US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday promised support for democracy and human rights in Africa while criticizing "other countries" for eyeing only resources and profit, an accusation that has often been leveled at China.
On the first leg of her 11-day whirlwind tour around the continent in Senegal, Clinton, speaking to university students, lawmakers and diplomats in the capital Dakar, challenged Africa's elite to fully respect human rights and warned of the consequences of rampant abuse, corruption and intolerance that breed contempt and contribute to instability, according to AP.
"If anyone doubts whether democracy can flourish in African soil, let them come to Senegal," Clinton said during a speech at Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop University.
Without mentioning China, she was quoted by AP as saying that unlike other countries, "America will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing."
"Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will," she said, calling support for democracy and human rights the "heart of the American model of partnership."
Jin Canrong, vice director of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that Clinton is trying to make an impression before she leaves her position and there was no need to read anything into her words.
"China is becoming increasingly powerful compared with the US in terms of hard power, which is why the US adopts its popular set of values such as freedom to appeal to Africa," Jin said.
Though she didn't specifically name China in her speech, Clinton has in the past warned Africa of neo-colonialism, amid popular belief among Western politicians that China has been ignoring human rights abuses and exploiting the continent for its own benefit.
He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that making comparisons between China and the US is a result of the upcoming US election.
"China has provided concrete help economically to African nations because without well-off economic soil, democratic growth on the continent will be weak and all the African nations are in consensus on this," He said.
At the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing on July 19, China pledged to loan $20 billion to Africa to boost the continent's economy, while offering training and scholarships for African professionals and students, as well as healthcare and infrastructure assistance.
Exchanges between China and Africa aren't limited to governmental level.
About 300 delegates from China and 35 African states called for the establishment of a new model for NGO cooperation between China and African countries in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province in July.
"Africa won't borrow the democratic model from Western countries directly for the continent because it wouldn't work. And the continent is learning not only from the US but also from China about how to grow fast," He said.
Clinton leaves Dakar on Thursday to head to Uganda, on her way to South Sudan. Her trip ends with the August 10 state funeral of Ghana's late president John Atta Mills.
Agencies contributed to this story