China is continuing to push for strengthened ties with Africa, with an announcement that the Chinese president will make his first overseas trip in 2009 to four African nations and Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, China has been stepping up efforts to develop stronger relations with what Chinese leaders call a "traditional friend," Africa.

Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters President Hu Jintao will visit the region next week.  His trip includes Mali, Mauritius, Senegal and Tanzania, as well as Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Jiang says President Hu's trip is aimed at further consolidating and strengthening China's friendly relations with the five countries.  She says the visits are also aimed at, in her words, "translating into reality the achievements of the Beijing summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum."

The 2006 Beijing summit brought together leaders from China and 48 African countries.  The resulting declaration called for the establishment of a new "strategic partnership" between China and Africa.  The countries also adopted an action plan that calls for more exchanges and cooperation between China and Africa.

Mr. Hu will follow Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to the continent.  Yang visited Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda in January.

Trade between China and Africa totaled more than $73 billion in 2007, according to official Chinese figures.  China's General Administration of Customs says it expects the trade volume for 2008 to exceed $100 billion.

Chinese sources say trade volume between China and Saudi Arabia reached $25 billion in 2007.  Saudi Arabia also is one of China's main providers of imported oil.  Angola overtook Saudi Arabia as China's main foreign oil source, in 2006.