BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media took a swipe at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, saying she was either ignorant of the facts about Chinese investment in Africa or was ignoring them.
The acerbic comments from the official Xinhua News Agency come as Clinton is on trip to Africa seen as boosting U.S. relations there and questioning China's motives.
China has poured billions into Africa in recent years, emerging as the continent's main trading partner and a major source of investment for infrastructure. But its presence has also sparked concerns about labor abuses and corruption.
On Wednesday, in veiled criticism of China's role in Africa, Clinton told a university audience in Senegal that African leaders should embrace democracy and partnerships with responsible foreign powers as a means to improving their living standards and addressing the root causes of extremism on the continent. Though she did not mention China by name, it's clear that Africans are being asked to ponder their relationship with China.
"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," Xinhua said in the commentary.
Africa has become a major source of resources for China's economy, now the second largest in the world after the United States, and trade between the two sides hit a record $166 billion last year, a threefold increase since 2006.
Xinhua said ties with Africa were rooted in "friendship and equality" and that the "friendly and mutually beneficial interaction between China and Africa gives the lie to Clinton's insinuation."
It said Clinton's "cheap shots" had a hidden agenda to discredit China's engagement with Africa and "drive a wedge between China and Africa for the U.S. selfish gain."
Clinton's 11-day African tour includes Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Ghana.
China hosted a summit with African leaders last month and pledged $20 billion in credit to be used for infrastructure and other development. President Hu Jintao said China would continue to support African nations' independent development paths, in a speech that waved off calls for China to consider human rights and other potential abuses when it made investments.