The Analyst (Monrovia)

Liberia: World's Most Popular President Comes to Monrovia

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The state media said that the visit is part of China's latest efforts to shower the continent with business and aid, but Africa's raw materials are widely regarded as the main prize.

Analysts said although China has been eying the continent's rich energy resources to fuel its booming economy, the country is also aiming to strengthen its political influence, seeking African support for its rise to superpower status.

What role Liberia, which has no energy deposit, plays in this regards to warrant President Hu's attention in his first visit to Africa after FOCAC, is not clear.

But many Liberians say the visit cannot be anything more than humanitarian-driven with an unqualified desire to help a country in desperate need of reconstruction funds.

They said the visit coming two weeks short of the donor conference on Liberia has a lot in store for Liberia from China, a permanent of the United Nations.

Pres. Jintao's 12-day journey will take him to Cameroon, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia, and Sudan, where he has been pressured by the U.N. to help resolve the crisis in the Darfur Region, using China's leverage as a big oil buyer.

"This tour will be another major diplomatic move by China towards African nations following the Beijing Summit held last November," Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular press conference prior to Hu's visit.

The trip will address key themes such as boosting business ties and giving aid through debt relief and poverty alleviation, Liu said.

Observers say after benefiting from China's debt relief in millions of dollars last year in addition to other bilateral and technical assistance covering the renovation of major state institutions in Liberia, the repair of numerous roads across the country, and the giving of agriculture assistance, it is not clear whether the Asian nation will make further relief commitment to Liberia.

They though believe the visit will be of little substance to the average Liberian if consideration for Liberia's reconstruction agenda is not highlighted and discussed.

"Certainly, Africa serves as a good back-up for China's dwindling oil reserves, but it means more than just an oil and gas field," an energy expert with Shanghai Institute for International Studies told Interfax.

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