China pledges help for the world's poor countries
Chinese President Hu Jintao announces loans and trade concessions in New York. Many analysts say move has a diplomatic catch.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In a speech before the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced yesterday a series of aid initiatives in favour of poor countries.

The aid package includes tariff-free trade with the poorest 39 nations, US$ 10 billion in loans over three years, debt relief and manpower training and technical assistance.

Developing countries, especially those in Africa, will receive Chinese help in training medical personnel as well as donations of drugs.

"China will work with the rest of the world to make the 21st century an era of development for every human being," President Hu said.

The aid however will go only to those countries with which Beijing has diplomatic ties. The condition appeared to reflect China's rivalry with Taiwan.

Beijing and Taipei have provided aid to several small nations in recent years as they compete for diplomatic partners—a rivalry called by some observers as "dollar diplomacy".

Among the 26 countries that recognise Taiwan there are some of the poorest in Africa and the Americas, but Beijing is not planning to help them without a diplomatic quid pro quo.

In the Caribbean, Grenada switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in January 2005 after receiving promises of Chinese financing for housing and a new stadium ahead of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

Last month, China announced it would build a US$ 10 million (€ 8 million) stadium for St. Lucia, another Caribbean island that switched relations from Taipei in the late 1990s.

At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Mr Hu also pledged China's support for multilateral efforts to fight terrorism.

Earlier in his visit to New York, President Hu met his US counterpart George W. Bush, during which the two leaders affirmed the need to promote mutual trust and co-operation.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hu acknowledged there was friction over Sino-American economic and trade ties, but described that as "inevitable".

For his part, Mr Bush expressed a willingness to strengthen ties with the People's Republic and accepted an invitation to visit China after the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' meeting in Seoul in November.