Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz called for closer ties with China on Monday during a visit to the Asian country, the official AMI news agency reported.
“The Mauritanian government wants more infrastructure and bigger involvement of the CTCE company in Mauritania’s development,” the agency quoted the president as saying, referring to the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group.
New China news agency said he was the guest of honour at a Chinese-Arab economic and trade forum in Yinchuan in the northwest.
China and Mauritania meanwhile signed an agreement granting the Mauritanian armed forces financial support worth 20 million yuan (2.3 millions euros, 3.1 million dollars).
As elsewhere in Africa, Mauritania’s cooperation with China at the government level has caused domestic controversy, as happened with a fisheries deal the two countries signed earlier this year. China may have an “apolitical” approach in Africa (though what, really, is ever apolitical?), but the more China’s involvement in Africa grows, the more China will become involved in local politics, whether it wants to or not. It will be interesting to see how the Mauritanian opposition, and the population as a whole, reacts to this new step in the country’s relationship with China.
Zooming out from Mauritania a bit, it’s also interesting to me to think about how China is winning vocal support from African heads of state who are not necessarily from the most powerful countries on the continent, but who wield substantial influence in their sub-regions. I am thinking of, in addition to Mauritania’s Abdel Aziz, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, both of whom have expressed strong pro-China leanings. China has not received universal welcome in Africa, but it has won, and is winning, influential friends.