Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Zimbabwe on Tuesday for a historic visit leading a strong business delegation in what Harare says is a confirmation that the country’s Look East policy is beginning to bear fruit.
The streets of Harare have been swept clean in anticipation of the historic visit by the Chinese leader.
Zimbabwean and Chinese national flags are fluttering along the city’s major roads with the pictures of presidents Robert Mugabe and Xi Jinping hoisted along the way as the nation prepares to receive a “fair weather friend”.
According to Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Joey Bimha, China and Zimbabwe will sign several deals worth millions of dollars in various sectors such as energy, transport, infrastructure development, construction, financing, culture, wildlife and agriculture.
Mr. Xi will be making his first state visit to Zimbabwe, which last hosted a Chinese Head of State in 1996.
China is already funding several multi-million dollar projects in Zimbabwe, including the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport, the upgrading of Harare’s water and sanitation system and the expansion of the Kariba South power station.
Speaking with CCTV, China’s 24-hour English language television channel, the Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Huang Ping, said Mr. Xi’s visit shows the Chinese president attaches great attention to the Sino-Zimbabwe relationship.
Political commentator, Takura Zhangazha, told Studio 7 Mr. Xi JinPing’s visit is evidence that Harare’s Look East policy is effective.
He said Mr. Xi is obviously coming to promote Chinese investments in Zimbabwe as well as safeguarding them.
Harare businesswoman, Tendai Anna Phiri, said the visit by the Chinese leader and Chinese business people will present business opportunities for the Zimbabweans, adding local entrepreneurs should be prepared to grab the opportunities.
Another Harare resident, Sheik Shaibu Asali, said attracting big global player like China is a plus for the Zimbabwean government and its people.
Former Zimbabwean Ambassador to China and war veterans’ leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa, said the visit by the Chinese president will put the spotlight on Zimbabwe as a country which can attract foreign direct investment.
He said China stood by Zimbabwe during tough times, especially the past decade when the West imposed sanctions against Harare with international financial institutions turning their back against Zimbabwe.
He said many Chinese companies had had invested in Zimbabwe over the past decade with more investment deals expected to be signed during Mr. Xi’s visit.
China’s interests in Zimbabwe vary from mining - with companies like Anjin and Jinan involved in diamond mining – the agriculture and retail among other interests.
Zimbabwe and China enjoy cordial relations which date back to the time of the liberation struggle when China provided war material and training for liberation fighters.
Analysts say Mr. Xi’s visit is endowed with an extra layer of significance as this year marks the 35th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations between Harare and Beijing.
Over the years, the Asian country became Zimbabwe’s key political and economic ally, preventing what Harare says was bullying of Zimbabwe by the West and blocking the imposition of sanctions by the United Nations where it is a permanent member of the Security Council.