President Mugabe’s visit to China …the politics and the economics

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Rhodesian rebel leader Ian Smith persistently argued his war against the nationalist guerrillas was to defend ‘democracy and Western civilisation’ against the ‘communist onslaught’ because they were getting their support from China and Russia, the bulwarks of communism. In a sense, he was right because ZANU got most of their support from China and ZAPU from the then Soviet Union.
During a meeting we had requested to tell the liberation war story on film at Defence House when Comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa was still minister of defence, he told us an interesting story that happened during one state visit to China. He said during the state dinner, the Chinese leader, President Hu Jintao casually remarked there was someone in the Zimbabwean delegation who no longer remembered they were at the same military academy in 1963, especially the day American President J F Kennedy was assassinated because the Zimbabwean students came late to class. Indeed, Comrade Mnangagwa had forgotten because it was such a long time ago. There must have been laughter at the table and muffled grunts of acknowledgement. The point is ZANU’s relations with the Chinese date back that far.
When we eventually joined the war a decade later, at camps in Tanzania, the military instructors were Chinese. In fact, the military strategy that ZANLA used, that of a people’s war, was borrowed from the Chinese experience. The Chinese supplied the bulk of ZANLA’s military equipment.
And yet when the war ended in 1979, suddenly all our roads led back to London, to our former coloniser. The Chinese never complained. Now Ian Smith’s argument has returned, slightly twisted and manufactured in London; the Chinese want to re-colonise Zimbabwe. Some of our fellow blacks believe it.
The tragedy about the argument is that it is patronising. It presumes we should be satisfied being colonised; that the British are better colonisers than the Chinese. In his anger, someone shouted if it boiled down to that, it’s entirely up to us to decide who we want to be colonised by.
The disinterest that mainstream Western news agencies like CNN and BBC showed regarding President Mugabe’s recent state visit to China is a lie. Zimbabwe and President Mugabe confuse them. They are ashamed of their failure to deal him the knock-out punch.
But the unease and dishonesty about the visit was there in the print media. A story by Tony Hawkins in The London Financial Times of August 29 described the visit as a flop. You can bet your last penny it’s our Tony Hawkins in the economics department at the University of Zimbabwe. Before bothering to understand what he is saying, it is important to know the man is a Rhodesian and it is public knowledge they are angry because they lost the war and the country to us and they don’t wish us any good luck. They are seething with rage because we took away the land Cecil Rhodes had given them free title over.
Hawkins described the visit as a flop; that instead of the $10 billion Zimbabwe wanted as its economic rescue package, it only got $2 billion. But you could not miss the belligerence and the celebratory nuances running through the story. Nor the spirited attempts to dismiss the nine memoranda of understanding that were signed in Beijing as misleading and unimportant. Then there was the veiled apprehension the deals might actually succeed.
The story does not offer a way out for Zimbabwe but in its silence, in its subtle reference to the Bretton Woods institutions, the solution is clearly Zimbabwe going West, to London or New York, with a begging bowl in hand, instead of going East to China, asking for the same thing.
They want us to believe there is honour and dignity in going to London to beg but disgrace and humiliation to go to Beijing to ask for the same thing. It’s ridiculous! When it comes to dealing with us, they are unable to think outside the frame of being our colonisers with its inevitable master/servant relationship.
Someone tried to put a monetary value to the MoUs signed in China and the figure exceeded $10 billion. For instance, the upgrading and dualisation of the country’s road and rail network alone exceeded two billion dollars. It’s already double the two billion dollars that Hawkins claimed the visit yielded.
President Mugabe’s visit must also be seen in the context of Barrack Obama’s invitation of African heads of state to America three weeks earlier. President Mugabe was not invited. Tony Hawkins amplifies the omission as if the solution to Zimbabwe’s economic problems lay there. Whereas Obama promised the 40 odd heads of state gathered about 33 billion dollars of American investment translating to $600 million dollars per country, President Jin Ping has promised Zimbabwe a third of the money Obama promised the entire African continent.
But most importantly, in Beijing, President Mugabe turned the tables against Obama’s meeting when the entire African diplomatic corps gathered and poured glowing eulogies to his leadership and African statesmanship. The statement to the American president was Africans define their own heroes and not Barrack Obama.
While it is true that the Chinese will not dish out money like confetti as some sceptics dramatised it, they must be anxious to be associated with one big successful African story and Zimbabwe offers them that unique opportunity. Let’s face it, their image on the continent is someone out to make quick money and disappear, most of which is western propaganda. They have a reputation to protect.
We have dealt with sceptics feeding off the propaganda of our former colonisers since the days of the liberation war. For instance, people who believed we couldn’t take on the formidable Rhodesian army and win. We proved them wrong. We shall continue to prove them wrong.
A luta continua!

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