Beijing: The United States thinks China is a "pernicious economic competitor with no morals" whose booming investments in Africa are propping up unsavoury regimes, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.
The frank assessment by the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, was among the latest revelations in thousands of documents released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
"China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons," Carson said in a February meeting with oil executives in Nigeria.
"China is in Africa for China primarily," he said, according to a confidential February 23 cable written by the US consul-general in Lagos.
Carson said another reason was to "secure votes in the United Nations from African countries" to forward China`s own aims, and also to depress diplomatic support for its rival Taiwan.
Beijing had pumped a total of 9.3 billion dollars into Africa by the end of 2009, according to the China-Africa Trade and Economic Relationship Annual Report 2010, launched in October by a government-linked research institute.
Investment in the continent reached 1.44 billion dollars in 2009 alone, compared with 220 million dollars in 2000, the report said, reflecting China`s growing interest in Africa`s resources to fuel its fast-growing economy.
China has been criticised by the West for its support of hardline leaders such as Sudan`s Omar al-Bashir and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, but many African leaders praise Beijing for not preaching to them over human rights.
"The United States will continue to push democracy and capitalism while Chinese authoritarian capitalism is politically challenging," Carson said.
Beijing pursues a "contrarian" approach by dealing with the "Mugabes and Bashirs of the world", he said.
Carson said the United States had "trip wires" in terms of China`s presence in Africa.
"Is China developing a blue-water navy? Have they signed military base agreements? Are they training armies? Have they developed intelligence operations?" he said.
"Once these areas start developing, then the United States will start worrying," he said, though noting for the time being, Washington did not perceive China as a "military, security or intelligence threat".