China has been courting resource-rich developing countries and Bolivia's gas and tin reserves are likely to appeal to the energy-hungry nation.
   
Morales did not speak to the press after touching down in Beijing, where talks were scheduled on Sunday with Tang Jiaxuan, the State Councillor, and officials from the ruling Communist party's central committee.

A Bolivian embassy spokesman said Morales was due to meet Bo Xilai, the minister of commerce, and Hu Jintao, the president, on Monday.

Morales, who takes office on 22 January, has already visited Venezuela, Cuba and France and is due to travel to South Africa. 

Gas
   
As Beijing boosts its presence in Latin American countries where Washington has traditionally had strong influence, the leftist stance of Morales may also be attractive to Chinese officials. 
    
Although the vast distance separating Bolivia from China means that it would be hard to sell its gas competitively there, Chinese companies might still be interested in commercial opportunities.
   
And with global gas prices rising just as Beijing is trying to increase the use of the relatively clean fuel, officials may also be drawn by the hope that improved supply in the tight market could undermine prices.

During talks with Jacques Chirac, the French president, in Paris on Saturday, Morales said he wanted foreign firms to continue investing in Bolivia, according to French officials.
   
President Chirac told Morales that foreign investors needed a secure legal environment in which to work, a French diplomatic source said.