As of 02.00 Harare time, the position of Zimbabwe’s long time President Robert Mugabe is still not entirely clear. Various unconfirmed reports have stated that Mugabe has been forced to step down as Zimbabwe’s President while other sources say the opposite.
However, what is clear is that the actions taken by military officers against Robert Mugabe where not the actions of the western funded “opposition” in Zimbabwe, nor where they orchestrated from abroad. Instead, the moves were conducted by previously loyal military officers with the apparent consent of veterans from Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party, including recently ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is once again a likely contender to rule the country in a would-be post-Mugabe era.
Ever since the 1970s Bush War when Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union proclaimed its version of anti-colonial ideology as one which was Maoist with African characteristics, China and Zimbabwe have been steadfast allies. The fact that China’s strong support of Mugabe’s faction dates back to a time before Mugabe was a a recognised leader in what was then white ruled Rhodesia, is thanks to the fact that he was a Maoist while his primary opponent among the anti-imperialist black liberation fighters was a pro-Soviet leader, Joshua Nkomo of the of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
It has now emerged that Zimbabwe Defense Forces leader General Constantino Chiwenga travelled to China days ago where he met with General Li Zuocheng. China has confirmed that during the meeting, Chiwenga told Chinese military officers that “China and Zimbabwe are all-weather friends”.
Sputnik further reports that Chiwenga told his Chinese allies that it was his desire to “deepen exchanges and cooperation in all fields with China to promote the rapid development of bilateral state and military relations between the two countries”. According to Chinese officials, Chiwenga also expressed his gratitude to China for “long-time, selfless help” towards Zimbabwe.
China is the biggest sovereign investor in Zimbabwe by a long way. Chinese projects in Zimbabwe are essentially the only practical hope at this time, for Zimbabwe to transform its resources into national wealth during a period when due to hyper-inflation, Zimbabwe’s de-facto national currency is the US Dollar.
Most Zimbabweans remain positive about China’s economic role in the country and this attitude was expressed clearly by “coup leader” Chiwenga.
While some will now rush to say that China helped to “plot the coup”, this statement is as false as blaming the events in Zimbabwe on the western funded “opposition”. China has no need to interfere in a country which is having an internal dispute within the ruling, pro-China ZANU-PF party. The fact that the military which is staunchly loyal to the ruling party has been the vehicle which has moved events, only confirms this reality.
The official international newspaper of the Communist Party of China, the Global Times, said of the events in Zimbabwe,
“The long-term friendship between China and Zimbabwe will transcend the internal disturbances in Zimbabwe”.
This statement is an accurate reflection of China’s position. By calling the events “disturbances”, Beijing is communicating that it would have ultimately been happier with a status quo that was stable in terms of bilateral relations. Incidentally, the position of neighbouring SOuth Afirca is much the same. If anything senior ANC leaders in Pretoria are more loyal to Mugabe than the leadership in Beijing due to Zimbabwe’s support of the anti-Apartheid movement. However, because China is confident in Zimbabwe’s friendly attitude towards China transcending internal disputes, China will accept the unfolding events in Harare without condemning them. Military interference in such an instance is totally out of character for contemporary China. The biggest danger for those who oppose the western backed opposition on Zimbabwe is that they will size this opportunity to create further instability. This remains a real possibility, but thus far, the military and members of the ZANU-PF elite appear to be in firm control of the situation.
While China was happy with the Mugabe status quo, in many ways China may take heart in the fact that a younger, seemingly pro-China leader plucked from ZANU-PF may replace the 93 year old Robert Mugabe–and as of now it is still a matter of if.
Zimbabwe depends on China to provide the necessary development mechanisms to lift the country out of stagnation. It must be said that due to the country’s Dollar dependence, there will also be a temptation among any Zimbabwean leaders to look west on occasion for matters of debt relief.
China is also prepared for this and has been long before the events of the last 48 hours. If anything, a renewed ZANU-PF government, may give China the impetus to attempt and structure debt relief programmes for Zimbabwe based on the Yuan.
Under Persident Xi Jinping, China’s motto in intentional relations is “win-win”. While no coup can be described as a winning situation, China and Zimbabwe’s likely future leaders are clearly committed to a situation which minimises any potential loses.