Have we become a Chinese colony or equal trading partner?

Coal mine

CHINESE diplomats and companies’ unrestrained outbursts this week signalled how Zimbabwe’s foreign policy places the country at the mercy of big powers.

Zimbabwe has placed so much faith on one world power for everything from foreign direct investment to handouts.

The Chinese know that they have been the force behind Zimbabwe’s survival from waves of economic meltdowns and global isolation.

When the West turned its back on Zimbabwe, the Chinese saw an opportunity and moved in. According to one US think-tank, the Chinese have signed “mega deals” and investments valued well over US$11,6 billion since 2005.

With that kind of money, almost the size of Zimbabwe’s GDP, China has literally placed the country in its palm.

This probably explains the Chinese embassy’s condescending utterances to the effect that without Beijing, Zimbabwe would be candle-lit, without power and internet connectivity. Harare has indeed placed itself at the mercy of its “all weather friend” and is no longer able to say yes or no to anything.

The “Look East” policy adopted by the late former President Robert Mugabe about 17 years ago without effort to spread tentacles to the rest of the globe has returned to haunt this country.

The Chinese’s recent outbursts following embarrassing exposure of their nefarious activities by local civil society groups could just be the beginning of more bad news to come as the Asian tiger begins to show its true colours.

One only needs to listen to the Chinese’s tone to see the level of subservience our country has placed itself and how aggressive our so-called “all weather friend” has become.

The Chinese pointed a warning finger at NGOs that dared question their mirthless attitude towards vulnerable villagers whom they have displaced in a manner most inhumane. They arrogantly declared that they cannot be blamed for exploiting legal loopholes in Zimbabwe’s Mines and Minerals Act, which allowed them to take over farmlands, whole villages and destroy delicate wildlife conservancies.

Surely, this can’t be how an “all-weather friend” would behave. But again, this is not all about friendship but billions of dollars that we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved by.

The continuous public outcry over Chinese investors’ disregard of labour laws and traditional customs cannot all be dismissed as unjustified and false accusations. Human rights watchdogs must stand on both legs and refuse to be cowed by the hostile language by Chinese firms and diplomats who have so much to hide.

This is why they chose a belligerent stance when NGOs called them to order.

But this is not to say Chinese people have done nothing in Zimbabwe. True, there has been so much investment from China in the past two decades, including an overflow of Chinese loans, yet these must not come at the expense of our freedoms and liberties.

For Harare, the message is clear — government must not put all its eggs in one basket. Zimbabwe must expand the scope of its FDI sources and spread diplomatic ties.

As the old adage goes, there are no permanent friends but interests.