Different from US approach, China treats us on an equal footing: Zimbabwean foreign minister
Published: May 30, 2023 10:59 PM
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Zimbabwe Frederick Shava Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Zimbabwe Frederick Shava Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

"We seek to learn from the Chinese experience and China is willing to give us an equal footing. However, the American approach is totally different in that they mix it up with the 'human rights' and think we must be like them. But we cannot like them and we are not American," said Zimbabwean's Foreign Minister in an interview with the Global Times on Tuesday, while noting that Zimbabwe does not accept any forms of coercion.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Zimbabwe Frederick Shava also told the Global Times that cooperation in the communication field could be an important area of cooperation between China and Zimbabwe in the future and dismissed the so-called "security concern" that some Western countries and media outlets have hyped up.

"They worry because maybe they compete in a different sense. We worry more about collaboration. We just want to collaborate and benefit from the technologies that are being used in these communications," he told the Global Times.

Shava is now on a trip to China. On Tuesday, he participated in the Zimbabwe-China Business Forum which runs from Tuesday to Thursday in Beijing. Shava once served as the Zimbabwe ambassador to China from 2007 to 2014.

On Monday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang held talks with Shava in Beijing, calling for bilateral ties to be developed further.

Qin noted that China and Zimbabwe have been good friends and partners that trust and support each other since the two countries established diplomatic relationship more than 40 years ago. He said that China stands ready to work with Zimbabwe to implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, pursue mutual support on issues concerning each other's core interests, and promote the continued development of China-Zimbabwe relations.

China will tap the potential of cooperation with Zimbabwe in fields such as investment, trade, energy and mineral resources, and clean energy and human resources development, and will continue to encourage Chinese enterprises to invest in Zimbabwe, he said.

During the interview, Shava stressed that the country's relationship with China is based on mutual respect, solidarity, and a very brilliant past in which China supported the liberation of Zimbabwe during the country's struggle for independence.

"It is on this basis that we are able to consolidate relations on a win-win basis. We relate to each other. We seek to learn from the Chinese experience. They [China] are willing to give us [what we need] on an equal footing. So this is the situation, the American approach is totally different. They mix it up with the whole aspect of human rights. And they think that we must be like them. We cannot be like them. We are not American. They are American. When we read, we relate to each other. We want to relate on issues that we both respect and agree upon. There is no  horse-and-rider situation that we will be tolerated in Zimbabwe," he told the Global Times.

Cooperation between the two countries dates back to Zimbabwe's pre-colonial era, when China strongly supported Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. Since then, Zimbabwe and China have supported each other and enhanced mutual political trust. The two countries' relationship is brotherly and was further elevated to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2018, he said.

During his trip to Beijing, Shava also managed to find time to visit the Museum of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to learn from China's development. During the visit, he paid special attention to the past century of the CPC and the development of Chinese society.

He told the Global Times that what impressed him is that China has developed tremendously and China has the understanding that when they improve themselves to one stage, they engage in consolidation on that stage and then move toward the next stage. This is also the thing, according to him, that Zimbabwe wants to do.

"We want to understand where we are, and we want to improve ourselves with time and collaboration, with other systems and improve our situation if we can leapfrog, because it is easier to use the experiences of China, for example, to get to the next stage, say in ICT [Information and Communications Technology] and in other services that China is extremely good at. And then we will have the advantage of friendship to leap from some of those stages and go to the next stage," he told the Global Times.

He also praised the spirit of focus that China demonstrates when doing projects and said focus is also an important thing that they are trying to do.

At Tuesday's economic forum, Shava also acknowledged the presence of the Chinese private sector in Zimbabwe.

According to him, measures to positively reform the investment climate and the business operating environment have been undertaken, with the intention of ensuring that Zimbabwe becomes a prime investment destination. Their expectation is that this shall contribute to the attainment of the National Vision of becoming an Upper Middle Income Society by the year 2030.

Bilateral trade between China and Zimbabwe has continued to expand. In 2022, Zimbabwe imported goods worth $1.125 billion from China, including machinery, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and vehicles, among others. During the same period, China imported products worth $1.3 billion from Zimbabwe, including tobacco, iron and steel, fruits, leather and leather products, ferro-alloys, and chromium ore.

"China is undoubtedly becoming one of Zimbabwe's top export destinations as it is currently the third-largest importer of Zimbabwean goods. Potential for increased trade volumes with China still exists," Shava noted at the forum.

As this year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that China proposed, Shava said the initiative is greatly appreciated and he listed a number of important projects that has been undertaken under the BRI that benefit the involved African countries.

He dismissed the so-called "debt trap" rhetoric that some Western media sources like to hype to smear the BRI. He said that they invite Chinese investment into Zimbabwe on the basis of win-win cooperation. Both China and Zimbabwe benefit financially from the same investor.

At Tuesday's economic forum, Zhou Ping, deputy director-general of the Department of African Affairs at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a speech, that the cooperation between China and Zimbabwe in a range of fields is the vivid demonstration of practical cooperation between the two countries.

China's fruits of modernization are open to the world. China will continue to advance into the future through high-level opening-up, which will surely provide new development opportunities for Zimbabwe and other African countries, he noted.