Tuesday, April 26, 2011

China says foreign aid about friendship, not resources

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's foreign aid programme is selfless and about helping countries abandoned by a cruel West in a hurry to dump their old colonies, a senior official said on Tuesday, dismissing suggestions Beijing's primary aim was accessing raw materials.
China has provided 256.29 billion yuan ($39.26 billion) in aid over the last six decades, with almost half going to Africa. Government figures do not include a state-by-state or yearly breakdown, though Beijing says aid has risen substantially since 2004.
By comparison, since 2001 the U.S. Congress has approved about $20 billion for Pakistan alone in direct aid and military reimbursements, the Congressional Research Service says.
Some Chinese projects, particularly in countries affected by Western sanctions such as Myanmar and Zimbabwe, have attracted attention for China's support of governments with poor human rights records and lack of transparency.
But Vice Commerce Minister Fu Ziying, who oversees Beijing's aid programme, said China was in fact the responsible one, especially in nations that were once colonies of Western powers.
"All the colonialists left behind were governors' houses," Fu told a news conference. "Many developing countries lack hospitals, schools, cultural centres, bridges, roads. Our aid is concentrated on sectors where they need it most."
In the post-colonial period in Africa, when China was facing its own development problems, the Chinese stepped in to provide selfless help, he added, describing a visit to a cemetery in Tanzania for those who died building a railway.
"The youngest was just 22. I could not help but shed tears," Fu said. "Just as Western countries abandoned newly independent Africa, the Chinese came. Sixty-nine sacrificed their lives and thousands laboured with the Tanzanian and Zambian people. Why? For friendship.
Some in Africa say many Chinese projects benefit local people little, with materials and even labour imported directly from China. Dam schemes have proven divisive too.
China's close links with oil-rich African states, including Sudan and Angola, have fuelled criticism as well that Beijing only cultivates relations to secure access to energy and raw materials to power its surging economy.
Not so, Fu insisted.
China helped countries with no discernable natural resources, like Mali, he said, adding that less than 30 percent of African oil exports went to China.
"I've just come back from Guinea, with its iron ore mines. Who is the biggest owner of those mines? It's not the Chinese. It's those Western countries who once colonised Africa."
($1 = 6.528 yuan)
(Editing by Ken Wills)