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As Chinese Investment in Africa Grows, So Do Risks

Deadly attack on oil field in Ethiopia shows the dangers that China may face as it expands its involvement in the continent. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

On April twenty-fourth, rebels in eastern Ethiopia attacked a Chinese-owned oil exploration field in the Ogaden area. They killed sixty-five Ethiopian workers and nine Chinese. Seven other Chinese were kidnapped but released. The Ogaden National Liberation Front took responsibility.

The group said China did not appear to recognize the struggles of the Somali people of Ogaden. The rebels have been fighting the Ethiopian government for more than twenty years. They urged China to cease all cooperation with the government in the area of oil exploration.

Some experts believe China may become more of a target in Africa as it expands its involvement there. Today, Chinese companies operate in most African nations. China has also been investing in local projects like roads, schools and hospitals.

Ray Cheung writes for Business China, a newsletter published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. He says China has invested in Africa since the nineteen fifties, but mostly within the past five years. By two thousand five, Chinese trade with Africa totaled about forty billion dollars.

Ray Cheung says the government has been urging state-owned companies to operate internationally to help support China's expanding economy. But, he adds, many of the leaders of those companies are not trained in good corporate governance. He says the next generation of business leaders is more international and will have more of the skills needed for places like Africa.

Africans have generally welcomed China's investments. China, in return, gets oil and other natural resources that it needs, like copper and iron. But some say the growing Chinese involvement in Africa could lead to a form of economic colonization.

China has an official policy of noninterference in other countries. But as Adam Wolfe noted in World Politics Watch, China will have to decide how much it can follow that policy in the face of risks like the attack in Ethiopia.

China, for example, has recently urged the government of Sudan to do more to end the violence in Darfur. China has faced international pressure to use its influence in Sudan to help solve the crisis. China National Petroleum is the main buyer of Sudanese oil.

In February, Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, during an eight-nation trip to Africa.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. I’m ______.