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China's economic czar heads to Africa

BEIJING, July 17 -- Vice Premier Zhu Rongji left Monday for Africa on a mission to boost trade with seven countries -- and remind them to toe the line on Beijing's one-China policy, which asks other nations to shun Taiwan. Zhu, China's top economic planner, was scheduled to visit Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia on a goodwill tour ending August 4. 'The further promotion of Sino-African economic and trade relations' is an important factor in the trip, said Shi Weisan, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation's West Asian and African Affairs Department. Shi told the official Xinhua news agency Zhu and leaders of the African countries 'will comprehensively evaluate bilateral economic and trade development' and 'explore prospects for new projects with Chinese aid on the basis of fulfilling similar projects started in the past.' With Taiwan announcing Thursday its resumption of full diplomatic ties with Gambia in West Africa, observers said Zhu was likely to underscore China's one-China policy, which rules out recognition of Taipei, regarded by Beijing as a renegade province that must be reunited with the mainland. Gambia established official ties with Taiwan in 1968 but switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1974. Taiwan's bid for increased international recognition has infuriated Beijing, which recalled its U.S. ambassador following Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's trip last month to New York. China also protested against June visits by Premier Lien Chan to Hungary and the Czech Republic and Vice Premier Hsu Li-teh to Canada.

'China and most developing countries in Africa share common historical experiences and have supported each other with mutual understanding for decades,' Shi said. 'Now is the right moment for China and Africa to promote economic and trade relations,' he said. China's exports to Africa account for only a very small portion of Africa's total imports, amounting to 1.7 percent for 1994. China's light industrial products, textiles and machinery, including agricultural machinery and equipment, have sold well on the African market, Shi said, while Africa's important raw materials such as gold, diamonds, iron ore, copper, manganese, cobalt, petroleum, cotton and timber are all needed in China.

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