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US, China wage diplomatic battle on 'playing field' of Africa: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Dec 05, 2005
China is challenging US interests and values in Africa, shielding "rogue states," trampling the environment and thwarting anti-corruption drives, according to a new independent survey of US policy on the continent.

Beijing and the United States are on opposite sides in a new struggle for influence and resources in the new "playing field" of Africa, the study by a non partisan task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations found.

The communist giant has wielded its veto to frustrate United Nations Security Council sanctions against Sudan over Darfur, and is the "principal supporter" of vilified Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the report said.

It would be wrong however, to describe Beijing as an "adversary" in Africa, the task force said, and a senior US official who recently returned from Beijing disputed the idea of a Sino-US race for influence.

China's rise posed three challenges to the United States in Africa, the report said, firstly over Beijing's "protection of rogue states like Sudan and Zimbabwe in the face of egregious human rights violations."

Beijing was also able to use its growing economic might to undermine US and Western efforts to use aid and investments to lever African governments to flush out corruption and embrace good governance.

Finally, the report unveiled at a briefing in a top Washington hotel Monday, said Chinese business practices created unfair competition to US firms in bidding for contracts.

"Zimbabwe is all but owned by China" the report by the US think-tank quoted a South African article as saying, though noted that Beijing had apparently rebuffed Mugabe's request for massive financial aid to meet loan payments.

Beijing is also accused of contributing to serious environmental damage by importing timber through unlicensed loggers who deprive governments of much needed revenue.

The task force also warned Chinese textiles exports to Africa were undermining local industry, and similar exports to the United States were undermining the African textiles sector.

Many US consumers hooked on cheap Chinese imports may beg to differ with those findings however.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer disputed the report's findings, saying she did not agree Washington and Beijing were locked in "direct competition" on the continent.

"I think that's a very small view of what is needed in Africa," Frazer said during a briefing for foreign reporters.

"I think that China has just as great a right to engage in Africa as any other country ... why should we see ourselves in competition with any country in Africa, there is enough good to be done?"

However, she did concede foreign policy disputes over Sudan and Zimbabwe.

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