U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that African countries should weigh Chinese loans carefully, while adding that Washington was not trying to keep Chinese investment away from the continent.
Tillerson, a former Exxon chief executive, is seeking to bolster security alliances on a continent increasingly turning to Beijing for aid and trade.
He may also seek to smooth relations after U.S. President Trump reportedly dismissed some African nations as “shithole countries” in January.
Trump later denied making the comment.
“We are not in any way attempting to keep Chinese dollars from Africa,” Tillerson told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital during his first diplomatic trip to the continent.
“(But) it is important that African countries carefully consider the terms of those agreements and not forfeit their sovereignty.”
He arrived in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, on Wednesday and visited the African Union headquarters on Thursday.
The complex was fully funded and built by China and is seen as a symbol of Beijing’s thrust for influence and access to the continent’s natural resources.
The top U.S. diplomat’s comments followed a speech on Monday in which he criticised “China’s approach” to Africa which he said encouraged dependency through “opaque contracts” and “predatory loan practices”.
On Wednesday, China said rather than making irresponsible remarks on African countries’ efforts for development and foreign cooperation, related countries should support Africa’s peace and development and make more contribution to Africa’s development.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang was responding to Tillerson’s remarks that China’s approach to development in Africa “encourages dependency” that undermines sovereignty and puts stability at risk.
“It is the common responsibility of the international community to work for peace, stability and development in Africa,
“China is happy to see diverse international partners in Africa, Geng said, noting that developed countries should have the greatest commitments there,” Deng said.
He said African countries and their people are best qualified to say whether China-Africa cooperation is good or not.
He added that China and Africa are in close contact to prepare for the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which will be held in September this year.
“We believe that the summit will be very fruitful and will inject new impetus to Africa’s development and China-Africa cooperation,” Geng said.