Chinese President Hu Jintao faces a delicate task this week when he visits copper-rich Zambia, where anti-Chinese sentiment is riding high amid fears Beijing is moving to colonise the local economy. Zambian officials say Huâ€™s visit, which begins tomorrow, will spur trade and foreign investment.
Mining Minister Kalombo Mwansa said: â€œItâ€™s important because China is investing heavily in our copper mines, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.â€
But Zambia has also seen some of Africaâ€™s most public expressions of unease over Chinaâ€™s power, with a riot at a Chinese-owned mine over pay and the opposition party alleging a sell-out.
â€œThey are out to colonise Africa economically and also to get Africaâ€™s solidarity at the United Nations,â€ said Guy Scott, the general secretary of the opposition Patriotic Front, which narrowly lost elections last year after running on an openly anti-China platform.
â€œUnfortunately, we cannot stop them and they will get what they want from Africa because they offer aid without conditions.â€
Huâ€™s trip to Zambia dropped a planned stop in the Copperbelt region, apparently out of fears he might be targeted by protesting families of workers who died in a 2005 explosion at a Chinese-owned mine.
Zambian officials say overall the country is sure to profit from its relationship with China and are positioning the country to serve as a â€œbaseâ€ for Chinaâ€™s regional economic strategy.
To smooth Chinese and other foreign investment, the town of Chambishi, 420km north of the capital Lusaka, will be â€œdeclared a free economic zoneâ€ in step with Huâ€™s visit, Zambian officials said.
Claims that more Chinese investment will create jobs and help modernise infrastructure ring hollow for some, including the Patriotic Front (PF). While the PF failed to unseat President Levy Mwanawasa or his ruling party in last yearâ€™s polls, it won considerable support around the country, due in part to its accusations that Chinese firms underpay and mistreat their Zambian wo