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China Lauds Its Many Friends in Africa

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi says China's growing cooperation with countries in Africa is rooted in long-standing friendship. He made his comments Wednesday at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of China's legislature, the National People's Congress. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi says China has been and continues to be an old and good friend of the African people.

In response to criticism about China's policy of non-interference in the African countries it invests in, Yang says China would rather have friends than, in his words, "interests."

"China has many friends in Africa. We sincerely regard African countries as our friends," said Yang. "We are committed to a new strategic partnership with African countries and this partnership is based on sincerity, friendship, equality, mutual support and common development."

By the end of 2006, Chinese investment in Africa totaled nearly $12 billion. That investment is spread across many sectors, including oil, resource development, agriculture and fishing.

Yang said China wants to obtain resources from Africa, but also wants to help African countries improve themselves.

"They have the right to translate their advantages in resources into advantages in development, and to translate their potential advantages into real advantages, through cooperation," Yang added.

One example of China's approach to Africa is Sudan, a country with which Beijing maintains a close relationship. China is the largest foreign investor in Sudan and is the largest consumer of exported Sudanese oil. Foreign Minister Yang points to Chinese economic activity in Sudan as being one of the driving forces behind the African nation's recent robust economic growth numbers.

At the same time, international activists accuse Beijing of not doing enough to pressure Khartoum to end the violence in the war-torn Sudanese Darfur region. The activists are working to link the Darfur issue to the upcoming Beijing Olympics, in an effort to shame China into doing more. Two-hundred-thousand people are estimated to have died in the Darfur crisis, which has pitted Khartoum-backed militias against rebels.