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China is making inroads into Africa with huge investment projects filling the void left by U.S. and European businesses as it looks to reaping not only financial profits, but political ones as well.
On Sunday, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao wrapped up a two-day visit to Cairo, the first stop on a regional tour, after signing 10 agreements in the fields of oil, natural gas, telecommunications and industry.
After meeting with President Hosni Mubarak earlier in the day, Wen said China was ready to increase investment in Egypt, particularly in the energy and communications sectors.
China also agreed to give Egypt a US$50 million loan and a US$10 million grant to build a center to facilitate investment in an industrial area northwest of the Gulf of Suez.
And on the political front, Mubarak assured Wen of Egypt's policy of recognizing one China, spokesman Suleiman Awwad said, alluding to Taiwan's bid for independence. Other African countries have also yielded to Chinese pressure to shun Taiwan.
Trade between Egypt and China topped US$2 billion in 2005, a fourfold increase since 2002. And it has 186 projects in Egypt, with a total investment of US$220 million.
On Saturday night, Wen and his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Nazif, attended celebrations at the Great Pyramids to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser recognized China, making Egypt the first Arab or African nation to do so, in defiance of U.S. efforts to discourage other countries from dealing with the communist state. The United States established diplomatic ties with China after 29 years on January 1, 1979.
Wen is expected to sign additional economic agreements during the other stops on his tour.
China, the world's fastest growing economy and most populous nation, has lavished attention on resource-rich Africa for decades, sending its foreign minister and other high-ranking officials on annual visits. Wen's trip comes less than two months after President Hu Jintao visited Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya.