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China's New Foreign Minister Heads to Africa

FILE - Then Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang speaks at a media briefing in Beijing, July 5, 2007.

China's new Foreign Minister Qin Gang is starting his term with a weeklong trip to five African countries, the Foreign Ministry announced Monday.

Qin, who until recently was ambassador to the United States, will visit Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt from Jan. 9-16, spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily media briefing. In Egypt, Qin will also meet the secretary-general of the Arab League.

The new foreign minister is following in the footsteps of his predecessors, who have for more than three decades started each year with a trip to Africa.

β€œIt shows that China attaches great importance to the traditional friendship with Africa and the development of China-Africa relations,” Wang said.

The U.S. is battling China for influence in Africa, with President Joe Biden making an appeal to African leaders at a summit in Washington in December.

China has become a major trading partner with the continent and investor in infrastructure and mining projects.

Qin, 56, was appointed foreign minister on Dec. 30 succeeding Wang Yi, 69, whose new position has not been announced, although a recent article by him on the Foreign Ministry website described him as director of the Communist Party's foreign affairs office.