Zimbabwe is an important ally to China and Beijing will seek to further strengthen ties, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said of a country isolated by the West under President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
Mugabe has been shunned by Western countries for the last decade over charges of human rights abuses and vote fraud and has looked to China to shore up a shattered economy by showcasing rich mineral resources which China covets.
“Zimbabwe is an important partner country in southern Africa,” Yang told journalists late on Thursday after his arrival in Zimbabwe for an official visit, Reuters reports.
“China is ready to work with Zimbabwe to further enhance political mutual trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation and steadily elevate our friendship and cooperation.”
A government minister told Reuters last month that the state-run China Development Bank could fund up to $10 billion in Chinese investment in Zimbabwe’s mining and agriculture sector.
But analysts say the announcement could be aimed at trying to prod wary Western investors into sinking more money into Zimbabwe out of fear they will lose ground to China.
A private weekly reported last week that Beijing had offered Zimbabwe $3 billion for vast platinum reserves but said the deal was likely to be rejected by the government over its terms.
Yang will meet unity government partners Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday.
He arrives at a time when political tension is rising in the troubled country after a spate of violence led to mutual accusations of blame between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.
“I am convinced that with concerted efforts from both sides, this visit will produce positive results and take China-Zimbabwe friendship and cooperative relations to a higher level,” Yang said.
Beijing is one of Mugabe’s few international allies. He and his inner circle have been subject to Western sanctions since his ZANU-PF party won re-election in 2000 after a violent campaign and began seizures of white-owned farms.
Zimbabwe, with an estimated $6 billion annual Gross Domestic Product, has the world’s second largest platinum reserves after South Africa.
Resource-hungry China, which has strong ties with ZANU-PF from the 1970s, has been steadily increasing its investments, which however lag behind what Beijing invests in neighbouring Mozambique, Zambia and Angola.
China’s exports to Zimbabwe, which has the world’s second largest platinum reserves, amounted to $159 million in 2010 while the southern African country exported $57 million worth of goods, according to official figures.