Hu to open Zambia mining zone

Chinese president awards African nation $800m in new investment.

    Hu, left, visited Zambia on a two-day trip as part of an eight-nation African tour  [AFP]

    China agreed to scrap import duties on about 250 Zambian products. It would also write off $508,900 and a further $3m of debt which matured in December 2005, build schools and a stadium, train agricultural experts and give Zambia a further loan to buy road-making equipment.
    Hu's two-day visit to Zambia is part of an eight-nation African tour meant to increase the Asian giant's clout on the continent.
    Zambia has seen unrest over China's growing power in Africa, including a riot at a Chinese-owned mine over pay. The opposition Patriotic Front has accused the government of selling out to Beijing and the opposition was barred from events marking Hu's visit because of its anti-China stance.

    Partners in profit


    Hu stressed that Beijing was motivated by partnership rather than purely profit.


    "China is happy to have Zambia as a good friend, good partner and a good brother"

    Hu Jintao, China's president

    "China is happy to have Zambia as a good friend, good partner and a good brother," he said on Saturday at the joint news conference with Mwanawasa.


    Speaking through an interpreter, Hu said China's relationship with Zambia "represents a new type of strategic partnership" in Africa.


    China's involvement in Zambia dates back to the early 1970s, when the Chinese government built a railway linking central Zambia to the nearest port city, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.


    Kenneth Kaunda, the former president who led Zambia to independence from Britain, was the first African leader to recognise the communist government in China 42 years ago. Hu was due to meet with Kaunda on Sunday morning in recognition of that.


    Close ties


    Mwanawasa has courted even closer links with China. Since the late 1990s, trade has soared and Chinese investments now total $500m - the third largest after South Africa and former colonial ruler Britain.


    Chinese and Zambian supporters of Hu Jintao
    wave flags to welcome him [AFP]

    has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Zambia's copper sector, which accounts for 60 per cent of the southern African nation's exports.


    Mwanawasa said: "I am totally satisfied. The Chinese government has truly demonstrated consistent commitment in assisting Zambia in overcoming the challenges of development."


    He said the Copperbelt agreement represented a "significant economic development" that would help alleviate Zambia's chronic poverty.


    Chinese backlash


    There also has been a backlash, fuelled by workplace accidents, concerns over poor working conditions and low pay at Chinese-run copper mines, and resentment over an influx of Chinese traders into the clothing industry.


    Clothing shop owner Joan van Otterdijk said that Chinese traders selling cheap, low-quality textiles were "destroying" business in Lusaka and should stay out of the local market.


    The issue also triggered political debate in September elections, with opposition challenger Michael Sata winning support in urban areas after criticising what he called "exploitive" Chinese investors. He also sparked a public row with the Chinese ambassador by threatening to recognise Taiwan, which China regards as a rebel province.


    Guy Scott, a Sata ally who represents Lusaka's central district in parliament, said: "They're not here to develop Zambia, they're here to develop China."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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