Over the past couple of decades, when dealing with developing nation trade partners, America had had to factor in many non-trade-related stipulations in their agreements – these stipulations often involved human rights issues brought to the government’s attention by concerned citizens and internationally active NGO’s (non-government organizations).
The Chinese, however, do not share such constraints. Typically, they enter a trade relationship with promises of local investment in exchange for getting what they want (and need badly). What they do not do, is include stipulations related to human rights, freedom, political preferences and such. Case in point – this Economist article describing the relationship between China and Guinea:
As you can see, China needs natural resources to feed its growth – Africa has those resources but also has many inadequate (and often criminal) leaders. China does not bother itself with the internal dealings of a trade partner – they invest in the country (often enriching the ruling the leader) and keep their mouths shut – with their only concern being the uninterrupted supply of oil, coal, metals etc. True it is Chinese style to make harmony and it is not historically their style to impose conditions on foreign leaders, a good example being their history on the UN Security Council.
In some cases, this lack of interference (e.g. Sudan) has caused massive protest – but so far, China has not made too much effort to stop any human rights abuses. Time will tell what they will do.
p.s. notice in the story that Guinea’s leader is a “captain.” I am always curious – would he obey commands from Colonel Quaddafey and would they both follow the commands of someone like a General Noriega (were he still in power)?