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The Herald – Zimbabwe
The three-day visit by Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Wang Yi to Zimbabwe and four other African countries was significant in various ways, apart from enhancing relations with those nations. The week-long visit took Mr Wang to Egypt, Djibouti, Burundi and Eritrea.
There is a tendency to want to dismiss the visit as the fulfilment of a routine that started in 1991, which sees a Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister visiting African countries as his first priority at the beginning of each year.
But, it is important to have a closer look at Mr Wang’s visit and what exactly it means for China and Africa, particularly Zimbabwe.
The first point to note is that during such visits, China does not pick the countries from the blue — there should be some importance attached to the decision.
For instance, this time around, Mr Wang visited some of the smallest countries on the continent — Burundi, Zimbabwe and Eritrea.
These are countries that high-ranking officials from other big countries will not usually consider putting on their itinerary when visiting the continent.
By coming to these countries, Mr Wang is strengthening cooperation and relations that have always anchored China’s international diplomacy.
The hype that accompanied Mr Wang’s visit to Zimbabwe was justified by the submission of six new projects to China that cut across all sectors of the economy.
Although the finer details of the projects were not revealed, they represent the new spirit that governs cooperation between China and Zimbabwe.
This spirit is anchored by the recent elevation of the two countries’ relations to comprehensive strategic cooperation, which covers almost all the sectors of development.
In that way, Mr Wang’s visit was not a fluke, especially as it came when Zimbabwe is in the midst of turning around its economic fortunes.
Big countries like China have demonstrated the potential to play a huge part in Zimbabwe’s strategies in improving its economy.
That way, Mr Wang showed up in Zimbabwe at a time when he was needed most.
Exciting developments that have potential to attract big money Chinese investors have been happening in Zimbabwe of late.
These developments, like the setting up of special economic zones, changes to the indigenisation laws, the reform and opening up process and the establishment of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA), bring favourable conditions for investors from China.
It is no longer business as usual in Zimbabwe, and the visit by Mr Wang confirms the increasing interest in the country by the Asian economic giant.
Being in touch with Zimbabwe at that highest level gives an opportunity for senior Chinese officials to have a first-hand appreciation of the problems being faced by the country.
This is why Mr Wang picked up during his visit that one of the major impediments to the development of Zimbabwe is the unjustified sanctions imposed by Western countries.
And his call for their removal is justified.
After all is said and done, to Zimbabweans, Mr Wang’s visit should bring immediate benefits that cascade right into the improvement of the economy.
This can be done through the Chinese government encouraging its firms and businesses to consider Zimbabwe as a destination of choice for their investments.
What is also important about Mr Wang’s visit to small nations in Africa is that he represents the new approach embodied by his country which advocates that no one, despite how small or insignificant, should be left out in development.
China is attempting to close the schism that is growing between developed countries and developing ones, a problem that has potential to lead to a wider conflict in future.
People in developing countries are preoccupied with how they can access basics like food, shelter, education and healthcare.
And in this case, China has proved it can offer an alternative developmental concept that helps revive industries, create jobs, provide huge markets and change their economic status.
In fact, by visiting downtrodden countries like Burundi, Eritrea and Zimbabwe, Mr Wang directly challenges the Western ideological systems of politics and economics which discriminate against other States they perceive as small.
Such high-profile visits, and the discussions and deals that follow, have left many Africans believing that it is the Chinese system that promises the best and fastest improvements in living standards in the shortest period.
This observation is premised on what China has done to its economy.
In a space of 40 years, the Asian country has risen from down the ladder to become the second largest economy in the world, a remarkable feat that is capable of charming anyone.
By the end of this year, China is expected to have moved all its people out of poverty from the 800 million that were considered to be living under the poverty datum line in 1978 when it started its reform and opening up process.
It is important that during such visits as the one done by Mr Wang; China shares with the African countries how it managed to achieve such an improvement within such a short period.
China’s legendary and amazing infrastructure roll-out leaves no doubt about why it is important for African countries to host such a high profile guest like Mr Wang.
And this is the gospel which Mr Wang has been preaching in all the African countries he visited — that they can forge win-win cooperation with his country for the betterment of their populations.