Chinese state media took a swipe at Hillary Clinton on Friday, saying she was either ignorant of the facts about the Asian nation's investment in Africa or was ignoring them.
The acerbic comments from the official Xinhua news agency come after Clinton, while on an official visit to Africa, appeared to question China's motives in the region.
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 regarding claims of labour abuses and corruption.
On Wednesday, in a 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 of 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.
Africa has become a major source of resources for China's economy, now the second largest in the world after the US, and trade between the two sides hit a record $166bn (£106bn) last year, a threefold increase since 2006.
Xinhua said ties with Africa were rooted in "friendship and equality" and 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 US 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 $20bn 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.
LUSAKA (Reuters) - Africa must beware of “new colonialism” as China expands ties there and focus instead on partners able to help build productive capacity on the continent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Clinton, asked in a television interview in Zambia on Saturday about China’s rising influence on the continent, said Africans should be wary of friends who only deal with elites.
“We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa,” Clinton said in a television interview in Lusaka, the first stop on a five-day Africa tour.
“When people come to Africa to make investments, we want them to do well but also want them to do good,” she said. “We don’t want them to undermine good governance in Africa.”
China pumped almost $10 billion in investment into Africa in 2009 and trade has taken off as Beijing buys oil and other raw materials to fuel its booming economy.
Clinton, appearing on the “Africa 360” program, called for long term “sustainable” investment that would benefit Africa.
“We saw that during colonial times it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” she said.
Clinton pointed to U.S. efforts to improve political and economic governance in countries like Zambia as an example of a different approach.
“The United States is investing in the people of Zambia, not just the elites, and we are investing for the long run.”
African states, she said, could learn much from Asia on how governments can help support economic growth but said she did not see Beijing as a political role model.
“We are beginning to see a lot of problems” in China that will intensify over the next 10 years, she said, pointing to friction over Chinese efforts to control the Internet as one example. “There are more lessons to learn from the United States and democracies,” Clinton said.
Her trip, which also takes her to Tanzania and Ethiopia, is meant to highlight the Obama administration’s drive to help African countries meet challenges ranging from HIV/AIDS to food security and speed up often impressive economic growth.
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Mark Heinrich