China takes lead in debt cancellation.

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As the G7 and the Bretton Woods institutions drag their feet on debt cancellation, China has decided to rake the lead by announcing it would forgive more than $1.2 billion of debt owed by the poorest African countries as pare of efforts to boost development and strengthen ties with Africa.

The announcement was made by China's foreign trade minister, Shi Guangsheng, on the second day of the recent three-day China-Africa Forum held in Beijing. Forty-four African countries were represented at the Forum by heads of state or senior officials. Liberia and Malawi who have diplomatic relations with Beijing's rival, Taiwan, only sent observers.

Guangsheng said African countries who did nor have diplomatic relations with Beijing would not benefit from the debt cancellation. "There does nor exist a basis for such debt cancellation," he added, fuelling charges by critics that China was "taking its dollar-diplomacy to new levels."

China's aid to Africa has often been low or zero-interest loans repayable on flexible schedules. In the past, aid was used by Beijing as the central plank...

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