted as a positive step back by Washington from its previous perception of China.

The increased Chinese involvement in Africa was beneficial for all, Obama said when visiting South Africa on Saturday.

"I don't feel threatened by it. I feel it's a good thing," he told reporters at a news conference. The more investment in Africa, the more the world's least-developed continent can be integrated into the global economy, the US president said.

"I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier," Obama said.

Jin Canrong, international affairs professor at Renmin University of China, said, "Obama's words are friendlier than former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, which shows Washington is changing its attitude toward Beijing in African business."

Clinton paid an 11-day visit to Africa in 2012, during which she proposed a new Africa strategy with more US involvement in the continent.

She said, unlike other countries, Washington was committed to "a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it" from Africa.

Although not mentioning any country by name, her remarks were widely interpreted by analysts and media to be targeting China while lobbying African leaders to cooperate with the US.

Jin believes Obama's words this time are the consequence of the favorable meeting between him and President Xi Jinping in the US in early June. The two leaders agreed to build a new, cooperative Beijing-Washington relationship.

However, Obama did not forget to urge African nations to be tougher negotiators in accepting investments from abroad. "You produce the raw materials ... and then all the way up the chain somebody else is making the money and creating the jobs and the value," he said.

"Make sure that whoever you're dealing with ... you're getting a good deal that's benefiting the people here and that can help to spur broad-based development."

Obama has also said that US interactions with Africa have included goals of social and political development, unlike those of China, which he said were more narrowly focused on commercial benefits.

Ren Xiaoping, former Chinese ambassador to Namibia, said this comment on China is "rootless".

In Namibia, she said, China has helped construct roads, build hospitals, schools and stadiums, which tremendously benefited the lives of local people. Ren also cited examples of China equipping families in poor villages with small solar-energy facilities, which can supply power to people who have never had access to electricity.

In terms of potential cooperation, Jin from Renmin University suggested that the US can offer Africa advanced management skills and strong financial capability around the global market, while China can contribute more on modern construction technologies.

Reuters - China Daily

(China Daily 07/01/2013 page11)

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