China is active in a number of African countries, attempting to spread its influence and to obtain raw materials such as oil. As well as aid, China promotes closer relationships with countries by providing loans at favorable rates.
Back in 2009 China extended 10 billion U.S. in preferential loans to African countries. At that time it also promoted 100 clean energy projects and lowered customs duties on up to 95 per cent of exports to China.
In January of this year the African Union met in its new headquarters wholly financed by the Chinese government. The shiny new marble-and-glass headquarters in Addis Ababa cost 200 million dollars U.S. Even the furniture in the 2500 seat hall was supplied by China as a gift to the African Union.
Now China has pledged another 20 billion in loans to African countries. The Chinese president Hu Jintao said that the loans would be used to build infrastructure and promote agriculture. Although China seeks energy and mineral resources the loans now seem to be oriented to African needs as well.
Earlier Chinese projects often were primarily designed to help China. Countries such as Sudan and Angola have become major suppliers of oil. Zambia and the Congo provide China copper. Chinese projects in those countries such as roads, pipelines, and ports focused on developing infrastructure that would allow them to export resources to China. The aid was often given without regard to the human rights record of regimes being aided. Analysts often criticized what they called this "check book" diplomacy.
However Jacob Zuma the South African president praised the Chinese loans saying:"Africa's past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other countries," "We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China we are equals and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain,"
President Hu said that China would train 30,000 Africans. It would also offer 18,000 scholarships and send 1,500 medical personnel to Africa. China also promised new programs to improve drinking water and protect forests.
Rather than simply financing projects in China's immediate interest, China is now investing in projects designed to fill African needs. This may actually promote closer ties and more favorable attitudes towards Chinese investment, and provide more benefits over the longer term than its earlier more self-centered policies.