No strings attached, China on Zim investments

Tichaona Zindoga & Chris Mahove

China says it has not signed any articles of agreement with ZImbabwe to secure payment for assistance using the southern African nation’s natural resources.

Various claims have stated that Zimbabwe – which enjoys traditional relations with China – has “mortgaged” its resources in return for support from the Asian giant, which has become much more important in the last two decades following imposition of sanctions on the country. China also supported Zimbabwe during its liberation struggle that brought independence from Britain in 1980.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Guo Shaochun said China had a no-interference policy approach to its development projects in Africa.

During a media briefing last week, Ambassador Guo said: “There is a false claim that Zimbabwe uses its natural resources as collateral to get China’s funding. Let me make it clear. No agreements between the two countries and no articles in these agreements are about how Zimbabwe should contribute its resources to China.”

China had provided assistance to African countries for over half a century and in all this time it had never asked any African country to cede its sovereignty.

“Never have we compelled African countries to repay their debts with natural resources; never have we dictated fiscal or monetary changes as a precondition; never have we abused it by using democracy and human rights as excuses to interfere in the domestic affairs of the recipient countries,” he said.

Further, the Chinese envoy stated that China did not pressure countries in debt distress for repayment, noting that instead, the country entered into good willed and equal bilateral consultations to work out possible solutions with recipient countries.

These are characterised by “great flexibility enabled by goodwill”, unlike other creditors.

Ambassador Guo stated:”This is not China’s practice. We are a developing country. We relate to the hardships of our brothers,” he said.

He said China’s cooperation with Zimbabwe and other developing countries was guided by the five principles of transparency, flexibility, non-attachment of political strings to development projects and win-win cooperation and the non-attachment of strings.

China’s approach to cooperation, he said, was shaped by the needs and challenges of each particular country, which would drive the process, adding that this would eliminate the risk of receiving countries walking into ‘quick fix traps’

“A recipient-driven process protects countries from walking into a “quick fix trap”.

China’s investments in Zimbabwe are systematic and well-grounded, according to the mission here.

Ambassador Guo said a project-based approach whose transparency manifested itself in the positive impact on the economy and the livelihood of ordinary citizens could be easily accounted for.

“Whether it is a road or airport being built, agriculture output increased, things manufactured, or professionals trained, you don’t need special access to classified document to know what China is doing and how it is benefiting the recipient country. It’s all open in the public domain. We call on international partners to focus more on the improvement of Zimbabwe’s infrastructure and provide support to this end,” he said.

Consistent position

Ambassador Guo explained that his country did not condone wrongdoings by Chinese companies and nationals in Zimbabwe.

 But he also added that China would defend its companies against malicious attacks, routinely peddled in some sections of the media.

China is advocating for a more robust approach by Government of Zimbabwe and other authorities to ensure accountability and compliance with local laws and regulations.

“It is our consistent position that no certificates or licenses should be given when there are risks of a popular backlash or negative environmental impact. All wrongdoings should be held accountable. If investment projects are found to be problematic, we support the necessary legal response” he said.

Ambassador Guo noted one recent incident in which the Embassy urged Chinese company, Freestone Mines, into cancelling their lease agreement for quarry mining in the eastern border city of Mutare.

Even then, according to the Embassy and other interested parties in the business sector, the company was not solely responsible for the situation which saw the community protesting the venture.

Boosting economic growth

A number of private Chinese investments in Zimbabwe have made positive contributions to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Guo noted, citing a number of projects being undertaken in Zimbabwe, including the US$1 billion steel project by Tsingshan Group, which has two other subsidiaries in the steel value chain. Another big Chinese company, Huayou Cobalt, recently bought Arcadia Lithium Project, an investment of over US$700 million.

This adds onto a number of game-changing investments by China in Zimbabwe, where Chinese companies have overcome considerable risks and challenges.

Fruition

China is excited that the second half of the year will see the handing over of new parliament building and National Pharmaceutical Warehouse, to authorities in Zimbabwe.

That is not all.

“More and more fruits are growing and ripening in China-Zimbabwe cooperation. Good progress is being made at the Hwange thermal power station expansion, RGM International Airport expansion and phase 3 of Netone’s mobile broadband upgrade. Another 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines donated by China will arrive in Zimbabwe this year,” he said

On the other hand, the expansion of the Kariba South hydro station and the Hwange thermal Power Station being undertaken by Chinese companies will increase the country’s power generation capacity by 50%

 China is set to encourage more Chinese enterprises to participate in the green energy cooperation with African countries as part of the nine programmes proposed by President Xi Jinping.

The drive to pursue green energy will plug likely gaps arising from China’s cutting down of investments in fossil fuels abroad.

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