Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt (UPI) Nov 11, 2009
China's weekend pledge of $10 billion in low-interest loans to African nations, on top of its recent cancellation of some African debt, takes Beijing another step toward its long-term strategic goal of pulling the continent, with its vast mineral wealth, into its orbit.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's promise at the start of a summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in this Egyptian Red Sea resort Sunday and Monday capped a recent surge of Chinese acquisitions across Africa, particularly along the western seaboard that these days is riding an emergent oil boom.
But business analysts believe Beijing is not simply seeking to scoop up oil and gas supplies and raw materials for China's mushrooming resource-hungry economy.
The Chinese also want to invest in African nations, long despised by the West as a collective economic basket case, to produce wealth that will eventually open up vast new markets for Chinese goods and services while largely excluding other industrialized states.
According to a Time magazine analysis, "China has caught on to something that eludes most governments and companies in the West.
"Chinese state-owned and private enterprises believe African consumers could be the great untapped gold mine.
"Beijing's engagement with African leaders and governments is increasingly about ensuring that Chinese firms are best placed to sell their products when Africans start buying."
This is a far cry from the Cold War era where East and West vied for political influence in Africa, providing vast arsenals of weapons to client regimes and liberation movements that became the proxies of the rival ideologies.
Now the new rivalries are all about business.