China donates $40 million opera house to Algeria

Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:18pm EDT
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By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - China will pay $40 million to build an opera house for major trading partner Algeria, a gift likely to serve as a powerful symbol of Beijing's growing economic influence in Africa.

Chinese construction firms have picked up billions of dollars worth of infrastructure contracts from energy producer Algeria, but relations hit a rocky patch last year when there were anti-Chinese riots in the capital.

China has overtaken the United States as the continent's top trading partner but faces scrutiny over its hunger for natural resources and an influx of Chinese labor.

The 1,400-seat opera house will be built in the Ouled Fayet suburbs in the west of the Algerian capital, officials said.

The building will be "an important symbol of Chinese-Algerian friendship," Lu Yifeng, economic and trade advisor at China's embassy in Algiers, told Reuters.

"We would like to pursue our friendship cooperation with Algeria during its next economic plan," the diplomat added.

It will be the first time the Algerian capital has had a theater dedicated to opera. "This huge cultural project is a friendly gesture by the Chinese," Algerian Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi said at a ceremony to announce the gift.

Chinese firms want to secure a share of the $150-billion that Algeria, sitting on huge cash reserves from oil and gas exports, has earmarked for infrastructure improvements and modernizing the economy between now and 2014.   Continued...