In the midst of covid-19 states have reshaped their foreign policies and have tirelessly worked hard to introduce new development goals and agendas in accordance with their foreign policies.

Both Zimbabwe and China have come up with development plans which are running from the period 2021-2025. Both states have enjoyed a long lasting relationship since colonial period.

The cordial relationship between Zimbabwe and China was reinforced and fortified by the signing of various economic, trade and investment agreements since the Zimbabwe look East Policy.

By launching concurrently these development plans, there is a high prospect and bigger probability of mutual development as a result of trade relations between the two states. One of the key targets of the Chinese 14th developmental plan is to, a viable conduct with almost every state. To take note China has becoming one of the leading trading partner of almost of every state, and to Zimbabwe, it is her second trading partner.  

Trade has been a contentious issue lately, dominating global politics. Zimbabwe’s new development plan called the National Developmental Strategy 1 (NDS 1) has a high regard of trade as key productive tool to boost the economy as well as transforming it into an upper middle income by 2030. Therefore trade between Zimbabwe and China is likely to impact these economies positively. A point to note, however, is whether such trade is honestly guided by principles of mutuality and reciprocity, which however has raised concerns from a developmentalist perspective. Although the relationship is based on south-south cooperation, Zimbabwe has benefitted less. To take note is that just like the relationship between the Brettonwood institutions and developing states is also a replica of the relationship between Zimbabwe and China that of master and servant in terms of trade as China turns to benefit more as it enjoys huge economies of scale and produce enmasse at a cheap base. This is marked by Chinese behavior when building or developing structures of states they import everything from equipment to labor and nothing will bought from the host country. A key point to note is that Chinese policy of non-interference into domestic issues of African states  has therefore, made it favorable trading partner most African states.

China’s new policy has a multi-dimensional approach to issues of global politics and one of the critical issues put across is how China has sought to take issues of national matters seriously, such as the security of its citizens, as well as trying to maintain a leading gap in terms of global politics. China‚Äôs restructuring foreign policy aims to set the pace on how states can sustain their economies despite the global pandemic. Thus, from such a perspective, Zimbabwe should maximize its relationship and thereby take advantage of the covid-19 to boost its economy with the help of China. However, China-Africa relations will always create contention, as to whether an individual can ultimately agree that China‚Äôs attention are purely to developing Africa without attaining benefits. Recently China had established a trade deal with Zambia, in which it was also given some loans as part of the negotiation. However Zambia, failed to repay the loan which saw its airport being taken. Zimbabwe has been receiving several loans from different Chinese business partners and this is likely to cause pandemonium if Zimbabwe fails to pay back. China‚Äôs can also be compared with the aid of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These funds are coupled with stringent conditions, which therefore puts the developing states at a disadvantage. In this case, Zimbabwe is likely to lose billions in the form of minerals to China and this will imperatively hinder development. One of the critical things to understand is that self-interest is the core of each, states foreign policy and this has always been the game of politics, the question still stands ‚ÄúConsidering the economic muscle between Zimbabwe and China, and the fact that power is the currency to global politics, who is likely to benefit from such relations.‚ÄĚ

Therefore, as it stands the Zimbabwe-China relations have negatively impacted Zimbabwe, as it has created a dependency syndrome on her and this will therefore make it easy for China to dictate the terms of negotiations and pace of deals when trade relations are established.

Benefits for China-Zimbabwe Relations

  • Access to a big market for Zimbabwe exports especially tobacco and products in the cotton-clothing value chain;
  • Access to Foreign Direct Investment especially for technology to modernize and re-tool for industry;
  • Access to cheap concessionary financing for budget support and other infrastructure related projects. Examples are the Sino-Hydro project, Expansion of the Victoria Falls Airport, Rehabilitation of Harare Municipal water supply and sewage treatment plant amongst others. Zimbabwe allocates paltry funds towards infrastructure as there is tight fiscal space. Thus relations with China tend to benefit Zimbabwe in this regard;
  • Access to cheap raw materials for production;
  • De facto protection of Zimbabwe in the United Nations Security Council as China may use its Veto in favour of Zimbabwe.


The Negative Side of the Zim-Sino Relations

  • Servant-Master relations continue to grow between the two countries;
  • Trade disequilibrium between both countries. Bilateral trade relations are heavily titled in favor of China and Chinese products;
  • Massive resource flight (Mineral or otherwise). The case of Chiadzwa Diamonds

By Keith Goto | 0772 135 344
Keith Goto is a Masters in International Trade student with the University of Zimbabwe