Since the new generation of Chinese leaders led by the current president, Xi Jinping, assumed state power in March 2013, has not only launched major economic and social reforms but has increased efforts in foreign policy, with the eye on the stability, security and economy of China.

In this plan, plays a crucial role in creating the conditions that allow open markets for Chinese – made products each time higher value – added and ensure the minerals and energy resources that the country needs to continue the development process.

This means increasing relations with nations rich in raw materials and growing as African. Hence, Beijing has given a boost to its policy in Africa, traditionally focused on the economic aspect, to promote stability and security in the continent.

“In the past, China mainly helped African countries to be developed, will improve its economic growth, expand their infrastructure and will increase the trade with China. But now China has realized that political stability and security are as important as the development of their economies, so more attention being paid to this. This is the case in South Sudan. China has entered a new stage in regard to security in Africa, “says Liu Hongwu, director of the Institute of African Studies at the Normal University of the coastal province of Zhejiang.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang, started yesterday in Ethiopia tour a week in Africa, which will also take him to Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. Li participate in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) at the World Economic Forum on Africa, which starts Wednesday and lasts three days. The Chinese leader seeks to strengthen economic exchanges with the mainland, which in 2013 exceeded for the first time in a year 200,000 million (144,000 million euros), and dispel criticism of the existence of a Chinese colonialism. ” This is an important visit to the continent oriented ” in order to renew the ” traditional friendship ” between China and Africa and advance ” a new type of strategic partnership,” said Zhang Ming, deputy foreign minister, on the eve of Li trip.

China overtook the U.S. and became Africa ‘s largest trading partner in 2009, with a share of 13.5 %, according to the OECD. Bilateral trade has increased from $ 10,000 million (7,200 million euros) in 2000 to $ 210,000 million (151,000 million euros) in 2013. Around 2,500 Chinese companies operating on the continent.

Angola is one of the main suppliers of oil to China, while in Kenya, Chinese companies have major energy projects and are building a new railway line from shore in the Indian Ocean to the western border with Uganda. Accumulated Chinese direct investment in Africa reached $ 25,000 million (18,000 million euros) at the end of last year.

Beijing ‘s foreign policy keeps pace with their economic interests in the world. Something that has become more apparent recently in Africa. Zhong Jianhua, special representative for African affairs, in January participated in the peace negotiations that led to a delicate ceasefire between the Government of Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to who was his number two and vice, Riek Machar. “China should be more involved in finding solutions for peace and security in any conflict there,” said Zhong Reuters. “This is a challenge for China (…) It’s a new chapter for China ‘s foreign policy.”

Although the ceasefire in South Sudan did not last long, highlighted the new and active role played by Beijing in the conflict. “China has energy interests in South Sudan, so hopefully, even more, that this country can maintain peace and stability,” said Qin Gang, spokesman Affairs, last month.

Thousands of people have died in South Sudan, and more than half a million have fled their homes since mid-December, in the worst outbreak of violence since Sudan gained independence in 2011. The international community fears that instability in this oil-rich country extending in an already volatile region. Zhong, who has extensive experience in South Sudan, said that this problem is their number one priority.

Beijing ‘s relations with Africa intensified from the 1950s, when China supported African liberation movements of Western colonialism. In the past two decades, he has built and financed roads, airports, railways, stadiums, ports, hospitals and schools, while agreed to minerals, timber and energy resources in a continent rich in them.

The progress of the foreign policy of China, traditionally based on non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, had not kept pace. But its continued economic rise and the need to protect their interests have been granted -u – bound to assume new international responsibilities. Beijing imported 3.5 million tonnes of crude oil of South Sudan last year. It is their largest customer for oil.

Beijing has said it will act with caution and has argued that the solution to the Sudanese conflict must respect the proposal of the nations of Africa, where some leaders see China as a counterweight to the West and thanked the cheap loans that have been granted, but the same time are concerned about the way she ‘s wearing her little natural resources and technological contribution he has made to local industries. 85% of African exports to China are raw materials such as oil and minerals.

Suspicions about the role played by China have been served even by primate expert Jane Goodall and British anthropologist, who has said that China is exploiting Africa’s resources as the Europeans did, with disastrous consequences for the environment, and even worse than those caused by European colonization, given the size of China and the progress of technology.

The new Chinese leaders are trying to change this perception. Before embarking on his African tour on Sunday, Li Keqiang said that disputes and criticisms that have arisen about some Chinese investments are just “growing pains ” and ” isolated cases ” but urged Chinese companies in Africa to fulfill strictly local laws. “I want to ensure all seriousness to our friends in Africa that China will never follow the path of colonialism as did some countries, or allow the colonialism of the past, reappears in Africa,” he said in comments obtained by the official news agency Xinhua. “The destiny of China and Africa are closely linked. We support during the struggle for independence, and in the course of national development have always treated us as equals, ” and once said in Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia), reports the Associated Press.

The same message was sent a year before Xi Jinping. The first trip made ??abroad, in March 2013, that’s assuming the presidency led him to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo. “Africa belongs to Africans (…) In developing relations with Africa, all countries should respect their independence and dignity,” he said in Dar es Salaam, the largest city and economic capital of Tanzania, in an attempt to calm the concerns of those calling on the continent more balanced relationships with the second economic power in the world. Xi promised transfer of technology and training to build local industries.

Chinese companies have invested heavily in infrastructure projects, mining and energy on the continent; but some have been accused of unfairly treating African employees, perform shoddy work and violate local labor laws, among others. In addition, Beijing has been accused of neocolonialism and not foster economic development in Africa, focusing primarily on the search for raw materials rather than creating jobs.

Last year, the Government of Zambia took control of a coal mine operated by a Chinese company for failing to meet standards of safety, health and environmental. In 2012, the miners killed a Chinese manager during a riot caused by working conditions.