China slammed suggestions that its burgeoning foreign aid to Africa is driven by its interest in the impoverished continent's rich natural resources, saying Tuesday that it helps poorer countries out of solidarity.
China has made significant sacrifices in trying to help African countries lift themselves out of poverty, including the deaths of more than 700 Chinese workers in aid projects, Vice Commerce Minister Fu Ziying told reporters.
He said accusations that Beijing's foreign aid to Africa was targeted at securing resources were "nonsense."
Fu was briefing the press on a report on China's foreign aid released last week by the State Council Information Office. The report, the first of its kind, said China's budgeted foreign aid swelled nearly 30 percent a year since 2004 and totaled 256.2 billion yuan ($39.2 billion) from 1950 through 2009.
The gathering pace of Chinese aid is evident in many corners of the developing world. It is building roads and railways around Africa, textile mills in Syria, cement plants in Peru and bridges in Bangladesh.
While welcomed by recipient governments, it has drawn fire from the U.S. and other Western donors, who say Beijing's lack of transparency is contributing to corruption and mismanagement. Many scholars and pundits have said China's action is driven by the need for natural resources.
Fu said that despite Beijing's aid to Africa, less than 30 percent of the continent's total oil exports go to China and that the Chinese also work in African countries with few natural resources, such as Mali.
He added that China's assistance to Africa dates back at least four decades, pointing to the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, which links east, central and southern Africa and was financed by an interest-free loan of about $500 million from China between 1970-75.
"In this environment in Africa, where many countries had just become independent and when they were abandoned by western countries, China provided assistance," he said, adding that 69 Chinese workers died in the construction of the railway.
African leaders have welcomed Chinese interest, which comes without the political strings often associated with Western investment, including pressure to fight corruption and improve human rights.