China-Zimbabwe relations: A marriage not worthy?

guest column:Christine Matinanga

 

A MARRIAGE built on rocks does not last. The Lome Agreement of 1975 between European Economic Community and African Caribbean and Pacific countries is a typical example to China-Zimbabwe relations that any alliance made is not made in good faith but rather to create benefits.

China and Zimbabwe have been “married” for over four decades thus their relations have been coined by many as the microcosm of China-Africa relations.

Zimbabwe’s isolation from the Western markets has caused China to become its primary ally in recent years.

The problem with China-Zimbabwe relations stems from the fact that it seems as if one party is benefiting more than the other. Indeed China has offered a lot of aid and investments but has Zimbabwe really benefited?

Over the past 40 years major projects like the expansion of the Kariba South Hydro Power Station, financing Zimbabwe’s local cotton production, building of the new Parliament in Mt Hampden, Mahusekwa Hospital and National Defence University among others are an indication of China’s willingness to develop Zimbabwe. However, is the aid out of good faith?

For a marriage to mature, it should be based on principles and trust and lack of such nexus between the two renders this matrimony shaky. The relations seem to be rather strategic rather than out of good faith.

China seeks to benefit from raw materials and agricultural products like tobacco which are scarce in China while in Zimbabwe the elite seeks to benefit from the national purse.

This has caused opposition parties in Zimbabwe to criticise Chinese influence and accuse the government of giving away minerals and other natural resources in exchange for aid.

Zimbabwe continues to sign opaque contracts and investment treaties with China as most contracts are being given to Chinese companies while most local companies are closing.

The covert intentions of Chinese activities in Zimbabwe can be seen through the way the Chinese ship all the profits back to their country and by employing Chinese nationals instead of locals.

Thus from a developmental perspective, Chinese development is closely associated with development of the underdeveloped countries with the other countries playing a subservient role. When problems arise in a marriage, divorce is not the only option.

In the China-Zimbabwe case pulling away from China is not the only solution but rather Zimbabwe needs to stop depending heavily on China.

Zimbabwe should learn from the failure of Esaps that foreign aid should not be relied upon especially aid that comes with conditions.

Chinese aid either comes in the form of infrastructure development or loans that are directed to a specific project.

The most pressing question that arises is whether the help is a nefarious subversion masked in ultrism. Zimbabwe is rich in natural resources, a factor that attracted not only China but most Western countries.

The problem is Zimbabwe is keen to give away raw materials for aid.

It is alleged that China looted the Chiadzwa Diamonds which caused the $15 billion saga, which Zimbabwe could have benefited from. Zimbabwe is rich in platinum with its reserves estimated to last for more than 400 years.

There is a pool of opportunities from which Zimbabwe can tap into in order to develop and become the breadbasket of Africa. In order to institute innovative reforms, Zimbabwe can get easy currency by instituting the gold standard.

The Gold Standard is a monetary system where a country’s currency or paper money has a value directly linked to gold.

Zimbabwe is rich in gold reserves and can use this gold to peg it to its currency thus limiting price inflation and creating a fixed price exchange rate, rather than selling pure gold to other countries and getting little profits.

Zimbabwe had the Sovereign Wealth fund but it was abandoned around 2013. Zimbabwe does not have money but has a large, but struggling, mining industry whose profits can be kept in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Other than just being dependent on China, Zimbabwe can take advantage of China’s policy for instance its 14th Development Plan set for 2021 to 2025.

Zimbabwe has its own national development strategy which is set for 2021 to 2025. Zimbabwe could follow some of these policies without necessarily looking for aid from other countries.

The fundamental point is that China-Zimbabwe relations should not be the core focus of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy but rather Zimbabwe should seek other independent options that can develop the country once touted as breadbasket of Africa.

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