BEIJING (Reuters) - China's official news agency hit back on Friday at suggestions by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Beijing is only interested in Africa for its natural resources, adding a further layer of tension to already testy Sino-U.S. ties.
Speaking in Senegal earlier this week, Clinton did not name China, but said Washington wanted a "partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it", adding the days of outsiders taking Africa's wealth for themselves should be over.
Xinhua news agency hit back at Clinton's comments, saying her Africa trip was a "plot to sow discord between China (and) Africa".
"Whether Clinton was ignorant of the facts on the ground or chose to disregard them, her implication that China has been extracting Africa's wealth for itself is utterly wide of the truth," it wrote in an English-language commentary.
"Ironically, it was the Western colonial powers that were exactly the so-called outsiders, which, in Clinton's words, came and extracted the wealth of Africa for themselves, leaving nothing or very little behind."
Clinton's trip is partly aimed at promoting United States trade and political ties to African nations as an alternative to China, whose influence has been growing fast as Beijing works to win access to the continent's rich cache of minerals, timber and oil.
Chinese President Hu Jintao last month offered $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years, boosting a relationship that has been criticized by the West and given Beijing growing clout in the resource-rich continent.
But critics say China supports African governments with a no strings approach to aid despite dubious human rights records as a means to get access to resources, a charge denied by Beijing.
Xinhua said Clinton's "hidden agenda" in Africa was plain to see.
"As commentators across the world have pointed out, the trip is aimed at least partly at discrediting China's engagement with the continent and curbing China's influence there. Her remarks betrayed an attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa for the U.S.' selfish gain."
While such commentaries are not official statements, they may be read as a reflection of Chinese government thinking on important issues.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ed Lane)