Chinese President Hu Jintao said Thursday his government will seek closer ties with Africa — a resource-rich frontier for the world’s fastest growing economy — after signing a series of major business deals with oil-rich Nigeria.
Hu, on the second and final day visiting Africa’s largest oil producer before heading to Kenya, said China is seeking “a strategic partnership” with the continent that would improve living standards for Africa.
Hu and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo signed an agreement Wednesday that requires Nigeria’s petroleum ministry to give China’s state oil firm preferential access to four blocks of oil exploration rights in return for China taking over a money-losing refinery in the northern city of Kaduna.
China also agreed to build a hydroelectric power station in the northeastern Mambilla plateau and a fast-rail system linking the capital, Abuja, with the economic capital, Lagos.
And two Chinese telecommunication firms will install rural telephone service across large swathes of Nigeria with the help of Chinese government loans worth more than $200 million.
China’s interest and growing profile in Africa has worried Western rivals for the continent’s resources and markets. And some Africans have complained about being flooded with cheap Chinese goods.
Nigeria is the top African producer of crude and the seventh-largest in the world, normally pumping 2.5 million barrels per day. It was the first sub-Saharan Africa stop on a tour by Hu that has included the United States, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Militants claiming responsibility for oil-installation attacks and kidnappings that have shut down more than 20 percent of Nigeria’s oil production this year vowed more violence in response to the Chinese deals.
“They should go back to China and do all these things they say for the millions of starving Chinese. We want control over our resources, not Chinese management and development,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
China is hungry for the energy, timber, minerals and other raw materials Africa can provide, and in January, China’s state-controlled oil firm, CNOOC, announced it had reached a deal to pay $2.3 billion for a 45 percent stake in a Nigerian offshore oil field.
Obasanjo’s office said as Hu wrapped up his visit Thursday that China had granted Nigeria $5.7 million in aid to be used in part to buy anti-malaria medicines and to train Nigerians in malaria control and prevention.
With 130 million people, Africa’s most populous country is also a major market for Chinese-produced goods. Chinese companies have been accused of flooding local markets with fake and substandard goods, notably textiles. In December, Nigerian officials took the dramatic step of shutting down several shopping centers run by Chinese traders in Lagos.
In the last five years, China’s trade with Africa has grown fourfold, to $40 billion in 2005.
The world’s most populous country, with 1.3 billion people, has also set new development targets to increase its gross domestic product and lower energy consumption, the Chinese leader told Nigerian lawmakers Thursday.
“By the year 2020 ... GDP would quadruple that of 2000 to reach $4 trillion, averaging $3,000 per head,” Hu said.
China, a veto-wielding U.N. Security Council member, also has offered key diplomatic support to some governments shunned by the West, like Sudan and Zimbabwe.