Ambassador Guo answers burning questions

Talking Point

China’s envoy in Harare, Ambassador Guo Shaochun last Thursday engaged members of the Fourth Estate and fielded a number of questions, including from this publication. The questions ranged from local issues to global issues. Below, we reproduced the ineractive question and answer exchange:

What is China’s position in the Russia-Ukraine conflict in relation to the Belt and Road Initiative?

A: The Ukrainian crisis is developing in a way that goes beyond itself, with spillovers affecting the whole world. China shares similar concerns and positions with Zimbabwe and many other countries. The situation in Ukraine lies in complex causes, but the root cause is the Cold War mentality and power politics. Dialogue and negotiation is the fundamental way out. All parties should take concrete actions to cool down the situation instead of adding fuel to the fire.

What are some of the major infrastructural development projects done by the Chinese government in Zimbabwe, of these which ones are loans and which ones are grants?

Daily news: Are there any future big projects that China is looking into aiding Zimbabwe? This comes after the successful completion of the new parliament building and of course the Robert Mugabe international Airport that’s in progress.

A: In recent years, China supports Zimbabwe in constructing many major infrastructural projects. For example, the new parliament building, national pharmaceutical warehouse, 1000 China-aid boreholes and Mahusekwa District Hospital all built with China’s grants. The Kariba South Hydropower Extension Project, the Victoria Falls International Airport Extension Project, the Hwange thermal power station expansion, RGM International Airport expansion and phase of Netone’s mobile broadband upgrade are built with Chinese concessional loans. We also helped rebuild houses, schools and clinics destroyed by Cyclone Idai under a joint initiative between China and UNDP. These major projects play critical role in the development of the country and make a real difference in the life of ordinary Zimbabweans. 

In the near future, more projects will be launched. This is the action to jointly implement nine programs proposed by President Xi Jinping at the 8th Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC. The China-aid projects include another 300 boreholes, the second phase of Zimbabwe Center for High Performance computing, Anti-Narcotics Laboratory, the Technical

Aid of Agricultural Experts Group Implementation Program (Phase IV) and 3 Demonstration Villages for Agriculture Technology.    

What is the embassy doing about the Local Chinese firms that keep flouting ZIMRA tax laws? For example local firms do not issue their receipts in English it is written in Mandarin which is not a local language, also another example being that local firms do not bank their US$ which is depriving ZIMRA of forex.

New Zimbabwe: I am interested in knowing initiatives being taken by some environmentally conscious Chinese companies in rehabilitating land they would have mined, or used in any other way. This is based on accusations to some that they are leaving the land degraded, thereby straining the two peoples relations.

A: First of all, I cannot acknowledge your assertions since all the business in Zimbabwe are being operated in line with Zimbabwean law. The Chinese Embassy is not a law-enforcement agency. We suggest the media to interview the Zimbabwean authorities to get the true and comprehensive information.

General speaking, Chinese companies have been investing in and growing with Zimbabwe for years. They have created thousands of local jobs, increased the country’s tax revenues and forex inflows, upskilled local workers, and generated business opportunities for local companies.

Meanwhile, our basic position is clear. All business including those from China, must comply with the laws and regulations in the host country. Wrongdoers must be held accountable. We support Zimbabwe in strengthening its regulatory framework and law enforcement. We call for a compliance monitoring team composed of government officials, local councilors, and community representatives to be set up in foreign-invested companies. If anyone finds the possible wrongdoings of Chinese companies in Zimbabwe, he or she is welcome to file official complaints to the relevant Zimbabwean authorities, but we suggest such complaints consist of necessary basic elements such as who, when, what and where, etc.

Several Chinese funded infrastructure projects are taking shape in Zimbabwe. Is there scope for Zimbabwe to further benefit from Chinese investment under the belt and road initiative and private sector led investments?

What other cooperation and highlights will China and Zimbabwe have this year?

A: China and Zimbabwe cooperation will be further strengthened in the next few years as I mentioned. I would like to share with you some examples. China will provide an additional 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Zimbabwe this year; China will step up its efforts to drill more boreholes for Zimbabwean people; China will continue to send agricultural experts to Zimbabwe for more training courses; China will start to import citrus fruits from Zimbabwe after the signing of the phytosanitary requirement between the two countries; China will donate Zimbabwe an Anti-Narcotics Laboratory for peace and security cooperation and launch the China-aid project of second phase of Zimbabwean Center for High Performance computing; We will encourage more reputable Chinese enterprises to invest in Zimbabwe.

