What’s next for China in Zimbabwe — and the rest of Africa?


China on November 21 blamed ongoing speculation that China had something to do with the bloodless coup in Zimbabwe on a desire to “drive a wedge between China and Africa and to undermine China’s image,” calling the claims “complete nonsense, and purely fictitious,” the Guardian reports.

  • The Guardian quotes Ross Anthony, the director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, as saying “as far as I can tell [the Chinese are] not in the business of actively promoting coups.”
  • We agree that there is no credible evidence of China promoting the coup, though Beijing may have gotten a heads up about the plans from a Zimbabwean military delegation that visited Beijing in early November.
  • As Bloomberg notes, the expected successor to Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is “seen as more friendly to [foreign] investors” and even “proposed in 2015 to have the Chinese yuan as legal tender in inflation-prone Zimbabwe.”

Other ways China’s status in Africa is evolving:

  • China has in recent years been testing more active diplomacy in places such as oil-rich Sudan and South Sudan, bending a longstanding policy of “non-interference” in internal foreign affairs, the Financial Times reports (paywall).
  • A little-known Chinese cell phone company has come to dominate the African market, as Transsion is set to sell more than 100 million of its solidly-built and reasonably-priced models, the company’s founder tells (paywall) the FT.
  • China is expanding its role in peacekeeping operations on the continent, as it completed the registration and started the training of 8,000 troops for UN missions, SCMP reports.
  • China’s footprint in Djibouti goes far beyond its first overseas military base, where troops were deployed this summer and held drills two months ago. SCMP notes natural gas, railway, and airport projects whose sizes seem massive relative to the small coastal country’s economy, along with a free trade zone that started construction in January this year.
  • But many projects have stalled in civil war-torn South Sudan, Quartz reports, putting into jeopardy what Chinese officials call a “pilot case for Chinese diplomacy.”