China – Zimbabwe relations: A marriage not worthy?

A marriage built on rocks does not last. The Lome Agreement of 1975 between European Economic Community and African Caribbean and Pacific countries is a typical example to China-Zimbabwe relations that any alliance made is not made out of good faith but rather to create benefits. China and Zimbabwe have been ‘’married’’ for over four decades thus their relations have been coined by many as the microcosm of China-Africa relations. Zimbabwe’s isolation from the western markets has caused China to become its primary ally in recent years. The problem with China-Zimbabwe relations stems from the fact that it seems as if one party is benefitting more than the other. Indeed China has offered a lot of aid and investments but has Zimbabwe really benefitted? Over the past forty years major projects like the expansion of the hydroelectric dam on Lake Kariba, financing Zimbabwe’s local cotton production, building of the new parliament in Mount Hampden, Mahusekwa Hospital and National Defence School among others are an indication of China’s willingness to develop Zimbabwe. However is the aid out of good faith? 

For a marriage to mature it is a matter of principles  and trust and lack from the nexus between this matrimony. The relations seems to be rather strategic rather than out of good faith. China seeks to benefit from raw materials and agricultural products like tobacco which are scarce in China while in Zimbabwe the elite seek to benefit from the national purse. This has caused opposition parties in Zimbabwe to criticise Chinese influence and accused the government of giving away minerals and other natural resources in exchange for aid. Zimbabwe continues to sign opaque contracts and investment treaties with China as most contracts are being given to Chinese companies while most local companies in Zimbabwe are closing. The covert intentions of  Chinese activities in Zimbabwe can be  seen through the way the Chinese repatriates  profits back to their own countries by employing Chinese dignitaries instead of local licensed personnel. Thus from a developmental perspective, Chinese development is closely associated with development of the underdeveloped in a process of subordinate relationship.

When problems arise in a marriage, divorce is not the only option. In the China-Zimbabwe case pulling away from China is not the only solution but rather Zimbabwe needs to stop depending heavily on China. Zimbabwe should learn from the failure of ESAPS that foreign aid should not be relied upon especially aid that comes with conditions. With China aid either comes in the form of infrastructure or loans that are directed to a specific project. The most pressing question that arise is whether the help is a nefarious subversion masked by ultrism .Zimbabwe is rich in natural resources a factor that attracted not only China but most countries. The problem is Zimbabwe is keen to give away raw materials for aid. China looted the Chiadzwa Diamonds which caused the 15 billion saga, which Zimbabwe could have benefitted from its revenue. Zimbabwe is rich in platinum with its reserves estimated to last for more than 400 years. There is a pool of opportunities where Zimbabwe can tap in order to develop and become the bread basket of Africa. In order, to institute innovative reforms , Zimbabwe can easy currency by instituting the gold standard.  The Gold standard is a monetary system where a country’s currency or paper money has a value directly linked to gold. Zimbabwe is rich in gold reserves and can use this gold to peg it to its currency thus limiting price inflation and creating a fixed price exchange rate. Rather than selling pure gold to other countries and getting few profits. Zimbabwe has the Sovereign Wealth fund but it was abandoned around 2013. Zimbabwe does not have money but has a large, albeit struggling, mining industry whose profits can be kept in the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Other than just being dependent on China, Zimbabwe can take advantage of China’s policy for instance its 14th Development Plan set for 2021 to 2025. Zimbabwe set out its own National Development Strategy which is set for 2021 to 2025. Zimbabwe could follow some of these policies without necessarily looking for aid from other countries. The fundamental point is that China-Zimbabwe relations should not be the core focus of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy but rather Zimbabwe should seek other independent options that can develop the once bread basket of Africa. 

Article done by 

Christine Rumbidzai Matinanga a Masters of Science in International Trade and Diplomacy student at University of Zimbabwe.

0785 485 003.

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