BEIJING: Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday offered $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years, boosting a relationship that has been criticised by the West and given Beijing growing access to the resource-rich continent.
The loans offered were double the amount China pledged for the previous three-year period in 2009 and is the latest in a string of loans to the poverty-stricken nation.
The pledge is likely to boost China's good relations with many African nations, suppliers of oil and raw materials to the world's most populous nation.
But the loans could add to discomfort in the West, which criticises China for overlooking human rights abuses in its business dealings with Africa.
"China and Africa should strengthen political mutual trust," Hu said in a speech to African leaders in Beijing at a summit held every three years.
"We want to continue to enhance our traditional friendship...rule out external interference and enhance mutual understanding and trust."
Hu also pledged to "continue to expand aid to Africa, so that the benefits of development can be realised by the African people". He did not provide an amount.
Hu said the new loans would support infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and development of small and medium-sized businesses in Africa.
Critics say China supports African governments with dubious human rights records as a means to get access to resources.
Such criticism makes China angry and draws rebukes that the West still views Africa as though it were a colony.
Chinese state-owned firms in Africa also face criticism for using imported labour to build government-financed projects like roads and hospitals, while pumping out resources and leaving little for local economies.
The EU has rejected what they call China's "cheque book" approach to doing business with Africa, saying it would continue to demand good governance and the transparent use of funds from its trading partners.
China's friendship with Africa dates back to the 1950s, when Beijing backed liberation movements in the continent fighting to throw off Western colonial rule.
Trade has jumped in the past decade, driven by Chinese hunger for resources to power its economic boom and African demand for cheap Chinese products.
China's trade with Africa reached $166.3 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics. In the past decade, African exports to China rose to $93.2 billion from $5.6 billion.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China 601398.SS, the world's most valuable lender, has invested more than $7 billion in various projects across the continent.
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