The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Zimbabwe takes note of a “Civil Society Statement on Chinese Investments in Zimbabwe” released on 20 January 2022.
The Embassy values constructive dialogue with the general public to gather more opinions and promote mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries and their businesses.
However, we are not confident the groups bundled together behind this statement can represent the civil society as they claim. The homogeneity of their political backgrounds and values is quite dubious; and we challenge how many Zimbabweans would identify themselves as members or followers of these groups or subscribe to the opinions that they claim to be those of the whole civil society.
Suffice to say that they are significantly outnumbered by the Zimbabwean employees working in companies established with Chinese investment and outnumbered by the ordinary Zimbabwean citizens who are benefiting from China-Zimbabwe cooperation, projects aided by China and numerous donations made by local Chinese businesses.
The statement goes to great lengths to paint a veneer of neutrality and good-will over its utterances by claiming it is “not meant to defame China or trigger xenophobic resentment towards Chinese national in Zimbabwe” and that it seeks “fair and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries”. Yet this facade soon collapses under the catalogue of unprofessional and emotionally charged expressions, hasty generalizations and even falsehoods.
For instance, “displacements” is not a neutral legal term. In many countries relocation of some houses is an unavoidable situation in mining operations and shall be carried out in accordance with the law. Only illegal relocation or practices that break the relocation agreement should be condemned.
The Embassy takes note that Anjin Investments (Private) limited, the company accused of breaking relocation agreement, has exposed the untruthfulness of the charges by laying out a number detailed facts in a statement on 21 January. We appreciate such professionalism and professional practices.
The assertion that most Chinese companies operate without requisite licensing is not factual. The statement has no figures to support such an argument except for an unverified individual case. Deliberately forcing connections between private sector practices and China’s state policy towards Africa at the end of the statement stinks of a hideous agenda from groups that make a living from political advocacy.
The statement emphasizes in particular that they are filing accusations against Chinese investments WITHOUT any external influence. Frankly, this claim is as superfluous as painting feet on a snake. Their accusations, if they have any confidence in them, will remain true even if the accusers are influenced, taught, paid or ordered by external forces.
The overwhelming majority of Chinese companies in Zimbabwe are law-abiding, conscientious corporate citizens. We take exception to the attempt to pounce on questions arising from interactions to which a Chinese company is only one party out of several and stretch the questions to indict the entire Chinese business community and even China’s policy towards Africa.
How can a few unsubstantiated stories be used to negate China’s real, enormous contribution to the development of Zimbabwe and Africa and the improvement of well-being of their ordinary citizens? It is no better than claiming a pitch dark sky when all is clear and blue except for a few gray clouds.
What is most sad about the statement is that it ignores the wolf in the room that is truly threatening the lives of local people. That is the sanctions. For many years, Zimbabwean businesses and foreign investors here have had to bear with nightmarish international banking services. The draconian reviews, frustratingly long waits, and real risk of seizure and freeze is far from ideal for minimal business dealings, let alone expansion or growth.
This concoction of nebulous language slanting against Chinese investments, one-sided arguments, unqualified assertions, and fake stories smells of a recipe frequently used to stir up xenophobic sentiments. This is organized political manipulation.
Contrary to the claim that China and Chinese companies have no regard for the local ordinary citizens, the Chinese government, Chinese state-owned and private businesses have been making great contributions to the improvement of local people’s livelihood.
What do the groups say to those drawing water from 1,000 boreholes drilled by Chinese engineers with Chinese government aid? What do they say to those spared from critical conditions by taking Covid-19 vaccines donated by China and adding up to 12 million doses in this year? What do they say to those tobacco growers who are seeing good incomes by working with their Chinese partners? Were it not for China’s funding support and the work of Chinese companies in ICT and power generation, even the statement in question would perhaps have to be scribbled down on a piece of paper, in a candle-lit room, and never find its way onto a functioning Internet.
Over decades, when Zimbabwe was shunned by investors from many other countries due to the choking illegal sanctions, China is one of a few countries to have stood with the nation. Chinese companies bring financial resources, local jobs, technology, skills and tax revenues. Chinese workers sweat side by side with their local colleagues. Chinese reach out to local communities to uplift lives.
We are well aware China’s position and practice of opposing illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe and non-interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs make some political forces very unhappy and anxious. This is the underlying reason behind their attack and stigmatization of China, Chinese enterprises, and Chinese citizens in this country. However, we are determined to continue to work in this way to make them unhappy and anxious.
Where there are differences, the best course of action is to bring the case to the court of law, not through xenophobic manipulation. The latter approach buries and twists facts and does not deliver fair judgments. Dragging Chinese investors into political sideshows or making them victims of domestic political vendetta hurts only the people of Zimbabwe and the development of the country as a whole. It is a way of extending sanctions by trying to force Chinese investment out of the country to make Zimbabwe more vulnerable.
Supervision over compliance with the legislation is also important. We firmly support the Government in Zimbabwe in developing a robust legal and regulatory framework to ensure lawful practices by all foreign investors in Zimbabwe. The Embassy has proposed multiple times for the Government of Zimbabwe to establish a compliance monitoring mechanism in all Zimbabwean and foreign mining companies to ensure better compliance.
We welcome any laws and policies that can increase transparency in all local and foreign companies, including better information access to their contracts, taxes and beneficial ownership. However, we firmly oppose imposing this requirement only on Chinese companies as advocated in the statement. This is typical discrimination and xenophobia against Chinese citizens.
Sincere friendship and equality, win-win for mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice, openness and inclusiveness–these are the defining principles in China’s policy towards Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa. Mistaken are the groups in insinuating that Chinese companies aspire for dominance in Zimbabwe’s economic sectors.
Both the Chinese government and business community welcome above board, fair competition. Anyone who is genuine about helping Zimbabwe succeed should feel free the join the race. Let’s see who can really exert themselves for ordinary Zimbabweans to have a better life. Let’s compete for the title of top contributor to the Zimbabwean economy and the well-being of Zimbabwean people. The invitation stands.