Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Zim-China honeymoon is over

When Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe visited China last July, he received the full red-carpet treatment, in contrast to his pariah status in most of the Western world.

....Mr Mugabe, a Marxist and admirer of Mao Zedong since his political youth, told Zimbabweans on Independence Day: "We have turned East, where the sun rises, and given our back to the West, where the sun sets."

But last weekend The Zimbabwe Independent editorialised: "The deals that he trumpeted then have yet to come to fruition. The Chinese dream is collapsing."

Although Zimbabwe, which is celebrating the 26th anniversary of its independence from Britain, was accorded "approved tourism destination status", few Chinese comrades have been attracted.

Arrivals have declined 70 per cent since state-owned Air Zimbabwe began flying to Beijing last year, and the operations to "where the sun rises" are now running rivers of red, losing more than $1 million a month.

A claimed deal through which China would finance a thermal power station and provide a loan to keep the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority afloat has not materialised. Electronic firms and agro-processing plants that were also supposed to be coming from China have failed to arrive.

The Independent said: "We warned that the euphoria about 'looking East' would not benefit the country as long as Zimbabwe did not have foreign currency and was instead reducing itself to a dumping ground for substandard Chinese goods.

"The reality was that nothing would come Zimbabwe's way on the house. The Chinese, like any economic power, demand international commercial rates for whatever services they render Zimbabwe."....

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