China-Zimbabwe Relations: A Model of China-Africa Relations?

There are two parallel interpretations of the relationship between China and Zimbabwe: on the one hand, it is often viewed as a microcosm of China–Africa relations due to its economic and resource elements; on the other, it is portrayed as an example of China’s support for a ‘pariah regime’ without any consideration of human rights and good governance. However, this paper argues that the China–Zimbabwe relationship is neither of these, but rather a possible model for China–Africa relations as a whole. Through a historical review, the paper looks at the current political, security and economic engagements between China and Zimbabwe, and concludes the following about their relationship: (1) it is unique in that it has a momentum driven by two elements, namely the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West and the re-engagement policy by China; (2) it is balanced internally among different pillars, especially the political and economic pillars; and (3) it has great potential to be a pioneer for China–Africa relations as a whole. However, it is important to point out the obstacles ahead, which calls for both parties to reverse the negatively motivated and balanced relationship to a positive one.