Since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain exactly 41 years ago, there has been a steady growth of relations between the country and China.
As Zimbabwe celebrated Independence Day on April 18, the historical ties between the two countries that span back from the 1960s during Zimbabwe’s struggle against colonial rule are at an all-time high.
This year’s Independence Day comes at a time when Zimbabwe is battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its fight against the global pandemic, China has been at the forefront of assisting Zimbabwe through the provision of anti-epidemic materials, and more recently, with COVID-19 vaccines.
Despite facing the enormous task of fighting the contagious virus back home, China stood firmly with Zimbabwe since the pandemic’s onset last March.
With China’s assistance, Zimbabwe became one of the first African countries to roll out a successful inoculation program with vaccines donated by the Chinese government.
Christopher Mutsvangwa, a senior member of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party and former ambassador to China, said China has always stood firmly with Zimbabwe during times of distress.
“So we are very grateful, first, it was PPEs, by China. Now, it is of course the vaccination. We hope that very soon our people will have herd immunity, and the economy can get back to work,” said Mutsvangwa recently.
The former diplomat commended China for making the vaccine a global public good during times of competition for vaccines.
Prominent Zimbabwean sculptor Dominic Benhura thanked China for availing of vaccines to Zimbabwe.
“China has been our all-weather friend. That also made me very confident to take their jab because during our liberation war they helped us militarily, in training, with equipment and everything, so whenever Zimbabwe is in trouble China always comes to help us,” he told Xinhua.
Zimbabwe launched its nationwide vaccination campaign on Feb. 18 with Sinopharm vaccines donated by China.
To date, more than 270,000 people have been vaccinated, making Zimbabwe one of the countries with the highest vaccination rate in Africa.
The southern African country of 14.5 million is targeting to inoculate 10 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity.
China’s partnership with Zimbabwe began with its support for the country’s liberation struggle.
The relationship further strengthened during the early 2000s when the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe following its land reform program that aimed at addressing colonial land ownership imbalances.
In response to increased economic isolation and capital flight, former President Robert Mugabe in 2003 adopted the Look East policy.
The policy pivoted Zimbabwe economically towards the Asia-Pacific region, with an emphasis on closer trade relations with China.
Since that time, China has taken a leading role in modernizing Zimbabwe’s agriculture, telecommunication and mining sectors.
Cooperation in other fields such as education, science, culture, and health has also made significant progress.
Donald Rushambwa, a researcher at Harare-based China-Africa Economic and Culture Exchange Research Center, said China has always stood by Zimbabwe during trying times — from the liberation struggle, during the period of capital flight following the imposition of sanctions, and the pandemic.
“Those were some of the crucial times that Zimbabwe needed help and China came to our aid, it then shows that it’s a symbolic relationship and China stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe in these times,” he told Xinhua.
Rushambwa said China’s ties with Zimbabwe stretches beyond economic aspects.
“So it goes on to show the good gesture that for China and Zimbabwe, it’s not all about the economic trade between the two countries, but it is also about developing each other and complementing each other through policies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, many aspects are brought about for the win-win cooperation between China and Zimbabwe,” Rushambwa said.
He said in face of the global pandemic, China has once again demonstrated that it attaches great importance to its relationship with Zimbabwe.
China went further than providing material assistance to Zimbabwe during the pandemic. Apart from sharing its anti-epidemic experience, it also dispatched a team of medical doctors to share their experience in fighting the pandemic with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
The Zimbabwean government took a leaf from China’s anti-epidemic approach and adopted stringent measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.
In a spirit of solidarity, Chinese private corporations in Zimbabwe have also complemented the Chinese government in providing anti-epidemic support to Zimbabwe.