JOHANNESBURG - In a no-holds barred and strongly-worded rebuke, China's ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, on Monday took strong exception to United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's criticism of China's African policy, saying that the US wanted to create an impression that China was aiding and abetting corruption and looting the resources of the continent whereas it was the US that feared losing its grip and influence in Africa.
The row between the US and China reached new levels after Tillerson, during his maiden African trip last week, said that Chinese investment in the continent does not have the potential to address infrastructure challenges and was not creating any jobs in most countries, adding that it endangered Africa's natural resources and its long-term economic and political stability.
Addressing the media in Johannesburg, Songtian said that the US was "smearing" China's development in Africa and was expressing worry over China's growing influence in Africa with their own "ulterior motives", adding that Tillerson did not come to Africa with the aim to help African countries.
Songtian said that China had become more and more popular in Africa not by giving lectures but by taking a series of concrete actions to help the continent realise durable peace and self-sustainable development.
"Therefore, the American smearing China in Africa have obviously chosen a wrong place, wrong topic and a wrong target. That is why the Africans have stepped up to tell His Excellency what he is talking about China is wrong and not true. Sorry to say that it is quite self-embarrassing," Songtian said.
"In essence, what they really want is to keep Africa as it was, poor and divided, to be always controlled by others. What they worry about is Africa's realisation of economic independence with China's support. What they worry about is a strong Africa that can no longer be ordered around politically. America is creating the impression that China is creating a debt crisis in Africa but our African friends are crying for more support for self-sustainable development."
China has for the past nine consecutive years remained Africa's largest trade partner and the country is aggressively investing in infrastructure, manufacturing and telecommunications in the continent.
Songtian said that the US was making an excuse for themselves by accusing China of creating a debt crisis in Africa while it was not prepared to contribute enough capital to help Africa build its infrastructure.
"The American friends are concerned that China is creating a debt crisis in Africa. They say so just to find an excuse for themselves not making financial support in Africa. But fundamentally, what they are worried about is Africa realising its economic independence with China's support. What they are worried about is to lose control over Africa," Songtian said.
"Our American friends are talking about debt crisis in Africa but they are not willing to issue loans or encourage investors to support African development. Africa needs a lot of capital to develop its infrastructure to realise self-sustainable development."
Songtian said that China was a newcomer in Africa and cannot be accused of looting the continent's resources and exploiting its people, saying that Western countries, expect for China, have long been doing as they like with African resources because they were not investing anything in African development.
He said that the amounts taken in taxpayers' money by western governments far exceeded the amount of China's, yet they had no visible projects to show in Africa.
"China is a newcomer in Africa. Africa's oil and mineral resources have long been explored and exploited, controlled and monopolised by western countries," he said.
Songtian said that Chinese businesses in Africa adhered to President Xi Jinping pledge to maintain relations based on principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and to uphold values of good faith, justice and shared interest.