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Zimbabwe Prime Minister Visits China for High-Stakes Meetings

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will Friday embark on his maiden trip to China since taking office in 2009, to engage authorities in high-stakes meetings over stalled projects in Harare funded by Beijing.

Tsvangirai’s week-long visit is at the invitation of the Chinese government. He will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao among others.

The trip has irked some officials in President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF who have launched on an all-out offensive accusing the prime minister of wasting tax payers money by taking with him 31 officials on a "sight seeing mission."

The Zanu PF-leaning Herald newspaper accused him of backtracking on his policy of snubbing China.

But Tsvangirai's spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said in a statement he was trying to kick-start several projects funded by the China Export and Import Bank in the fields of energy and water, among others that have stalled due to several reasons including “the country’s failure to service loans.”

The statement dismisses concerns Tsvangirai's entourage was bloated.

The prime minister and his Movement for Democratic Change party have previously criticized President Robert Mugabe for going on foreign junkets with unnecessarily huge delegations.

A member of the Tsvangirai delegation, Water Resources Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo said the visit was significant for infrastructural development in Zimbabwe.

Economist Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe said the trip would likely produce positive results.

Stung by Western sanctions over human rights violations, Zimbabwe was forced to turn to China and other Asian markets in the past ten years for investment under its so-called Look East Policy.