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Chinese President to Promote Africa Ties in Visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao will begin a week-long, four-country visit to Africa with a stop Thursday in Mali. Chinese officials say the visit is intended to demonstrate that China's interests in Africa are not purely economic.

Arriving in Bamako, Chinese President Hu Jintao begins a week-long visit to Africa with which he will attempt to highlight Sino-African cooperation and relations.

Mr. Hu will be in Mali for two days, before traveling to Senegal, followed by visits to Mauritius and Tanzania.

The Chinese president will join Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure at the opening ceremony for the construction of a bridge in Bamako. Mr. Hu will then travel to Dakar, where he will meet with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to inspect the construction site of the Chinese-funded National Grand Theatre.

At a 2006 Sino-African summit in Beijing, China agreed to increase aid and loans to African nations, and the Chinese are helping to finance infrastructure projects in all of the countries included on this week's agenda.

The investments are part of a plan to finish the promised distribution of $5 billion of loans and credit to Africa by the end of this year, Chinese officials say.

China has been criticized in the past for putting profit over people on the African continent, particularly over activities in Sudan's Darfur region. The Chinese ambassador to Senegal, Lu Shaye, says the president's trip proves that China's interests in Africa are not solely economic.

The ambassador criticized members of the Senegalese press for suggesting that Chinese interests in the country are purely material. Lu says Senegal is not a mineral-rich country, and yet China has enjoyed strong relations with the West African nation since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations in 2005.

Lu says China looks to Africa for many reasons, including what Chinese leaders have called a "traditional friendship."

Lu says there needs to be a better understanding of Sino-African relations on the continent. He also hopes for a more accepting attitude towards the Chinese diaspora in Africa, now numbering close to one million long-term residents.

Trade in 2008 between China and the African continent is estimated to have topped $100 billion, a more than 30 percent increase over the previous year.