"The Chinese government has brought a lot of development to this country and these are the people you are demonstrating against," he said.
 
Zambian labour unions and opposition parties have accused Chinese firms of underpaying workers and compromising safety in Zambia's vast copper mines as they increase their investment in the resource-rich African nation.
 

In July, six miners were shot in a protest at the Chinese-owned Chambishi copper mine. The incident spurred anti-Chinese sentiment and led to criticism that Mwanawasa and his government were too close to Chinese interests.

 

Alleged exploitation

 

"The Chinese government has brought a lot of development to this country and these are the people you are demonstrating against"

Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president
An opposition presidential candidate, Michael Sata, made alleged Chinese exploitation of Zambian workers a key part of his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mwanawasa in an election last year.

 

Mwanawasa, however, has responded to critics by pointing out the benefits of Chinese investment. Zambia is struggling to modernise its infrastructure, especially in the mining sector, the lifeblood of the country's economy.

 

On Thursday, the president announced that China would lend $39m to buy equipment needed to build and repair roads, a sign he said of the Asian giant's good intentions toward Zambia.

 

Mwanawasa told state media: "The feeder roads are in a bad state [and] we are going to use equipment which our counterparts will provide. It is therefore unfair to start criticising the Chinese government."

 

Chinese investment

 

The main focus of Hu's visit to the country next month will be on Chinese investment in Zambia.

 

The Chinese leader will open a smelter designed to produce 150,000 tonnes of copper a year and lay a foundation stone for a five-star hotel the Chinese plan to build in Livingstone, a Zambian official said.

 

Mwanawasa also said the Chinese had agreed to construct a football stadium in Ndola.

 

"The two presidents will also sign a number of co-operation agreements, which will benefit Zambia economically," the official said on condition of anonymity.