China’s defence minister Chang Wanquan yesterday arrived in Zimbabwe as part of a goodwill visit to both Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Zhuang Kezhu, deputy commander of the Beijing Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and commander of the air force of the PLA Beijing MAC, and Liu Mingli, deputy political commissar of the PLA Guangzhou MAC and political commissar of the South China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy, accompanied Chang on the visit.
Wanquan said he came was in Zimbabwe to ensure the agreements signed between the two countries came to fruition, reports The Herald. “China attaches importance to the relations with Zimbabwe and considers Zimbabwe a good friend, good partner, and good brother,” he said. “My country is willing to strengthen mutual political trust, broaden mutually-beneficial co-operation and boost friendly co-operation.”
Wanquan visited the National Defence College, which was built with Chinese assistance and a $98 million loan. “The establishment of the National Defence College is another milestone of Zimbabwe-China relationship. Be assured that the Chinese people will do everything to assist Zimbabwe.”
Last year President Robert Mugabe visited China and signed deals involving infrastructure, agriculture and power generation, amongst other things.
In February last year the PLA donated $4.2 million to fund various military projects which include the developmental, training and equipment acquisition needs of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).
The defence and diplomatic relationship between the two countries has grown in bounds since 2000 when Mugabe’s government fell out with its traditional Western supporters over the controversial land seizure programme and adopted a ‘Look East Policy’ which provides for preferential diplomatic relations with China, East European and Asian nations.
Since then, China has donated and sold military equipment which includes Karakorum K-8 jets, Harbin Z-9 helicopters, tanks, troop carriers, ground-based military radar systems, aerial defence systems, small arms, ammunition and police equipment.
The Chinese government also provided $98 million to fund the construction of the National Defence College, which was completed last year and now serves as a regional training centre for military officers.
The ZDF’s partnership with the PLA also extends into diamond mining, coal mining, rare earth mining and power generation.