Zimbabwe's new colonialists - the Chinese

From this site:


It makes sense in a way – as China develops rapidly, it’s going to adopt some of the same traits as did the European powers in earlier centuries, specifically the desire to colonise – only there aren’t that many options nowadays, Africa providing some the few opportunities left.

The questions for debate are how far will this go? Will Zimbabweans have to stand for it or will they rise up and reclaim their country? Will African neighbours/western nations sit idly by? Should they? Are other African countries destined for the same fate?
Your thoughts:

Your article has a certain amount of confirmation from other sources on line (e.g., zwnews.com). It’s easy to see what’s in it for Mugabe, but it’s less clear what’s in it for the Chinese. If it’s just a piece of business for them, it makes a certain amount of sense – not a ton, but some. The profits would be pretty modest, I would think, and the risk high.

But if China is trying to play the influence game, then they’re just being idiots. No one of any sense would hang their hopes on a doddering and half-mad tyrant like Mugabe. He could die or be knocked off from one day to the next, and the first thing that will happen is that the people will turn on the Chinese traders. They stick out, they’re more or less defenseless, and they’ll have to be rescued by a fairly muscular intervention. Look what happened to the Indians in Uganda during Idi Amin’s regime.

Don’t meddle in Africa is the message here – and more to the point, never get in bed with somebody like Mugabe. That’s pretty obvious to the rest of the world, but apparently not to China.

China’s leadership is pretty schizo about foreign policy anyway. But I think what we’re seeing here is more foolishness from ambitious Chinese than a global influence movement. You see much of the same thing with Syrians in the Caribbean and Latin America for some reason; they came in, bought power and influence and got in bed with the government to protect both.

Maybe, but it sounds in this case like the Chinese government had been heavily involved from the start – selling warplanes, and using state-owned businesses to exploit Zimbabwean concessions. In the case you cite, I think it was mostly private individuals who were involved. Could be wrong, though.

Well Mugabe is also desperate to get the farms operational again. If he can’t feed his own supporters then they will eventually topple him. The country can barely feed itself so Mugabe needs at least a short-term solution to a major problem. Not entirely sure what is in it for the Chinese but overall I doubt any good will come of this.

That whole situation is really strange.

I remember seeing a little blurb in the Economist a couple of months ago, which I’m not going to be able to find again, with side by side pictures of Kim Jong Il and Mugabe being displayed on flip-cards, hundreds of people each holding one. The blurb suggested that Mugabe may be looking to North Korea for inspiration.

I get the feeling that something is quietly brewing over there. It’s hard to know how it will turn out. Maybe Zimbabwe is going to become an Iraq for the Chinese, who will eventually have to change their policy, and maybe even go to war? The international reaction to that would be interesting.

Does anybody know if the Chinese are active in other countries in that region? Maybe South Africa?

Interesting situation. Interesting thread.

My guess is that when Mugabe falls, the Chinese will not send in troops. The age of Communist proselytizing is over, it is in China’s interest to uphold the principle of sovereignty and it makes no sense to establish a precedent in favor of intervention for their huge expat community.

My other guess is that it will be a while before China replaces the US as the imperialist bogeyman of the day. That may not be unrelated to their nonintervention policy (disputes with bordering countries and territories excepted).

A lot of what China does is done because, after years of being a backwater, it finally can achieve things on a global stage (see the nation’s space mission and its huge investment in Shanghai’s Maglev train – both expensive and of limited benefit - but prestigious).
It wouldn’t surprise me if the reasons behind China’s colonial ambitions were similar.

It would also relate to the fact that China has no real ability to project force in Africa. None whatsoever as a matter of fact, not even to a coastal country, certainly not to a landlocked nation like Zimbabwe.

  • Tamerlane