BEIJING (Reuters) -President Xi Jinping said on Friday China supports Zambia in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests, while encouraging more imports from the southern African country.
Xi met Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema in Beijing and the two countries upgraded their ties to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership”, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said. Xi said China hopes to work with Zambia to expand cooperation covering infrastructure, agriculture, mining and clean energy.
Xi said in July that developing cooperation with African countries was an “important cornerstone” of China’s foreign policy.
Zambia is seeking to restructure its external debt with China and find more trade opportunities with the world’s second-largest economy.
Hichilema thanked China for supporting the African Union’s accession to the Group of 20 major economies at its Sept. 9-10 summit in New Delhi, and for its positive role in resolving Zambia’s debt problem, Xinhua said.
China and Zambia released a joint statement late on Friday, with no mention of any debt agreements.
However, both countries will push for greater use of local currency settlement in their trade and investment, China’s Xinhua state news agency quoted the joint statement as saying.
The move would help enterprises in both countries to reduce exchange costs and exchange rate risks.
The nations also will strengthen cooperation in mineral exploration and hold high-level exchanges between their militaries.
Zambia has invited Chinese mining enterprises to continue actively participating in mining cooperation, while China encouraged its firms to invest in the development of Zambia’s new energy battery value chain.
China has significant commercial interests in Zambia, having invested in more than 30 projects through its Belt and Road Initiative between 2014 and 2023, according to data compiled by the American Enterprise Institute think tank.
It shows the projects were worth $11.3 billion in total, ranging from the energy sector to agriculture and aviation.
China also takes around one fifth of Zambian exports, predominantly copper.
“Zambia abides by the one-China principle, highly appreciates the guiding concepts and principles of Chinese-style modernisation, and hopes to learn from China’s development experience,” Hichilema said at the meeting with Xi.
Xi said China was encouraging the entry of more Zambian high-quality products into the Chinese market and supporting more Chinese-funded enterprises to invest in Zambia.
Hichilema will be in China until Saturday.
(Reporting by Ethan Wang, Liz Lee, Joe Cash, Bernard Orr and Ella Cao; editing by Jacqueline Wong, Tom Hogue, Mark Heinrich and Nick Macfie)