Recently in China
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s recent state visit to China is being criticised by pessimists who do not appreciate the cordial relations that exist between Zimbabwe and China from the days of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
Fantasists thought the Zimbabwean delegation would return with trunks stashed with cash.
Some have suggested President Mugabe could have got ‘something’ if he had been invited to the recent US-Africa summit in Washington.
They disregard the fact that if the US$33 billion offered by US President Barack Obama were to be divided equally among the African leaders who attended, each country would receive a mere US$660 million.
This is far less than the investment deals worth billions of dollars that Zimbabwe struck in China for the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-ASSET).
President Mugabe was given a red carpet welcome by Chinese President, Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, the centre of politics in China, where he inspected a guard of honour before he was given a 21-gun salute.
In Shaanxi and Guangdong provinces, President Mugabe became the centre of attraction, with both provinces pledging to assist Zimbabwe with research and skills in various sectors of the economy such as mining, infrastructure development, including roads and railway links, agriculture, tourism and Information, Communication Technology (ICT).
Despite being President Mugabe’s 13th visit to China, President Xi Jinping described this particular one as ‘special’ in that, “it should culminate in new opportunities between China and Zimbabwe”.
Special in that the traditional friendship between China and Zimbabwe was forged in the glorious years when the two countries stood shoulder to shoulder against imperialism, colonialism and hegemony.
“President Mugabe is a renowned leader of the African national liberation movement and an old friend of the Chinese people whom we respect very much,” said President Xi Jinping.
“I stand to work with you your Excellency, to comprehensively deepen our bilateral relations and make sure the relationship will create benefits for people in both countries.
“The Chinese people value friendship and we will never forget those good friends and good brothers who have shown mutual understanding and support vis-a-vis China and who have come through thick and thin with us.”
In his response, President Mugabe expressed gratitude to President Xi Jinping for the warm welcome.
He said Zimbabwe and China were inseparable.
“We are ready to continue our relationship and use it to strengthen our economies,” he said.
“And Zimbabwe will naturally be the beneficiary.”
Prior to the welcoming ceremony at Tiananmen Square, President Mugabe had a tour of China’s ICT firm, Inspur International, where he was congratulated for assuming the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chair.
“Warm congratulations to you your Excellency, Mr President for being selected SADC Chairman,” said the company in a statement.
“Inspur Group pays high attention to the SADC market and is willing to promote profound cooperation in the SADC area with the Chairman.”
The firm donated 200 computers to President Mugabe who has spearheaded a computerisation programme in schools countrywide.
The 23 African diplomats based in China visited President Mugabe in Beijing, describing him as a, “true son of Africa”.
“I admire you and love you your Excellency,” said Sierra Leone Ambassador to China, Victor Bockarie Foh.
Initially, President Mugabe had emphasised the need for Africa to prioritise doing business with China above Western countries.
“China is very important,” he said.
“When they come, they do business, but are not seeking to impose themselves politically, unlike non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who give money with conditions attached.
“China uses aid to promote the African personality and Africans remain in control joining as partners, but Europe seeks to control.”
In a separate interview with the Southern Daily and Guangdong TV in Guangdong, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe preferred to deal with China because it is constructive.
Among some of the major deals Zimbabwe struck in China are the US$2 billion integrated Gwayi energy water projects, completion of the US$121 million Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a US$218 million loan for the NetOne network expansion project, a US$98 million loan for state-owned Tel-One and US$8 million worth of rice from Beijing among others.
Other agreements were signed for the commissioning of feasibility studies into coal exploration and a thermal power station in Sibugwe, Binga, dualisation of Harare-Beitbridge, Nyamapanda-Harare, Harare-Chirundu and Mutare-Harare highways, digitilisation of Zimbabwe’s broadcasting system ahead of the June 2015 International Telecommunications Union deadline, a cement factory in Mberengwa and an efficient Harare Mutare railway link.
These investment deals could be well over US$ 10 billion.
In China, they say Zimbabwe is the ‘brain’ and ‘heart’ of Africa and maybe that explains why trade volumes between Zimbabwe and China have ballooned from US$310 million in 2003 to US$1,1 billion last year.
According to Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin, Zimbabwe has in recent years got preferential, concessionary and commercial loans from China amounting to US$1 billion.
These have funded projects such as the US$144 million Harare Water Project, Victoria Falls Airport expansion, Kariba South hydro power expansion, medical equipment for hospitals and the US$100 million National Defence College in the outskirts of Harare among others.
So contrary to reports in some sections of the media, Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa said, it was important for Zimbabweans to know that President Mugabe’s visit to China was not about looking for budgetary support.
“No country sets aside a lump sum payment for no specific projects,” he said.
“Projects must demonstrate their ability to pay for themselves and you will not come to China to ask for money to invest in a project that won’t pay for itself.
“That would not make economic sense.”
Pundits contend that real development is when a country is able to generate money from its capital projects.
China through the various deals sealed last week is giving Zimbabwe an opportunity to once again become the hub of Southern Africa.
What is now left is implementation of the projects that will also lead to massive employment opportunities.
Is it true that President Mugabe returned home empty handed?
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba answered, “Those expecting us to bring billions (in cash) don’t know the strategic direction of Zimbabwe.”