Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has hailed the upcoming Africa-China summit in Beijing as being a crucial one for building closer bilateral relations between the two nations.
The summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which is scheduled to kick off early next month, will bring African and Chinese leaders together to discuss a wide range of issues.
Confirming his attendance at the summit, Mugabe said on Thursday in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that the FOCAC summit was timely, as cooperation between China and Africa was being promoted, particularly in terms of trade and investment.
The 82-year-old leader noted that economic cooperation with China did not come with political conditions attached, unlike similar relations with the West.
"China has established friendships with many countries in Africa, and is opening itself up to Africa, coming with assistance. It is cooperating with African countries on an equal basis without any desire to colonize Africa," he said.
As a friend of Africa, the meeting between the two sides "is a very important one," he added.
Mugabe said African countries were trying to harmonize their economic policies, in a bid to enable them to negotiate trade terms with the outside world with greater weight and authority.
China, unlike the West who opposed African unity, supported the African countries' efforts to gain their own political and economic control of the continent, he added.
"This is the time also, I believe, to demonstrate our oneness (as Africa) as we cooperate with China. We do it (together with China) as the Third World, so-called. We have nothing to lose but our imperialist chains," he said.
"We look forward to this meeting, and to its conclusions that I believe will enhance economic cooperation between us and China," Mugabe said.
He said Africa continued to benefit from China's strong economic growth as China was in a position to provide alternative technologies and fair trade and investment.
Recalling the past, the president said he would not forget the assistance the Chinese government and people had offered to his country when Zimbabwe was going through its most difficult time.
After Zimbabwe's independence, China had provided enormous economic aid to the country, and economic cooperation between the two sides had been greatly improved, he noted.
The two countries' bilateral cooperation in economy and trade had very positive prospects, he said, adding that he hoped that Chinese companies would take part in Zimbabwe's construction in various fields to speed up its economic reform.
"I wish China greater prosperity and advancement," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 30, 2006)