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China, African Leaders Discuss Global Trade Infrastructure

Chinese officials say this year’s summit will strengthen Africa’s role in Xi’s Belt and Road initiative to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa through an infrastructure network modeled on the old
Xi told African leaders that their participation in the Belt and Road Initiative would bring “win-win outcomes”.Xi told African leaders that their participation in the Belt and Road Initiative would bring “win-win outcomes”.

President Xi Jinping told African counterparts and business leaders that China's investments on the continent have "no political strings attached", even as Beijing is increasingly criticized over its debt-heavy projects abroad.

On Monday, Xi spoke before the start of a two-day China-Africa summit that is expected to focus on his cherished Belt and Road initiative, a global trade infrastructure program, AFP reported.

The massive scheme is aimed at improving Chinese access to foreign markets and resources, and boosting Beijing's influence abroad.

It has already seen China loan billions of dollars to countries in Asia and Africa for roads, railways, ports and other major infrastructure projects.

But critics warn that the Chinese leader's pet project is burying some countries under massive debt.

"China's investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached," Xi told a high-level dialogue with African leaders and business representatives hours before the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, in Beijing.

"China does not interfere in Africa's internal affairs and does not impose its will on Africa," he said.

"China's cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development. Resources for our cooperation are not to be spent on any vanity projects, but in places where they count the most."

Xi told African leaders that their participation in the Belt and Road Initiative would bring "win-win outcomes". In the globally oriented strategic project, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, joint work should be intensified for "high-quality" outcomes that are "suited to national conditions" and "inclusive", he said.

But Xi admitted there was a need to look at the commercial viability of projects and make sure preparations are made to lower investment risks and make cooperation "more sustainable".

Mutually Beneficial

Belt and Road, Xi said, "is not a scheme to form an exclusive club or bloc against others. Rather it is about greater openness, sharing and mutual benefit."

A study by the Center for Global Development, a US think-tank, found "serious concerns" about the sustainability of sovereign debt in eight Asian, European and African countries receiving Belt and Road funds.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, currently the chair of the African Union, dismissed such concerns, saying talk of "debt traps" were attempts to discourage African-Chinese interactions.

"Another perspective... is that those criticizing China on debt give too little," said Kagame in an interview with the official Xinhua news agency.

Fractured World

At the last three-yearly gathering in Johannesburg in 2015, Xi announced $60 billion of assistance and loans for Africa.

Nations across Africa are hoping that China's enthusiasm for infrastructure investment will help promote industrialization on the continent.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will oversee the signing of a telecommunication infrastructure deal backed by a $328-million loan facility from China's Exim Bank during his visit, his office said.

Xi said Belt and Road complies with international norms, and China "welcomes the participation of other capable and willing countries for mutually beneficial third-party cooperation".

China would be happy to help Africa upgrade its customs and commodities inspection facilities and provide supplies and equipment to improve trade connectivity with the continent, the Chinese leader added.

He also voiced hope that Chinese and African companies could find new ways to cooperate in the field of technology.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who spoke after Xi, said FOCAC should be strategic and "build links between dignity, work opportunity and economic security for all our people".

Ramaphosa warned that the benefits of globalization have not been equally distributed between countries, resulting in a "fractured world where some powers are prone to unilateral and protectionist measures".

Africa Knows Best

Chinese officials say this year’s summit will strengthen Africa’s role in Xi’s Belt and Road initiative to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa through an infrastructure network modeled on the old Silk Road, Reuters said.

Xi said the plan, for which Beijing has pledged $126 billion, would help provide more resources and facilities for Africa and would expand shared markets.

China loaned around $125 billion to the continent from 2000 to 2016, data from the China-Africa Research Initiative at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies shows.

“In terms of cooperation with China, African countries know best,” widely read tabloid the Global Times wrote in an editorial on Monday.

“Western media deliberately portray Africans in misery for collaborating with China and they appear to have discovered big news by finding occasional complaints in the African media about Sino-Africa cooperation,” it said.

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