China's expanding relations with Africa root in their historical friendship, not the motive of seeking colonial control and exploitation, a leading Zimbabwean scholar said in an interview with Xinhua on Sunday.
Professor Claudius Mararike from the University of Zimbabwe made the remarks when commenting on growing warnings by the Western media that Beijing was intent to win control over the continent's vast natural resources.
Mararike said the warnings were merely an envy of the mutually beneficial ties China was building in Africa, especially in the economic sphere, which western countries were unable to match because of their control-based approach and mentality.
"Their (western countries) eyes are on the assets of Africa which they want," Mararike said, adding that China has always been a close ally of the continent and what was happening was a natural evolution of the friendship between the two.
In the past, much of the two sides' focus was on politics. It has began to shift to economy as both China and Africa reform their economies and create opportunities for their cooperation in various areas such as trade and investment.
Mararike is a well-known sociologist in the country who has dedicated himself to the research of the relations between China and African countries. He recalled China's consistent support for the continent which dated back from Ghana's early years of independence in the 1950's to Egypt's bitter attempt to assert sovereign control of the Suez Canal.
"The relations between China and Africa must be understood in a historical context. China is not all of a sudden jumping onto Africa. It has cultivated these relations over a long time - before and after Africa's independence," he said.
He said China has a fast-growing economy and this has alarmed western countries to grope for ways to contain its rising global power. "Their (western countries) main concern is to deal with China. It's a game of politics and economics," he said.
Mararike said what had proven a major attraction to Africa was China's friendliness and willingness to partner with African locals in investment projects, something western businesses were often unwilling to do.
The professor pointed out what has alarmed western countries is a series of investment agreements and projects China has been able to win in a number of African countries in recent years.
In Angola, Gabon, Sudan and other countries, Beijing has won oil deals. The Asian country has also secured similar deals in mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Angola and other countries. Resources long were considered preserves of western companies, he said.
Mararike also said such developments are neither surprising nor alarming. "They (Chinese) are reaping what they sow over the years, and after all they are reaping together with the owners of the resources," he said." The western companies want to reap alone, and this is why they are not preferred now," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2006)