Though Zimbabwe's power-sharing government has been re-engaging the West since its formation one year ago, President Robert Mugabe’s "Look East" policy is still active in light of the birthday party the Chinese Embassy in Harare organized for the 86-year old leader Sunday signaling continued support for him.
Harare and Beijing have enjoyed cordial relations going back to the 1970s when China helped Mr. Mugabe and other liberation leaders throw off colonial rule.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said more than 100 guests attended the party for Mr. Mugabe at the Chinese Embassy. Chinese officials later released photos of Mr. Mugabe cutting a birthday cake.
Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, better known as ZANU-PF, will hold its own festivities honoring the president on Saturday in Bulawayo at an estimated cost of US$500,000.
As in previous years, critics of such mass celebrations have complained that the money could be put to much better use – for instance to feed hungry Zimbabweans. ZANU-PF has responded saying the money is coming from the party purse, not government coffers.
Bulawayo-based political analyst Qhubani Moyo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the party at the Chinese Embassy shows that Beijing still stands behind Mr. Mugabe.