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Mugabe hailed as renowned leader by China's Xi Jinping

by Staff reporter
25 Aug 2014 at 22:00hrs | 2391 Views
Beijing - China's President Xi Jinping on Monday hailed Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe as a renowned African liberation leader and an "old friend" of the Chinese people.

The former guerrilla turned Africa's longest-ruling leader, now 90, was on his 13th trip to China, seeking more Chinese investment into Zimbabwe.

"The traditional friendship between China and Zimbabwe was forged in the glorious years when we stood shoulder to shoulder against imperialism, colonialism and hegemony," Xi told Mugabe at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"The Chinese people value friendship and we will never forget those good friends and good brothers who have shown mutual understanding and support vis-a-vis China and who have come through thick and thin with us."

The comments by the head of the world's second-largest economy were unusually effusive compared to the usual Chinese diplomatic formality.

He also called the Zimbabwean president a "renowned leader of the African national liberation movement" and "an old friend of the Chinese people whom we respect very much".

Mugabe said he felt "very much at home", thanking Xi for the invitation which reminded him of the past and "brings our past to the present".

Zimbabwe's relations with China and the Chinese Communist Party date back to the liberation struggle of the 1970s, when Beijing provided arms and trained some of the top guerrilla leaders.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan greeted Mugabe and his wife Grace with full military honours, with a band playing the two countries' national anthems as a 21-gun salute was fired and the two presidents inspected a military honour guard.

Sunday Mail newspaper at the weekend quoted Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba as saying the five-day state visit was "largely looking for investment of an infrastructure nature", with the focus on energy and transport.

The two leaders watched as officials signed nine agreements, including some on loans and food donations, but no values were given.

Zhang Ming, vice foreign minister for African affairs, said Xi and Mugabe stressed expanding and improving relations and also discussed broader African and international issues.

"Economically the two sides should continue to seek mutual benefit and common development and be good partners in this regard," Zhang told reporters.

'Look east'

In the face of Western opprobrium Mugabe adopted a "look east" policy, forging new ties and buttressing existing ones with east Asian countries including China.

Beijing's diplomatic and economic footprint across Africa has expanded hugely in recent years, as it seeks resources to power its economy. It dismisses concerns over rights abuses, arguing that it does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs.

China invested more in non-financial sectors in Zimbabwe than in any other country on the continent last year, exceeding $602m, the official Xinhua news agency cited Chinese government figures as saying.

Chinese companies are active in mining, construction, telecommunications and agriculture.

At least two China-linked firms, Anjin Investments and Jinan Mining, have operated concessions at Zimbabwe's hugely valuable Marange diamond fields.

Chinese companies also have interests in platinum and chrome mining.

Besides meeting Xi, Mugabe's visit includes talks on Tuesday with Premier Li Keqiang. He is also scheduled to visit Xian and Guangzhou.

As well as his wife, Mugabe is accompanied by the ministers for agriculture, tourism, industry and commerce, and finance and economic development, Xinhua reported.

Mugabe is currently chair of the Southern African Development Community, and is also in line to lead the 54-nation African Union from next year.

Source - Mugabe,China
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