HARARE (AFP) – China’s foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday pledged to strengthen cooperation with Zimbabwe despite a spat over bilateral aid figures in November.
The two countries butted heads after Zimbabwe’s government said it had only received $3.6 million in aid from Beijing in 2019 — 40 times lower than the figure claimed by China.
Yi met his Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo on Sunday during the final leg of an Africa tour that also took him to Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Burundi.
He did not mention financial assistance, but hailed China and Zimbabwe’s “win-win cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, and mining” and vowed to explore new areas of cooperation.
China’s relationship with Zimbabwe dates back to the liberation struggle of the 1970s, when Beijing supported some of the top guerilla leaders.
After the end of white-minority rule in 1980, China was one of the first countries to establish a diplomatic mission in the capital Harare.
Under former president Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe adopted a “Look East” policy after a fallout with the US and the EU over rights abuses and controversial land reforms.
Beijing remained one of Mugabe’s most powerful allies and a major trade partner, even as the West shunned him over human rights violations.
The relationship has continued to thrive under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over when Mugabe was toppled by his army generals in 2017.
China has funded and provided loans for many infrastructure projects across Africa in recent years, including the new parliament and a school of intelligence in Zimbabwe.
“China has so far helped Africa build more than 130 medical facilities, 45 stadiums and more than 170 schools in the past close to five years,” Yi told reporters in Harare.
He then had dinner with Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who spent months in China last year for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s opposition parties have criticised China’s influence and accused the government of giving away minerals and other natural resources in exchange for aid.
They also claim Chinese companies abuse and underpay local workers.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been reduced to tatters by decades of mismanagement under Mugabe, who died of cancer in September last year.
Mnangagwa has so far failed on his promise to redress the situation.
Years of rampant hyperinflation have rendered life unaffordable for most and basic goods such as bread and fuel are hard to come by.
Zimbabwe State media says government has submitted six new projects for consideration by China to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries.
The projects were submitted through a ministerial team chaired by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, which was mandated by President Mnangagwa to find ways of mainstreaming the country’s economic cooperation with China.
The committee also worked with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and the Chinese Embassy.
Finer details of the projects were not readily available by last night.
Speaking at a dinner hosted in honour of Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Wang Yi, Acting President Chiwenga said it was his hope that these projects, would receive China’s support to push the two countries’ economic cooperation for mutual benefit.
“As you are aware, Your Excellency, we have set ourselves a target to attain the status of an upper middle income economy by 2030. It is our hope that these projects, if started early, will provide the impetus that we need towards that objective,” said Acting President Chiwenga.
He said while there were some issues on either side that could have been slowing down cooperation, Zimbabwe was committed to seeing the fruits of the partnership and will therefore work “extra-hard” to remove any impediment to its growth.
Acting President Chiwenga said it will be the function of this ministerial committee to ensure the economic partnership between Zimbabwe and China remained on track.
“Our expectation is that our two sides will continue to have a meeting of minds on what needs to be done to grow this relationship on the basis of win-win cooperation,” he said.
Zimbabwe desired to scale up
economic cooperation with China to match with excellent existing political and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
He said while Zimbabwe celebrates some of the bilateral economic cooperation, which has spawned projects such as the Kariba South Extension Power Plant, the Victoria Falls Airport and many others, it was Zimbabwe’s view that more could be done to bring the level of economic cooperation to that of political and diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and China.
“We have the political will. The opportunities are there,” said the Acting President.
Turning to the two countries’ cooperation on other fronts, Acting President Chiwenga said Zimbabwe welcomed China’s stance against Western sanctions on Zimbabwe.
He said in that regard, Zimbabwe condemns the foreign and familiar hand causing unending disturbances and lawlessness in Hong Kong.
He said Zimbabwe will also support China on issues of common interest such as human rights, climate change and the One China Policy.
On the United Nations Security Council reform, Acting President Chiwenga said Zimbabwe will continue to be guided by the Common African Position.
He also acknowledged the humanitarian support extended to Zimbabwe by China, especially during the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.
Speaking at the same occasion, Minister Wang Yi said bilateral relations between China and Zimbabwe for the past 40 years had become “stronger and trustworthy”.
“We have become stronger friends and we have deeper trust in each other. We have become even more steadfast in our commitment to bilateral cooperation.”
Mr Wang said he was looking forward to meeting President Mnangagwa today to hear from him how the two countries can make their economic cooperation a success.