Chinese Premier Pledges Continued Help For Africa

China's Premier Wen Jiabao has told representatives of the African Development Bank meeting in Shanghai that China is sincere about helping Africa develop. This is the first time the bank has held its annual board meeting in Asia, a sign of the growing significance of China-Africa relations. Daniel Schearf reports for VOA from Beijing.

The African Development Bank sessions are focused on infrastructure development and poverty relief. The meeting is the second time China has hosted a major Africa event in less than a year.

At the opening of the two-day meeting Wednesday in Shanghai, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to honor Chinese commitments made at last November's China-Africa Forum to double aid to Africa by 2009, and provide $5 billion in development funds.

Mr. Wen said Africa's development is good for all, and he called on developed nations to increase aid and debt relief.

"Africa's gradual development requires relying on its own hard efforts. And yet, it cannot be separated from the international community's support and help," he said.

China is now the largest investor in Africa among developing countries, with $11.7 billion invested in Africa.

But critics say China is acting as colonial powers once did, exploiting African resources with little regard for local workers and developing local industry.

China has also been criticized for ignoring human rights abuses in countries like Sudan in its quest for energy and raw materials to feed its growing economy.

Joseph Cheng, a Professor of Political Science at City University in Hong Kong, says in hosting the meeting, China is seeking to position itself for an even larger role in Africa.

"Offering to host the conference in Shanghai is a rather cost-effective way of raising China's international status as a symbol of the increasing cooperation, economic cooperation between China and African continent," he said.

Chinese officials say that their country's trade, investment and aid have helped African development and poverty relief.

Mr. Wen said China has already canceled about $1.4 billion in African debt and plans to cancel another billion dollars.

He says China has sent medical personnel to Africa and funded hundreds of infrastructure and public projects in a sign of its commitment to development.