HARARE – President Xi Jinping’s top diplomat and Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi has arrived in the country on an assignment by the Asian country’s leader, seen as a special show of strong commitment by Beijing to grow relations with Harare in 2020.
According to the State media, Mr Wang arrived at the Robert Mugabe International Airport last night in what was his final stop-over on a five-nation mission that has seen him hold high-level meetings in Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Burundi.
In the past 30 years, China has made it a tradition for its foreign minister to visit African countries as the first overseas destination of the year, to show how Beijing values its relations with the continent.
That President Xi chose Zimbabwe as one of the five African countries for the annual visit underscores how he places a premium to his engagements with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe and China in 2018 elevated relations to Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships from All-Weather Friends and Minister Wang’s visit is expected to see practical implementation of this enhancement of ties on the diplomatic as well as economic front.
China is the biggest investor of infrastructure projects currently underway in Zimbabwe and it is expected that the visit will also give fresh stimulus to mega projects such as the US$1,1 billion Hwange 7 and 8 power expansion project, the US$100 million New Parliament building in Mt Hampden and the US$153 million Robert Mugabe International Airport facelift, among other projects.
Speaking ahead of the visit last week, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo said Zimbabwe was honoured by Minister Wang’s high-level deputation.
“Yes, indeed the People’s Republic of China Foreign Affairs Minister and State Counsellor is visiting Zimbabwe from the 11th to the 13th,” he said,
“Zimbabwe is the last lap of his five-nation journey in Africa. This is in tradition with Chinese visits at the beginning of each year.
“This is a very important visit because it is from a very friendly nation to Zimbabwe. It is a nation that has contributed very much to the development of Zimbabwe and where it is today.”
Dr Moyo said the visit by Minister Wang underlines how President Xi is keen to follow up on engagement that he had with President Mnangagwa when the two Heads of State met twice in China in 2018.
“We believe that we are honoured to have the State Counsellor coming to Zimbabwe as a follow-up to issues that were discussed between President Mnangagwa and President Xi twice, during his State visit to China and during FOCAC.”
The visit, Dr Moyo said, will see the two countries conducting comprehensive deliberations under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships theme.
Minister Wang’s visit will also present Zimbabwe with an opportunity to formulate strategies to expand trade with China, which is the world’s second largest economy.
“We believe that we are going to have in-depth discussions on our Strategic Comprehensive Partnership and also ensure that we cement the political relations that exist between the two countries.
“Furthermore, we will explore more ways of how China can enhance and support economic development of Zimbabwe.
“In this regard, we are also going to have a discourse in the trade area framework so that we can improve the trade figures between China and Zimbabwe.
“Already, trade has reached the US$1 billion mark and we hope that within the context of the 7 to 14 export strategy, we should be able to enhance our exports to China in a very competitive manner
“We are going to be appreciating that industry, mining, agriculture, tourism and all the other key sectors will come up to speed so that we can be able to utilise the huge market being offered by China.”
In a statement, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Mr Geng Shuang said Mr Wang’s visit to Africa was also in line with the 20th anniversary of the inception of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
According to Mr Geng, the Chinese Foreign Minister will seek to, “… implement the important consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and African leaders and jointly follow through on the outcomes of the (last) FOCAC Beijing Summit with a view to advancing China-Africa BRI cooperation, building on China-Africa traditional friendship and moving forward the bilateral ties between China and relevant African countries as well as China-Africa relations as a whole.”
At the last FOCAC Summit held in Beijing in 2018, President Xi extended an unconditional US$60 billion in loans and aid to Africa until 2021.
The money includes US$15 billion in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion in credit lines and a US$10 billion special fund for development financing.
Chinese companies were also encouraged to invest at least US$10 billion in Africa over the next three years.
Deliberations will also touch on China’s signature foreign policy initiative, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), in which the Asian Giant plans to invest US$750 billion in countries’ under the old Silk Road route and import US$24 trillion of goods into China.
This year, Zimbabwe and China will also be celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations and a series of events are going to be held throughout the year in line with the anniversary.