THE relationship between the two countries — Zimbabwe and China — has been strategic as they have engaged in a number of bilateral agreements which have helped strengthen their different economies.

Letwin Mapaike

Zimbabwe, which once benefited from loans from the International Monetary Fund under the Bretton Woods system and failed to pay back, has since looked east and is now benefiting from Chinese grants, “cheap loans”, investments and aid.

China in turn is benefiting from the rich natural resources in Zimbabwe to increase production in its motherland like gold, chrome, diamonds and platinum.

The “Look East Policy” was built on the basis of commitment to each other to protect and shield each other against Western authoritarian aggression and brutality. China has always acted as an important pillar in protecting Zimbabwe in the International arena against Western dominance.

The two countries have managed to sail through the best and worst economic times in their mutual friendship from military prowess offered by Beijing dating back from the 1970s to economic and social aid.

Although China says it has no political ambition in Africa, former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki has stressed that Africa, if not cautious, risked becoming an economic colony.

At a fifth plenum held in October 2020, top officials and delegates of the Communist Party of China drafted a five-year economic plan for the years 2021 to 2025.

This funding is meant to secure and advance national security interests, use market restrictions and its one belt, one road global network to create unfettered Chinese supply chains. They also plan to design a bank to influence global finance.

Zimbabwe as well has marshalled a roadmap which encompasses Transitional Stabilisation Programme aimed at dealing with fiscal consolidation, external sector balance and exchange rate stability. China is still willing to offer more loans to Zimbabwe to help resuscitate the southern African nation’s comatose economy.

Zimbabwe recently came up with a successor economic revival document the National Development Strategy 1 and 2 whose goal is to achieve an empowered and prosperous upper-middle income society by 2030.

This will be done through inclusive economic development to create wealth and job opportunities to benefit all Zimbabweans.

Already China is benefiting as more than 35 Chinese local companies have been given business permits to operate in Zimbabwe. By so doing, China has created employment which is much sought after by Zimbabweans.

China’s President Xi Jinpin is working hard to reduce tension in the trading sector by expanding markets which dates back to 2015 and secure supply chains which will open doors for free trade between China and other trading partners.

China also firmly believes in the Silk Road primarily referring  to the land routes connecting East Asia and Southeast Asia with South Asia, Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Southern Europe.

The Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han dynasty in China (207 BCE–220 CE).

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes which connected the East and West, and was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions between these regions from the second century to the 18th century.

In terms of agriculture, China wants to make sure that it produces more for its nationals and the globe. Zimbabwe has always benefited from tonnes of rice from China and the two countries are planning food security programme which will benefit them for the next five years.

Zimbabwe has been exporting tobacco to China and has been ranked among the top six exporters of flu-cured tobacco in the world.

The next five years are crucial for Zimbabwe to continue exporting cotton to China.

China has also helped Zimbabwe’s health sector especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It has supplied the government with the necessary equipment and machinery to deal with the pandemic.

Although critics have questioned China’s agenda in assisting Zimbabwe during this pandemic period, it is clear that China is abiding by its memorandum of understanding with Zimbabwe to stand firmly together at all times. The digital era is a critical era for both Zimbabwe and China.

The Chinese delegates discussed technological advancement. This has to do with the digital economy which is aimed at using cryptocurrency in the form of meta trader applications.

Already, China has created a digital application called Tik-tok which has been banned by outgoing United States President Donald Trump, but Zimbabwe “an all-weather friend” has embraced Tik-tok and is supporting China in its initiatives.

The digital infrastructure for creating 5G smart cities and internet applications for manufacturing cloud computing are being created.

Every single year, China offers scholarships to Zimbabwean students to go and experience these technological advancements at an academic level and implement what they would have learnt in their home country.

Hence, the Zimbabwe-China relations have proved to be highly strategic and transformational even in their futuristic setup although Kwame Nkrumah once suggested at one point that African countries should look forward and stop relying on Western or Eastern
countries.

Nkrumah could have been correct and Zimbabwe should simply use this beneficial relationship to build its base and become self-sufficient.

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