Private players are also doing a great job. For example, Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO) has completed a lot of the preliminary work for its 1-billion-US-dollar project. Equipment worth 100 million USD has been placed at the steel plant site in Mvuma. It has hired a 600-strong workforce and 90% of them are Zimbabweans. And about 14,000 jobs will be created in the near future. A new town is expected to rise from the investment.

Chinese investors that have recently invested in lithium mines in Zimbabwe are all large private companies and domestically and internationally-listed sector bellwether. The investments are acquisitions of shares from third-country companies through open bidding on the market. The projects were either lying dormant or sustaining losses. Chinese investments will bring out the real value of these resources. This is good for each party, including Zimbabwe. When operations start, the Chinese companies will pay various fees and taxes in accordance with the law, sell the required portion of their export earnings to the central bank, and more importantly bear the huge risk of uncertain returns. More than 50% of the total returns from the projects will go to the government and people of Zimbabwe. The companies are also prepared to invest more to improve the area in which they work, such as building clinic, school and water supply for the local communities. A large number of jobs are also expected to be created.

Chinese companies have assisted Zimbabwe in revamping its energy infrastructure and this is also happening in Zambia. What does this indicate about China’s commitment to Africa’s energy future and are there any more significant investments that will be made in the region?

A: China and Zimbabwe have been conducting successful cooperation on Kariba South Hydro-power Station Extension Project and the Hwange thermal power station expansion. These two projects will increase Zimbabwe’s current electricity generating capacity by 50 percent.

To implement the nine programs proposed by President Xi Jinping, China will encourage more Chinese enterprises to participate in the green energy cooperation with African countries. We will explore the possibility of cooperation with Zimbabwe to further develop hydro and wind power stations, to ease the electricity shortage and improve its energy structure.

It’s believed that Africa has been witnessing intensifying competition between China and the US. China has maintained that China-US relations are not a zero-sum game, emphasizing cooperation over competition. In what ways do you think the two countries can cooperate in Africa so as to boost the development of the continent?

A: China and the US share extensive common interests and profound cooperation potential. Competition does exist in some areas such as trade, but it should not be used to define China-US relations.

The US should forego Cold War mentality, view China and China’s development from an objective perspective, develop a deep understanding of the mutually beneficial nature of China-US relations, and adopt rational and practical China policies. It should enhance dialogue and communication with China, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, properly handle differences, and embark on a path of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.

China welcome all the international partners to support the development of Africa and is ready to work with them for further cooperation. We call on the US to remove its unilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe as its first step to improve its relationship with the country. If there is a competition in Zimbabwe, let’s compete to do more for Zimbabwe and its people. 

What is Embassy doing to strengthen relationship between Chinese employers and local workers?

A: For years, Chinese companies have not only created thousands of local jobs, but also actively conducted their social responsibilities for the local communities by building hospitals, schools and roads, drilling boreholes, donating foodstuff and PPEs, etc. Most Chinese employers keep good relationship with local workers. Some allegations of improper practices by a few Chinese employers are mainly because of misunderstanding or cultural difference. The Embassy’s position is clear that all Chinese companies are encouraged to do more for local people and must comply with the laws, regulations, culture and customs of the host country. Wrongdoers must be held accountable. The Embassy also encourage and support Zimbabwean government, medias, local communities and all other stakeholder in promoting the mutual understanding and good relations between Chinese employers and local workers. 

China continues to grow as Africa’s infrastructure and trade partner, but the people-to-people relations are not developing at the same rate. What new things can be done by both African and Chinese government to improve mutual relations at people-to-people level?

A: The people-to-people exchange play a very important role in improving the country-to-country relations. In fact, China and Africa have always kept close people-to-people exchanges for many years. Affected by Covid-19, the physical exchange between peoples have been decreased in recent years, while the on-line exchanges remain active. In light of changes of the global pandemic landscape, I believe the people-to-people exchanges between our two countries will recover to the normal scale and to be further expanded.

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