It's not surprising that the spotlight has fallen again on China's role in resource-rich Africa. Concerns have been evident recently among NGOs, the media and foreign governments, even before this week's release of diplomatic cables. This, despite the fact that the Chinese presence there goes back to the 1950s. There is a western stereotype that sees China as a very aggressive newcomer, disregarding human rights and only being there for narrow national self-interest. China's investment in Africa is often characterised as a plundering of mineral resources accompanied by neglect of the welfare of the local populations. And the Chinese government has been criticised for not addressing the "reform agenda" seen as essential to Africa's future stability and prosperity. Is there any basis to these kinds of accusation? Not at all, in China's view. Given its record of helping African people, the Chinese government and commercial sector are entitled to feel angry. In the 1950s, China and Egypt established diplomatic relations, and Beijing sent the first team of experts from various fields like medicine, agriculture, water conservation, electricity generation and engineering. Since then China and African countries have developed good long-term relationships, supporting each other politically and co-operating economically. Over this period, China has helped Africa develop hundreds of programmes including the establishment of textile factories, hydroelectric power stations, gymnasiums, hospitals and schools. Among the most well known is the Tazara railway between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia, which was completed in July 1976 after six years of labour by more than 50,000 Chinese workers, at a total cost of about 1bn yuan (£95m). What Africa has seen in the Chinese workers is a spirit of diligence and sacrifice. China's aid to Africa extends beyond the technological. China has so far sent medical teams to 43 countries, with a total number of 16,000 people involved, reaching 240 million African people in medical need. It is one way the Chinese people seek human contact with those from other nations, and it has benefited both parties. With the fast growth of China's economy, economic co-operation between China and Africa is increasing in all areas, alongside the traditional aid programmes. Trade volume between two sides has reached $106.8bn (£67bn) in 2008, twice that of 2006 and 10 times more than in 2000. There are now 1,600 Chinese firms based in Africa. Since 2005, China abolished tariffs for 190 items imported from over 30 of the poorest countries in Africa, thus enabling Africa to double its exports to China. Boosting aid and training, offering debt forgiveness and zero tariff imports from the world's poorest countries were key Chinese pledges in the September 2010 UN summit on the millennium development goals. Perhaps it is the very size and scale of this programme of investment and aid that risks a backlash. The west continues to query the morality of China giving assistance to countries with bad human rights records or governance problems. But those who have benefited most from China's aid programmes are the African people. Is it moral to leave African people in dire poverty because of their bad governments? The children of criminals should not be punished for the wrong they have not done. They deserve their share of things. Then what about self-interest? There is no denying that China will protect its own interests through trade and investment. But when has the west ever thought that free trade was harmful for Africa? And what of its own record in there? China remembers that it was its African friends who voted China into the United Nations. Africa is confident that China will not colonise Africa because China understands the humiliation of colonisation from its own experience. Maybe west and east should calm down and look at themselves. In the west there has been criticism of a homegrown aid policy model, which places tough terms and conditions on aid. An emerging Chinese way of supplying aid might be another possibility, a challenge to the west, but also an opportunity. It is surely more constructive for the world community to co-operate and make progress. The words of George Bernard Shaw are perhaps more important today than they were even in his own time: "We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth."