Did Beijing give the go-ahead to remove Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe? Nobody is saying. But it is suspicious that Zimbabwe’s army chief General Chiwenga visited China a few days before he moved against Mugabe. Presumably, nobody in Beijing told him ‘no.’
China has huge investments in Zimbabwe – including tobacco, diamonds, and power generation – and is by far the country’s largest benefactor.
And there’s been Chinese concern, indeed anger, over the last few years over enforcement of the ‘indigenization law’ – Mugabe’s brainchild requiring foreign companies operating in the country to have majority black Zimbabwean ownership. Chinese companies and interests stand to suffer.
China can size things up: Even Mugabe isn’t going to live forever. And for a successor it’s a choice between his wife, Grace, or recently dismissed Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa whose removal sparked the coup.
So it was a choice between the mean, grabby wife and a former Mugabe henchman with the Army on his side – and up to his ears in slaughtering 15,000 Matabele people in the 1980’s. One of them had guns and one didn’t.
Mnangagwa might also back off the indigenization law, while Grace, a kleptomaniac, was likely to use it to steal even more.
And even if the Mugabes wriggled off the hook, both they and Mnangagwa depend on Beijing’s cash – and have for years.
And even if the Mugabes wriggle off the hook (in a televised address on Sunday, Mugabe declined to say he would step down) both they and Mnangagwa depend on Beijing’s cash – and have for years.
All in all, a ‘win-win’ for China. Anything but an honest leader acting for the country’s longsuffering citizens’ benefit.
Zimbabwe typifies China’s approach to Africa. The sheer scale and scope of Chinese investment and aid – both government and private – is rightly astonishing. And Chinese will go places nobody else will. But it all might lack staying power.
That’s because it’s largely based on throwing money around – and a lot of it.
The modus operandi is to buy off (literally) parts of the local ruling class while building stadiums, government buildings and the like – in exchange for insinuating Chinese companies into a country’s natural resources, land, infrastructure, and local industry and business.
Not surprisingly, dictators (even if called ‘president’) and corruptible officials and businesspeople are preferred partners. Besides the Mugabe’s, the Dos Santos family that runs Angola, and President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta’s in South Africa, and others have done well with the Chinese, and vice versa.
A decade ago, one East African president reportedly sent a bag-man to Europe every month to deposit the Chinese loot
And Chinese infrastructure projects often use imported Chinese labor rather than employing many locals. Not exactly how one makes friends.
Such projects are also often plagued by quality control problems, while maintaining them is sometimes an afterthought. Don’t maintain them and they fall apart. Africa is littered with such relics – from long before the Chinese showed up.
Also, China development projects and other deals can come with onerous terms. If a poor country can’t repay, China either takes ownership or gets its pound of flesh elsewhere.
Indeed, China in Africa sometimes makes Cecil Rhodes look like a philanthropist.
Indeed, China in Africa sometimes makes Cecil Rhodes look like a philanthropist.
Although Beijing is on a roll of sorts, its ‘Africa play’ is going to be hard to pull off over the long run. Cash only buys friendship for so long. And relatively few locals benefit, leading to popular resentment.
Before too long, expect to see the People’s Liberation Army showing up to protect Chinese investments – especially natural resource extraction projects – in Africa.
And Chinese expeditionary forces based in Djibouti (for now) will likely intervene to protect local Chinese communities when local resentment at corruption and Beijing’s economic rapaciousness boils over.
Perhaps to have most impact, Beijing should figure out a way to hand out US Green Cards in large quantities.
Despite China’s preference for dictators and ‘corruptibles,’ the West shouldn’t chuckle. Although long on advice, the West has done little to promote honest government in Africa – what the continent really needs – in the years before or since the Chinese became major players.
One principled African jurist recently described Western aid to Africa as ‘recycled’ money.
His point: Money stolen by corrupt elites is moved to Europe (or America) where local banks are glad to have it. Western governments then send along foreign aid – with anti-corruption lectures. The money is stolen once again, sent back to Europe and the process starts over.
That Mugabe has lasted 37 years says plenty. Despite a horrific human rights record, snuffing out democracy, and looting the country, the West did little to call him to account. Indeed, it even played a major role in installing him power – though nobody cares to think about that these days.
Nor is Asia much better. The welcome mat has been out for Mugabe in Tokyo several times – to include a state visit and meeting with the Emperor in 2016.
And the Mugabe’s are frequent visitors to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Mugabe regularly goes to Singapore for medical treatment. Of course, when he took over Zimbabwe in 1980 he only had to drive a couple miles from his mansion in Harare to find a world class hospital.
But back to China and Africa: Beijing will someday learn (probably the hard way) that even with Chinese characteristics, colonialism is still just colonialism. And Africans who aren’t on the take don’t appreciate it much.
China did not slaughter and enslaved the Africans to get hold of their land and resources like what the European powers did in their scramble for Africa as epitome in Cecil Rhodes. That killing has not stopped. Now it is done with ‘justifications’ . You obviously is a shameless so called analyst to justify your pay.
Are you still wearing your Western Imperialist Colonial standard issue rose coloured goggles again. How can you paint Chinese investment and involvement in Zimbabwe or other parts of Africa with the same broad brush with the White supremacists and colonial powers. When it comes to business, putting it in layman’s terms, you have to sell your car or fish and chips or give a mortgage loan to a buyer or borrower whether he is immoral, an adulterer, a philanderer, a thief or a robber. How China profiles or evaluates and manages its business risks in its business forays in Africa should not be lumped in the same shoe box as the West enslaving and oppressing the Africans and exploiting their resources for free! You call yourself an objective unbiased professional reporter or are you a paid CIA operative out to plant red flags? I hope you know of the immutable law of Karma. You shall suffer your just retribution in this life or the next!
Another rubbish article by a CIA hack
wow, wow what explosive commentary from this American journalist living in Japan and getting paid by perhaps by some Japanese neo-cons.
This article is full of hear say and assumptions. It made me laugh when this author wrote, "..one East African president reportedly sent a bag-man to Europe every month to deposit the Chinese loot…" haha where did he get his information? Did he talk to him? Then, he talks about how the Chinese’s construction works on Africa are useless. He does not give a point of reference to sustain his comments. He gives me the sensation of an insouciant cowboy galloping on the prairie and shooting to the horizons. He also insinuates China is not well liked in Africa just like some Western country- you know who. Again, not references- just hear say..
His problem as a Westerner is to assume what they (USA and EU) have done in the past with other countries, China will follow the same path. That is far from the truth. First of all, the westerners from the moment they went a country that it was not European they saw themselves as the saviors of this world and were doing them a great favor to connect with them. They came to exploit them. There was not respect for other cultures.
2- Westerners usually do go into a country and if they see a potential to exploit their natural resources, they bribe its leaders and get the best from that country. They don’t give a dam about the people who live there.Then, when the resources are exhausted, they exit that country, leaving many times a terrible mess that it takes many years to clean, For example Chevron in Ecuador.
Then, everything goes well if that country allows itself to be exploited. But as soon as things are not going their way they start pushing democracy and human rights issues until they start “behaving appropriately”. Look Saudi Arabia, I do not hear pushing them to change their ways. Instead, they conspire together.
On the other hand, we have China. I see three issues that are very significant how she interacts with other countries.
China believes in mutual respect. This statement I read in various readings what China writes her treaties with other countries. So, when she goes into a country doesn’t go with the Western mentality discussed earlier. She deals with them at the same level .
China doesn’t intervene on other country’s political issues or try to change them to her likings. This issue is been repeated time after time
The last issue is related that when thing goes badly on a business deal due to some particular reasons, she doesn’t try to push her way in like the Westerners do.
Shawn, Peter, Vince and Ken, you have said it all. No need for me to add. Good and fair comments.
It is surprising that Africom did not get Mugabe first before his general went to Beijing.
You make wild accusations without any facts to back them up. FYI, China forgave $40 million worth of loans to Zimbabwe and on occasion have cancelled loans to other countries unlike the IMF and World Bank.
The so so smart Mr Newsham is in a line of Chinese doubters and haters. The Middle Kingdom continues to march forward!!
The various western media network do have one thing in common- a copy and paste machine.
shame on you newsham ! just for the shake of money u sold out your conscience to shamewlessly twisting facts to suite your patron .
This dudde must stupid idiot,you can never compare #China with the West considering the atrocities committed by the west in #Africa ranging from slavery,slave trade,the invasion so call colonisation,neo coloniasm,IMF,ICC to mention but few.Next time you should make your article credible&respectful idiot.Bullshit
Your description of Chinese behaviour in Africa fits exactly what the Americans have been doing around the world. Except that so far there are few signs of resentment by the population as there are also tangible benefits of Chinese investment. Time will tell. ..
China is the worst imperialist on Africa comparerd to western hemisphere. They are looters who leave no trace of any technology for Africa or any progress.
They are feeding the kings to loot without any regard to people’s development or susteinability.
By by collaborating with dictators who kill thousands if not millions of people to stay on power to give them looting space they are worst than white colonialists.
"Indeed, it [the West] even played a major role in installing him power …"
The truth, but they were all patting themselves on the back for doing the righteous anti-"racist" thing.
Most SS Africans are realizing that white rule was a Golden Age compared to what they inflict on each other as a matter of course.
This is so anti-Chinese it is ridiculous. Whose interests are you serving in Africa? Comparing Cecil Rhodes to the PRC is absurd.
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