Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Wang Yi concluded his highly successful three-day tour of Zimbabwe yesterday, a visit that consolidated the already vibrant bi-lateral ties between the two countries.
Our country was favoured this year to be included on the list of African nations that a Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister visits at the beginning of every year, a tradition that Beijing has developed to demonstrate the high regard it has for the continent. Mr Wang arrived in Harare on Saturday night, having already visited Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Burundi. This means that Zimbabwe was the only southern African country on his itinerary this year.
Zimbabweans treasure their country’s relationship with China and feel honoured to have hosted Mr Wang this time.
The visit, looked at from another angle, asserts that China also values its relationship with our country, for if we didn’t, the minister would not have taken the trouble to fly further South from Burundi in central Africa to Harare.
Zimbabwe-Sino relations have their roots in the liberation struggle when China offered military support to freedom fighters. Hundreds of combatants, among them President Mnangagwa, underwent military training in China after which they were deployed at home to prosecute the liberation struggle. In addition, China provided weapons and other critical military supplies to freedom fighters.
The relationship deepened at Independence in 1980 and has been strengthening over the past 40 years. In the early years of Independence, the ties were largely political but at the turn of the century, the Government started vigorously pursuing the Look East policy, building on the historical political friendship to grow trade and investment.
Among other prominent economic benefits, China has provided US$1,1 billion for Hwange 7 and 8 expansion programme that will add 600MW to the national grid, US$153 million for the expansion of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and a grant US$96 million for the new Parliament Building in Mt Hampden. These are ongoing projects but there are many others like the Kariba South Power Station Expansion that have been completed thanks to Chinese financial support. In March 2018, President Mnangagwa commissioned and switched on the US$533 million Kariba South Power Station Extension Project which added another 300 megawatts to the national grid. The power station’s extension project brought the Kariba South Power Station’s total capacity to 1 050MW.
Private Chinese investors are complementing their government by pouring hundreds of millions in investment projects in various sectors of the economy among them mining, energy, agriculture, telecommunications and manufacturing.
The volume and value of trade between Harare and Beijing has been progressively increasing too over the past 17 years. Official statistics indicate that trade rose in value terms from US$190 million in 2002 to over US$1,3 billion in 2018.
Shortly after he assumed office, President Mnangagwa’s first state visit was to China in April 2018. He paid a five-day visit to that country during which the co-operation between the two countries was elevated to comprehensive strategic partnership status.
This is the context that Mr Wang visited Zimbabwe. His visit will surely further consolidate those strong bi-lateral ties. We are happy that he, as China and every leader in the progressive world has done since 2000, condemned the Western sanctions and demanded their removal. We are happy too that our government, as reported by our Harare Bureau yesterday, has put forward more projects for Chinese support.
Acting President Constantino Chiwenga, speaking at a dinner he hosted in honour of Mr Wang on Sunday, expressed hope that the 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,” he said.
“It is our hope that these projects, if started early, will provide the impetus that we need towards that objective. 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. We have the political will. The opportunities are there.”
We are confident that the Chinese government will consider the new proposals with a likelihood of accepting them for expanded support. Private Chinese investment should continue rising too, as should trade.