A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Picture: REUTERS
A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Picture: REUTERS

The Chinese government had no need to spy on African leaders and if it wished to find out anything about Africa, it would simply ask. After all, the Chinese enjoy "sincere relations" with the leaders of the continent, ambassador to SA Lin Songtian has said.

Lin seethed at a specially convened media conference on Sunday, denying reports that the Chinese government bugged the headquarters of the AU in Addis Ababa — which China built — to keep tabs on the continent’s leaders. He called the reports, which emerged in French publication Le Monde last week, malicious lies peddled by "the West" to undermine Chinese-African relations.

Former AU Commission chairman Erastus Mwencha also denied the claim and said the timing of the reports just after the conclusion of an AU summit was suspicious.

In 2012, China built the Addis Ababa headquarters as a gift to the AU. On Sunday, Lin described it as "the most modernised building in our continent to this point".

China, the largest developing economy, has also invested aggressively in infrastructure on the continent.

Lin said he was not surprised by the reports from "western media" but was disappointed that African media repeated the claims "without question".

magubanek@businesslive.co.za