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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A powerful China returns to meet the Bandung spirit

A powerful China returns to meet the Bandung spirit

BEIJING, April 20 (IPS) - Winding up his visit to China last week, Nigerian

president Olusegun Obasanjo, the leader of Africa's most populous nation,

described China's rise as a ''beacon for global development''. It is a mantra

Beijing is most willing to put on display as Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives

in Indonesia this weekend to attend the 50th anniversary of the Bandung

Asian-African Conference.

President Hu's trip is expected to reinforce

perceptions of China as a leader of the Third World - a non-western and

non-colonial emerging superpower eager to expand its scope of geopolitical

influence by generous packages of aid, ample economic contracts and a

long-standing commitment to diplomatic neutrality.

"The brilliant

achievements China has gained on its road to peace and development over the past

half-century all the more represent a successful practice of the Bandung

spirit,'' said an editorial in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the

Chinese Communist Party.

China was among the 29 countries from the

Asian-African world that attended the conference held in Bandung, Indonesia on

May 18, 1955. The conference, organized without the participation of countries

from the industrialized West, marked the first move by developing countries to

form an alliance and assert their political presence.

China's delegation,

led by its then premier Zhou Enlai, threw its support behind African and Asian

independence movements, as a way to counter U.S. and Soviet influences in the

Third World.

''Premier Zhou Enlai helped dispel doubts, defuse puzzles

and quiet down disputes with his charisma of personality, political wisdom and

an attitude of equality,'' said the People's Daily. "The illustrious

manifestations of the Chinese delegation at the Bandung conference can be

regarded as a monumental work in New China's diplomatic history."

Beijing

credits the "Bandung spirit" for the explosion of trade and cooperation between

China and Asian and African countries. In 2004, trade between China and other

Asian and African countries amounted to about US$400 billion - about one-third

of China's total foreign trade, according to State Councillor Tang

Jiaxuan.

While Beijing continues to stress the need for developing

nations to band together against the industrialized West, these days China's

initiatives are propelled not by ideology but by efforts to secure natural

resources and political influence.

In Africa and Asia, as in many other

parts of the developing world, China is redrawing its geopolitical alliances in

ways that can serve its rise as a global superpower.

Having crossed the

threshold of being an aid recipient to becoming a donor nation, China is

expanding its own aid budget to buy influence in Africa and other developing

countries

China is now by far the largest donor to Pakistan, providing up

to nine billion dollars in various forms of aid over the last two years.

In a reflection of Beijing's rising global profile, China has also

deployed peacekeepers to war-torn Liberia, and pledged to cancel debts of 1.3

billion dollars owed by 31 African countries.

At the golden jubilee of

the Bandung conference on April 24, Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to

reassert China's credentials as the vanguard of the developing world. As the

only Asian nation and the only developing country with a permanent seat and veto

power at the United Nations Security Council, China now faces a delicate

situation as the UN pushes for an expansion of the council's permanent

members.

India and Japan are among the four primary candidates to join a

future-revamped council, but China has made it clear that it is not in favor of

hasty reforms and doesn't support an imminent expansion.

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