China-Sudan relations are at the highest point in the history of both nations. The oil industry in Sudan is one of the major areas of cooperation between the African and Asian states., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
August 3, 2012, 1:08 p.m. ET
China Lashes Out at U.S. Over Africa .
By CARLOS TEJADA
Wall Street Journal
BEIJING—Chinese state media lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday in the midst of her six-nation African tour, illustrating the struggle for influence between the U.S. and China over the resource-rich region.
In an unusually combative commentary on Friday, China's state-run Xinhua news agency accused Mrs. Clinton of trying to undermine political and economic ties between Beijing and African governments that have grown stronger in recent years. Xinhua said her trip there "is aimed at least partly at discrediting China's engagement with the continent and curbing China's influence there.
"Her remarks betrayed an attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa for the U.S. selfish gain."
Xinhua cited remarks by Mrs. Clinton in Senegal on Wednesday. Speaking before Senegalese leaders, Mrs. Clinton said the U.S. was offering to the region "a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. That's America's commitment to Africa."
Mrs. Clinton didn't mention China by name, but Xinhua said the meaning was clear. "Such cheap shots are uncalled-for and unnecessary," it said. "The United States has every right to foster its relationship with Africa, and Africa needs more truly helping hands." But it said it was "unwise" of Washington to use such "rude" tactics.
A senior Africa-based U.S. diplomat said Friday, "We welcome Chinese engagement in Africa. We think there's room for both China and the U.S. in Africa."
China's role in Africa is an increasingly sensitive subject for Beijing. The country has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure and other investments in the region. China has said that trade between China and Africa doubled in the past six years and totaled $166.3 billion last year. Much of its investments has also come without the political strings that the U.S. and other Western nations often attach. China last month said it would offer African nations $20 billion in development and other loans, double a 2009 commitment.
But a number of African nations have publicly complained about the balance of trade between China and Africa, with the former sending more valuable manufactured goods, which have a higher impact on growth, while the latter supplies mainly raw materials. At a China-Africa summit in Beijing last month, South Africa President Jacob Zuma said "this trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term."
China has also become sensitive to labor and environmental issues in Africa, particularly at Chinese-run operations. At the summit, China pledged to help African countries upgrade their operations to build more value-added products and said its companies operating there should act responsibly.
Mrs. Clinton on Friday was in the fourth day of her 11-day tour, which also includes stops in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and South Sudan. She was scheduled to meet on Friday with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Uganda President Yoweri Museveni.
The U.S. has its own complications in the resource-rich region, where both civilian rule and democracy are often on less-than-stable footing. China actively touts its stated policy of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other nations when seeking alliances.
However, earlier this year China briefly stepped away from its policy of noninterference, seeking to act as a mediator in an oil-transit dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, a role it may have to increasingly take on as its global economic clout grows.
The Xinhua commentary Friday touted China's ties with Africa. "China's booming economic relations with Africa have stemmed both from their time-honored friendship and complementary needs of development. Its genuine respect of and support for African countries' development paths are lauded and welcomed across the continent.
"The friendly and mutually beneficial interaction between China and Africa gives the lie to Clinton's insinuation."