African Union looks East

The African Union opened its annual summit Sunday in its new Ethiopia headquarters, a $200 million high rise, built by China. And while AU leaders called for more trade among African countries, the guest of honor was China.

“Since the beginning of the 21st century, the China-Africa relationship has grown rapidly and made progress on all fronts,” said Jia Qinglin, China’s most senior political adviser, according to a statement from the AU.

Over the past 10 years, trade between China and Africa has increased more than six fold, according to the BBC. The new headquarters, now the tallest building in Addis Ababa, is one of many structures built by the Chinese accross the continent. A “staggering” amount of roads are being built, along with a light rail system in Ethiopia, the BBC reports.

The Chinese-funded Infrastructure projects also create local jobs. Another plus for many African governments is that the Chinese do not impose restrictions on aid, based on human rights records.

"China will firmly support African countries in their efforts to uphold sovereignty and independence, and resolve African issues on their own," said Qinglin, according to Voice of America. "We maintain all countries big or small are equal, and we are opposed to the big, strong and rich bullying the weak, small and poor."

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Africa is experiencing a “renaissance,” due to the adoption of state-led economic planning, based on the Chinese model, according to VOA. Zenawi said in the late 20th Century Western economic solutions were, “medicine that turned out to be worse than the disease."

Writer and analyst Derek Henry Flood says despite the popularity of Chinese aid among African leaders, the new AU headquarters is part China’s larger plan to reap Africa’s natural resources. Flood writes in the Asia Times:

“As China scours the continent for resources virtually unchallenged, this "gift" to the people of Africa will certainly come with strings attached.”

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