THE recent veto against the UN targeted sanctions on the key people in President Mugabeâ€™s regime by China and Russia despite a deluge of international condemnation of Zimbabweâ€™s human rights violations before and after the run off must certainly be a cause of worry for all those who are working for substantive political change in Zimbabwe and other troubled spots in Africa.
While China played a critical role in supporting African decolonisation struggles such as in Zimbabwe itself, its current laissez-faire policy in Africaâ€™s post-independence struggles for democracy certainly raises more questions than answers about the countryâ€™s moral and ethical commitment to Africaâ€™s sustainable socio-economic and political development.
Chinaâ€™s Africa policy â€“â€“ a document that describes the framework of its trade with Africa espoused by the communist government in January 2006 â€“â€“ shows that Chinaâ€™s relationship with Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, is fraught with not only some head-swaying contradictions, but also a serious ethical and moral vacuum that exposes China to be shrewd, selfish, calculating, greedy and primitive because it prioritises its economic and political interests over ordinary peopleâ€™s human rights in its dealings with African countries.
For example, regardless of Zimbabweâ€™s international isolation due to its human rights abuses, China continues to be Zimbabweâ€™s biggest investor strategically positioning itself to exploit our valuable natural resources to develop its ever burgeoning economy at the expense of the basic freedoms and entitlements of the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe.
According to the Jamestown Foundation, a leading source of information about the inner workings of closed totalitarian societies, since the Zimbabwean crisis began in 2000, Chinese firms such as China International Water and Electric, National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (Catic) and North Industries Corporation (Norinco) have clinched mouth-watering deals in mining, aviation, agriculture, defence and other sectors in an avowed all weather friendship with Mugabeâ€™s regime. While some critics argue that Chinaâ€™s relentless support for Zimbabwe in the Security Council is based on the close historical ties dating back to the struggle for independence, it is now crystal clear to everybody that China has always pursued self-serving policies that are solely based on its economic and political considerations. If indeed â€“â€“ as the available evidence seems to suggest â€“â€“ Chinaâ€™s current policy position in Zimbabwe is primarily motivated by its economic greed, then Zimbabweans will have no reason not to believe the growing suspicion that the support for the liberation struggle in the seventies was simply based on Chinaâ€™s need to spread communism and create geopolitical alliances in the cold war and halt the spread of free market and liberal principles across Africa. The fact that ethics therefore may have played no part presents China as an opportunistic power whose development can be directly linked to the tears, pain and in some cases, blood of African men, women and children.
Chinaâ€™s cold war geopolitical manoeuvres in Africa would certainly not only explain why, for example, Mugabe pursued a one-party state policy immediately after independence, but also why China itself continues to ignore pertinent issues of human rights, good governance and accountability which it fallaciously believes to be a property of the West â€“â€“ a logic that unwittingly condescends on the struggles for independence and justice by Africans in general and Zimbabweans in particular. China must know that the quest for human rights and democracy in Africa did not start with the spread of neo-liberal values in the nineties, but that human rights, no matter how differently articulated by Africans, have always informed African struggles for justice since the cradle of African resistance.
While Wang Guangya, the Chinese UN ambassador, used a seemingly plausible excuse that it was improper to slap sanctions on Mugabe and his aristocratic clique in Harare while Sadc negotiations were still going on in South Africa, this position does not explain why China has always supported autocratic regimes in Africa whose legitimacy is based on nothing but rivers of blood of innocent citizens.
For example, Chinaâ€™s non-interference policy in Darfur, where according to the UN and Amnesty International reports, more than 200 000 people have been killed, countless numbers raped and tortured, and 2,5 million displaced, does not only expose Chinaâ€™s insensitivity to the plight of the black people living in the southern parts of Sudan, but also smacks of a downright racist attitude by China whose Africa policy falsely pledges support for
peace and development for the African continent.
In the midst of a what others have dubbed a genocide in Darfur, China continues to be not only the biggest importer of Sudanâ€™s oil (importing about 80% of the precious liquid), but also to illegally deliver weapons that include ammunition, tanks, helicopters and fighter aircraft that, according to the UN, the Arab government has allegedly used to bomb and massacre poor and defenceless black people living in grass huts.
True African democrats would surely wonder how on earth China thinks it can support and bring about development, peace and stability in Africa when it works tirelessly to defend pariah states and blood gobbling regimes such as the Sudanese and Zimbabwean regimes in the UN Security Council. Given the shaky Sadc negotiations and Chinaâ€™s selfish and unconditional support for Zimbabwe, it is not surprising that the words of the British UN Ambassador John Sawers that the Chinese and Russian vote on Friday was “deeply damaging to the long-term interests of Zimbabweâ€™s people … (and to) prospects for bringing an early end toâ€¦the oppression in Zimbabwe” captured the imagination of most Zimbabweans who yearn for the restoration of the political and economic rights.
Yet itâ€™s not about whether UN sanctions would work in Zimbabwe or have worked in Sudan, but that Chinaâ€™s African trade must be predicated on ethical and moral principles and trade preconditions that motivate African governments to open up and democratise because history attests to the fact that democracy is a basis of all sustainable and enduring development all over the world. The Darfur example and the recent daring
attempt by China to deliver weapons and ammunition to the Zimbabwean government in the midst of an election crisis in March show that if no quick measures are taken, the Chinese would give a helping hand to Mugabe to plunge Zimbabwe into a civil war regardless of the moral responsibility implied in Chinaâ€™s status as a voting member of the Security Council.
As long as Chinese state companies continue to harvest profits in Harare and Khartoum and sell their shares on the New York and London stock markets, then the fight for democracy by the ordinary people in Zimbabwe and other countries like Sudan continues to be peripheral to China. Given this uncritical and immoral stance on the violation of human rights by China, perhaps the time has come for Zimbabweans and all conscientious Africans to see China as part of the problem that calls for political action in their legitimate quests for democracy on the continent.
African civic groups need to start mobilising people to confront the Chinese government by demonstrating at the doors of its diplomatic missions in different parts of the world to protest against its activities in Zimbabwe and Darfur. The people of Africa must not allow China to claim that it will always maintain a policy of non-interference and the respect for sovereignty of African countries, yet be more than ready not only to illegally export weapons to African dictorships, but also use its veto power in the Security Council to block any punishment intended for those who commit crimes against humanity.
In the face of the cosmetic criticism by most of the African countries on the complicit actions of the Zimbabwe, Sudanese and Chinese governments, ordinary peopleâ€™s hopes in Zimbabwe and Darfur must now lie with international civil society and their national NGOs and pressure groups to force China to review its Africa policy and stop viewing Africa as an unoccupied continent in space run by wealth dispensing vampires. It must be impressed on China that Africans are not less deserving of the human rights enjoyed by its own citizens.
By Last Moyo
Dr Moyo writes from Wales, UK. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org