China is one of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members, but has not publicly said whether it supports calls for an Africa seat.

China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang has sidestepped a new call by the African Union (AU) for permanent representation on the United Nations Security Council during his visit to Ethiopia.

Speaking at the opening of the Chinese-built headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Qin instead emphasized China’s partnership with Africa in security and economic development.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told a joint press conference that Africa’s lack of permanent representation on the Security Council is a “burning issue” considering that most issues on the council agenda are related to African countries.

“It is unacceptable that others decide in the place of others. It is not fair. We need a new order at the international level which will respect the interests of others,” he said.

China is one of the council’s five permanent members.

Qin, who was appointed in December, is on his first overseas visit as foreign minister and is beginning a weeklong trip to Africa. He will also visit Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt.

For more than three decades, China’s foreign ministers have started their terms by visiting Africa. China has invested heavily in infrastructure in African countries, including roads, railways and hospitals.

Qin rejected the idea that China is competing in Africa with the United States, which last month sought to reassert its influence with a US-Africa summit in Washington. US President Joe Biden has also backed the AU for a seat on the council.

“What Africa needs is solidarity and cooperation, not bloc competition. No one has the right to force African countries to take sides,” Qin said.

The AU Commission chair said, “Africa refuses to be considered to be an arena of exchange of influence … We are open to cooperation and partnership with everybody, but our principles, our priorities and our interests have to be respected. The partnership we have with China is based on these principles.

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