Beijing leaves Mugabe out in the cold

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Credit: FILE - In this file photo taken on Aug. 25, 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shows Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe the way during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Under Robert Mugabe’s decades-long rule over Zimbabwe, China grew into one of its biggest investors, trading partners and diplomatic allies. Now, as the African nation appears on the verge of its first transition of power since independence, Beijing is poised to be among the biggest winners.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

After nearly 40 years of close relations between China’s leaders and Robert Mugabe, Beijing was strangely quiet as the drama surrounding the Zimbabwean dictator’s ouster unfolded last month. Writing for the New York Times Magazine (paywall), Brook Larmer looks at how this episode “shows how Beijing is learning to navigate, very carefully, through turbulent transitions in places where it has deep economic ties, sometimes decades old, and how countries bend to the arc of China’s gravity.”

  • Despite the ties forged from perceived similarities in China’s and Zimbabwe’s revolutionary pasts, Larmer describes how Beijing became incensed over Mugabe’s recent moves to limit foreign ownership of Zimbabwean companies.
  • That, along with concerns over political instability resulting from an uncertain succession, may have led Beijing to at least tacitly approve of Mugabe’s expulsion, which could be “regarded as the first coup d’état carried out with the tacit approval of the 21st century’s emerging superpower.”
  • Elsewhere around the world, America’s retreat continues to be played as an opportunity for China’s advance. The South China Morning Post reports on how China will assist Grenada with preparing a national development plan, 34 years after the U.S. invaded the Caribbean nation. And Newsweek considers how Chinese collaboration with Ukraine — a country “at the nexus of a spider’s web of geopolitical interests” — could ultimately pull Kiev closer to Moscow.