JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - China does business with South Africa on an equal footing, unlike Western former colonial powers who still act like its master, President Jacob Zuma has said.
"The countries that have been dealing with us before, particularly old economies, they've dealt with us as former subjects, as former colonial subjects," he said.
"The Chinese don't deal with us from that point of view. They deal with us as people that you must do business (with), at an equal level so to speak," Mr Zuma told CNBC Africa in an interview broadcast Thursday.
China is the largest trading partner of the continental giant, with trade worth US$21.7 billion (S$27.4 billion) between the two in 2012, according to official figures.
Russia and China supported the country's ruling ANC when it was still a banned liberation movement during apartheid and South Africa has tended to align its international diplomacy with that of the two permanent UN Security Council members.
"Part of the reason Africa, as much as it (was) decolonised many years ago, has never developed is because the relationships are not equal," said Mr Zuma. "China has come to do business, not to try to tell you what to do, what not to do. Others do."
He also questioned the disproportionate focus on Chinese investment in Africa compared to Western powers.
Africa can engage more freely with non-Western countries, he added, using as example the BRICS economies - emerging players China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa.
The country can lobby the grouping to base a planned development bank on the continent, which would be impossible with Western partners, he said. "You can't say, 'IMF must come here, World Bank.' They'll say 'You must be out of this world!'"