China warns Zimbabwe: We are not ‘friends!’

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China looks set to abandon Zimbabwe. The communist nation has told
the southern Africa country “not to expect further loans from Beijing
until it pays its existing debts”.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara says the Chinese want all loans
to be repaid before loosening its purse. According to the Mutambara the Chinese President Hu Jintao revealed to him during a brief meeting at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that he considers Beijing relationship with Harare as ‘business partners’ and not ‘friends’.

The Chinese are quoted telling the Mr. Mutambara that: “We’ll not condemn you publicly but we’ll not give you cash”. And according to the Deputy Prime Minister, “unless we do the right thing the Chinese will not work with us.”

“China has stopped working with us. The Chinese, though comrades, are
not giving us any money until we clear our debts,” Mutambara told delegates during an international tourism investment summit in Harare.

Harare owes Beijing an undisclosed amount in unpaid loans, but Mutambara says Zimbabwe, early this month, paid US$5 million to the Chinese.

Currently battling to convince striking civil servants to return to work, Zimbabwe, despite having huge diamond deposits, could struggle to repay the loans.

A senior Chinese diplomat recently revealed that Beijing had slowed its
investments in Zimbabwe in a sign that it may be heeding Western
demands that it quit backing regimes considered despotic.

But on Sunday President Mugabe said Zimbabwe “will always cherish its
friendship and the assistance it has received from China from the days
of the liberation struggle”.

Speaking at a birthday party hosted in his honour by the Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Xin Shunkang, Mugabe said Sino-Zimbabwean ties are fruitful.

Mugabe turned 86 yesterday.

“Ours has turned into a really solid relationship which… (has) grown some strong roots… We treasure this friendship. It’s not really the relations that count but the love, alliance and, indeed, understanding” said Mugabe.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe has been making frantic efforts to strengthen its
relations with China as part of a “Look East” policy premised on the need to find new trading partners and markets following the souring of relations with Western governments following President Robert Mugabe’s violent land-grab programme.

China soon became the investor with the fastest direct foreign investment growth in Zimbabwe, replacing the southern African country’s traditional Western partners.

The two countries have signed a series of agreements in infrastructure, tourism, energy and mining but the cooperation has largely not translated into an improved standard of living for ordinary Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe has literally handed over control of most sectors of the economy to the Chinese during the past few years in return for short-term financial assistance to enable Mugabe’s government to ride one crisis after another.

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