Beijing has long supported Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe despite claims of rampant corruption and repression committed by his government. Today (Dec. 4), Mugabe returned the favor.
Speaking after Chinese president Xi Jinping at the China-Africa summit underway in Johannesburg, Mugabe countered the notion that China is a neocolonialist that is draining Africa of its natural resources:
“Here is a man representing a country once called poor, a country which was never our colonizer. He is doing to us what we expected those who colonized us yesterday to do… We will say he is a God-sent person.”
Mugabe is referring to the wave of Chinese infrastructure projects and loans given out across the continent over the past decade. Critics say these projects have done little to develop local economies and that China is exploiting the region while ignoring conflict human rights abuses.
Zimbabwe, a former British colony whose economy has struggled under Mugabe, has been home to Chinese infrastructure projects for decades now. In the 1980s, China built the country’s National Sports Stadium, its largest shopping mall, as well as hospitals and power stations. China is also the largest buyer of Zimbabwean tobacco.
Xi visited Zimbabwe earlier this week, and the two countries pledged to stimulate Zimbabwe’s struggling economy. China promised to building a new parliament for the government. “Our detractors have sought to portray our relationship [as] purely commercials ties, driven by China’s desire to extract our mineral resources,” Mugabe said. “Our relations go much deeper.”
Sign up for the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief — the most important and interesting news from across the continent, in your inbox.