China is seeking to deepen cooperation with theAfrican Union (AU) and African countries through a newly established permanent mission, Kuang Weilin,head of China’s permanent mission to the Pan-African bloc, told Xinhua on Thursday.

Kuang, a veteran diplomat, said the establishment of the mission is to fulfill commitments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang during their visits to Africa.

“China is ready to strengthen cooperation with the AU to push the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a new high,” said the former ambassador to Sierra Leone.

China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for five consecutive years. China-Africa trade has expanded to more than 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, and Premier Li envisioned that bilateral trade between China and Africa will double to 400 billion dollars in 2020.

Fast-growing relationship has prompted a new mechanism and platform to smooth communication with the continent’s largest inter-governmental organization.

Kuang said he will explore new channels of cooperation such as poverty alleviation and human resource development.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission, hails the move as a “historic point”, saying “we can identify a number of important opportunities which will create win-win cooperation between China and Africa.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also said China will further strengthen cooperation with Africa in industrialization and other major areas during his visit last year.

To solidify the premier’s commitment, “the mission will have political, economic, cultural, peace and security departments, which will benefit comprehensive cooperation and exchange between China and the AU,” Kuang said.

He said his team is already negotiating with the AU to form up a delegation to China for further discussion.

Kuang also described Africa’s relationship with China as mutual respect, which he believes is an advantage of China’s foreign policy.

“We respect Africa countries’ choice and their path. China has so far provided aid to more than 1,000 projects in Africa, and we never asked for any political strings,” he said.

China’s cooperation with Africa and the AU has gone far beyond economy, a fact well recognized by AU officials.

China has been contributing to AU’s endeavor to ensure peace and security in Somalia, Central African Republic, Mali and South Sudan, said Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security. He revealed that it is one of the areas AU is keen to further strengthen cooperation with China.

“This mission is really a good news and we are hoping on the interaction on the daily basis, we also wish the ambassador and his team to further develop the already very good relationship that we have and also build additional element to these efforts,” he said.

Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, AU Commissioner of Social Affairs, said his department is engaged for partnership with China in areas including social development, health and culture.

“We are talking with them about the African Center for Disease Control. In fact we just planned a meeting and we are going to China to for more details,” said Kaloko. The center is expected to be another important project of China-AU cooperation on health after the Ebola issue.

News Reporter