CAIRO, Egypt: Energy is part of China-Africa co-operation, but it is definitely not the aim that pushed China to go to the continent, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said.
Wen made the remarks when asked to comment on reports claiming China is courting Africa to satisfy its booming need for energy on his special plane en route to Egypt for a formal visit that started late Friday.
"The case is not what the Western reports described, that China went to Africa only for the energy. When we sent health care personnel to Africa, and when we sent construction teams to build the Tanzania-Zambia Railway,we never thought about exploring oil in Africa," he told reporters from several Chinese media including China Daily.
In the 1950s, China began massive assistance to Africa, a continent of similar experience of suffering from colonialism.
In one case, tens of thousands of railway workers were sent in the 1960s to build the 1,860-kilometer Tanzania-Zambia Railway, better known in East Africa as the TAZARA. The project, still under operation, is seen as a milestone of China-Africa friendship.
The assistance lasted for decades and reached the peak in 2006 when President Hu Jintao announced eight major measures to help Africa in three years, ranging from erasing debts owed by the poorest African nations to doubling aid to the land.
Wen said China indeed has energy cooperation with Africa but is definitely not Africa’s largest partner in that field.
"Sinopec (a Chinese state-owned oil giant) is the Chinese company holding largest oil deals with Africa, but the volume it explores and imports from Africa is less than one third of such trade volume between Mobil and the continent," he said.
"Energy is never the main part of our cooperation with Africa. What China expects is comprehensive cooperation of mutual benefits."
On Sunday Wen is to attend a ministerial meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, the second summit between Beijing and Africa since the leaders met in the Chinese capital in 2006. The Chinese premier is expected to announce renewed promises to assist Africa during a keynote speech there, as the items raised in 2006 have been nearly fulfilled.