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China Defends Role in Africa Against World Bank President's Criticism


China has rejected criticism by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz reported in a French newspaper that Chinese banks are ignoring human rights and environmental standards when lending in Africa.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday called the World Bank president's comments unacceptable, saying its trade relations with Africa are based on equality and mutual advantage.

"In fact, this benefits the improvement of the living standards of African people and benefits Africa's economic and social development," he said. "Therefore China cannot accept the accusations."

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz was quoted in an interview with French newspaper Les Echos published Tuesday as saying large Chinese banks were ignoring a voluntary code of conduct for lending known as the "Equator Principles."

These principles call for private lenders to make sure projects they fund meet social and environmental standards.

The World Bank chief was also quoted as expressing concern about new lending from China, India, and Venezuela to poor countries that have received debt relief. He said these countries risked becoming heavily indebted once again.

The comments come just ahead of a China-Africa summit to be held in Beijing in early November. The Chinese government has been promoting trade with Africa as it seeks new energy sources and raw materials, and new markets for Chinese goods.

Chinese companies operating in Africa have also come in for criticism for ignoring international labor standards, which has sometimes led to conflict with locals.

Liu defended China's Africa policy, saying his country follows the principle of not interfering in other nations' internal affairs and not imposing values on other countries.

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