By Xinhua writer Shang Jun
BEIJING, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is rolling out the red carpet for African leaders on Monday for a summit between the world's largest economy and the impoverished continent.
The first-of-its-kind event, as billed by U.S. officials, testifies to the eagerness of the Obama administration to strengthen its belated engagement with Africa, a continent inflicted with pervasive poverty and endless conflicts but also labelled as a land of vim and vigor.
It was widely expected that the United States would announce nearly one billion U.S. dollars in business deals for the region and a series of programs in the fields of agriculture and power generation.
Despite its repeated pledges to engage Africa, the Obama administration has come under attack for being slow to take action and rendering the United States lag behind in a perceived race for a share of the most promising continent.
Alarming for Washington, China overtook the United States as Africa's largest trading partner in 2009, the same year when Obama started his first term as U.S. president. The past years under Obama's rule saw U.S. trade with Africa decline.
Compared with Chinese leaders, Obama, despite his African origin, has been a less frequent visitor to the land of his ancestors. He made his first substantial visit to Africa only last year, while in the same year Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on a three-nation African tour merely one week after taking office.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang also set foot on the African continent in May, securing a deal to build a new railway line in East Africa.
In face of growing presence of China and other world players in the continent, the Obama administration seems ill at ease. Under the old-fashioned rivalry mentality, the U.S.-Africa summit looks more like an occasion for Washington to reclaim its influence in Africa.
In the first place, the U.S. refocusing on Africa after years of negligence is a welcomed move for the continent, though its actual effect remains to be seen.
However, a rivalry mentality among outside players is not the right way to serve the best interests of African people. It smacks of the old colonial times when Western powers carved up the African continent for their selfish exploitation.
China, a late comer to Africa, has been seeking mutually beneficial cooperation with African countries and never attaches political strings, which is distinct from the Western approach.
It also keeps an open mind for diversification of Africa's cooperative partners and stands ready to collaborate with other players, notably the United States.
It would be an unwise and anachronistic move for any country to treat China as a rising contender or depict China as the new colonist in order to regain its traditional sphere of influence.
The United States has every reason to promote cooperation with Africa and Africa needs that. The same applies to China.
There is no such thing as zero-sum game in terms of participation in African development. For a peaceful and prosperous Africa, cooperation rather than rivalry among outside players can serve the continent better.
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