BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping forgave the debts of some poorer African nations in an apparent pushback against Western criticism that China engages in "debt trap diplomacy" and new colonialism.
This was as African leaders came to the defence of China, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa saying the betterment of people's lives in Africa as a result of cooperation with China refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa.
The leaders were speaking on Monday (Sept 3) at the opening of the 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac), a platform for cooperation that ranges from economics to security.
This year's triennial meeting has taken on greater significance as China faces a protracted trade war with the United States and rising protectionism threatens the multilateral trading system.
It also comes as China is facing criticism that it is engaging in a new form of colonialism in its exploitation of Africa's resources and that it is practising "debt trap diplomacy" in order to gain control of Africa's strategic ports and secure access to its oil.
In an apparent response to such criticism, Mr Xi said in his speech that China followed a five-nos approach in its relations with Africa, including no imposition of its will on African countries, "no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa".
Mr Ramaphosa in his speech said the forum was an effective platform for cooperation focused "on the tangible improvement of the quality of lives of all the people of Africa".
"In the values that it promotes, in the manner that it operates and in the impact that it has on African countries, Focac refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa, as our detractors would have us believe," he added.
The chairman of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, noted that some people are voicing concern that debt risks are threatening the independence of some African countries and that to forestall such risks, African nations should say "no" to outside help, including from China.
He said, however, that Mr Xi's announcement on Monday of eight initiatives and US$60 billion of assistance were a "concrete manifestation of China's support to Africa".
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is also the current chair of the African Union, while highlighting the bonds between China and Africa, sought to reassure other countries anxious about China's engagement in the continent.
"Africa is not a zero sum game, our growing ties with China do not come at anyone's expense. Indeed, the gains are enjoyed by everyone who does business on our continent," he said.