(Adds U.S. envoy comment)

By Megha Rajagopalan

Oct 31 (Reuters) - China will dispatch an eliteunit of the People's Liberation Army to help Ebola-hit Liberia,the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, responding to U.N. callsfor a greater global effort to fight the deadly virus in WestAfrica.

Washington has led the international drive to stop thespread of the disease that has killed nearly 5,000 people,sending thousands of troops and committing about $1 billion, butBeijing has faced criticism for not doing enough.

The PLA squad, which has experience from a 2002 outbreak ofSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), will build a 100-bedtreatment centre in Liberia, the first such facility in thethree countries most impacted by Ebola to be constructed and runby a foreign country, said Lin Songtian, director general of theministry's Department of African Affairs.

The centre will be open for operation in a month's time, hetold a briefing in Beijing. China will also dispatch 480 PLAmedical staff to treat Ebola patients, he said.

It's the first time China has deployed a whole unit ofepidemic prevention forces and military medical staff abroad,Lin said.

China is Africa's biggest trade partner, tapping thecontinent's rich vein of resources to fuel its own economicgrowth over the past couple of decades. Some critics haverounded on Beijing for not helping more in Africa's hour ofneed.

China has so far donated 750 million yuan ($123 million) to13 African countries and international organisations to combatEbola, according to the government.

"China's assistance will not stop until the Ebola epidemicis eradicated in West Africa," Lin said.

The White House this week responded to criticism that as theglobal superpower it was not doing enough by taking a veiledswipe at the contributions of Russia and China.

"When we have a situation like this on the global scene,people aren't wondering what the Chinese are doing to respond toit. People aren't picking up the phone and wondering if VladimirPutin is going to commit Russian resources to this effort,"White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told a media briefing.

"People want to know what the United States of America isdoing about it."

Howver, U.S. envoy to the United Nations Samantha Power, whowas travelling in region this week, welcomed the arrival of anAirChina cargo plane with anti-Ebola supplies to Liberia onWednesday. She said in a tweet that it was heartening to seeU.S. soldiers and Liberians working together with Chinese tounload supplies from the plane.


China said in July that more than half its foreign aid ofover $14 billion went to Africa. In comparison, the UnitedStates spent about $46 billion in fiscal 2015 on foreign aidprogrammes.

China has also dispatched hundreds of aid workers to Africato combat Ebola including health experts and medical staff.

Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings Group Ltd., aChinese drug maker with military ties, has sent several thousanddoses of an experimental Ebola drug to Africa and is planningclinical trials there.

Lin said several thousand Chinese nationals live in Guinea,Liberia and Sierra Leone, and about a million Chinese nationalslive on the African continent.

U.S. and Chinese troops staged their first disaster reliefexercise last November in a signal that China is increasinglyeager to use its growing military muscle for humanitarian causesas it works to win international support.

China dispatched a state-of-the-art hospital ship to thePhilippines last year after one of the world's biggest typhoonsthat killed thousands there.

The United Nations has called on foreign governments to rampup efforts to help the Ebola-hit states of Guinea, Liberia andSierra Leone, requesting they send hundreds more medicalpersonnel to the impoverished states to help.

Foreign efforts have been complicated by public healthpolicy issues at home. Some U.S. states have slapped mandatoryquarantines on health workers returning from Ebola-hit states,while Australia this week imposed a blanket ban on visas fromthe three affected states.

Health experts have decried the measures as draconian, andsay such policies may discourage badly needed foreign doctorsand nurses from volunteering to help.

Medical professionals say Ebola is difficult to catch and isspread through direct contact with bodily fluids from aninfected person and is not transmitted by asymptomatic people.Ebola is not airborne. (Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by JeremyLaurence)