Chinese state media lashed out Friday at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton after she warned African leaders about cooperating with countries that want to exploit the continent’s resources.

On a tour of Sub-Saharan Africa to promote political stability, Clinton this week said the United States will stand up for democracy and universal human rights “even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing.”

“Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will,” she said, without naming China, in a speech delivered in Senegal.

The “implication that China has been extracting Africa’s wealth for itself is utterly wide of the truth,” said an English-language commentary from China’s official Xinhua News Agency on Friday, referencing Clinton’s comment that the United States is committed to a model that “adds value rather than extracts it.”

Clinton’s words constitute “cheap shots” and are part of “a plot to sow discord between China [and] Africa” for the United States’ “selfish gain,” Xinhua said, adding that her trip was part of a hidden agenda “aimed at least partly at discrediting China’s engagement with the continent and curbing China’s influence there.”

Clinton’s 11-day trip to Africa comes as China continues to gain influence in markets across the continent, which is home to vast and lucrative reserves of natural resources and some of the world’s fastest-growing countries.

While President Obama unveiled a new Africa strategy in June that focuses on democracy, economic growth, security and development, last month China promised Africa $20 billion in loans during the next three years. China, which put Africa-China trade at $166 billion last year, overtook the United States as Africa’s largest partner three years ago.

“There is a general sense that China appears to be eclipsing America in Africa,” said Comfort Ero, Africa program director at International Crisis Group.

Ero added of Clinton, referring to a visit she made to Africa last year: “This is her second big pitch to try to sell the differences between the U.S. and China in a positive way, suggesting the U.S. has Africa’s interests at heart and is genuinely concerned with progress around democracy, and that China is only interested in grabbing resources.”

Clinton, whose trip includes stops in Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Ghana, is accompanied by a large U.S. business delegation and has stressed Africa’s economic potential.

“We believe that if you want to make a good investment in the midst of what is still a very difficult global economy, go to Africa,” she said during her speech in Senegal.

She voiced fears the continent was “backsliding” on democracy. But her close relationship with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose army makes up the bulk of a heavily U.S.-funded African Union force that fights Islamist militants in Somalia but who has refused to step down, has attracted criticism.

The U.S. focus on governance is “inconsistent and shifts with its interests,” said Daniel Kalinaki, managing editor of Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper. After bombings in Uganda in 2010 that were carried out by al-Qaeda-linked, Somalia-based militants, “all the talk of democracy was suddenly replaced by talk about regional security and Somalia.”

Clinton met with Museveni and South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, on Friday, stressing the need for strong institutions and adherence to the constitution. She is due to meet Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Saturday before travelling on to Malawi and then South Africa

— Financial Times

Kathrin Hille in Beidaihe, China, contributed to this report.