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China's President Pursues Stronger Ties With Africa

China's President Hu Jintao held talks in Nigeria today on the fourth leg of his five-nation Africa tour. Mr. Hu's visit to Nigeria comes as China seeks new sources of oil. It recently purchased a major stake in a large Nigerian offshore oil field. President Hu previous stop was Morocco, where he signed agreements on trade, science, culture and health care with Morocco's King Mohammed. Mr. Hu wraps up his trip Friday with a visit to Kenya.

Muna Ndulo is director of the Institute for African Development at Cornell University. He told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje Mr. Hu’s visit “shows China’s increased interest and increased role in Africa.” He says he welcomes Chinese involvement in Africa. “What we should encourage,” he says, “is that Africa benefit from this and that there is an economic benefit from the competition between the west and China.” Professor Ndulo says, “Overall, Africa needs capital and investors. If China is willing to provide the capital, especially in infrastructure development which Africa desperately needs, it is a welcome sign.”

Analysts and rights groups express concern that China’s “no strings attached” policy may help prop up corrupt and dictatorial governments in Africa. The Cornell academic sees merit in such concerns and acknowledges the “risk” in dealing with China. He also cautions against overlooking reality. “The Chinese themselves do not have an open system at home. So they cannot insist on an open system when they are not doing it themselves.” Ndulo says the challenge is figuring out how Africans can best deal with these seemingly contradictory elements of China-Africa relations.

Ndulo says, “Chinese involvement in a number of Africa’s liberation struggles has helped them in the context of Africa today.” He says such involvement have earned the Chinese “legitimacy” in the eyes of Africans.