Zimbabwe and China have signed deals worth £700 million since the beginning of the year, ChangeZimbabwe has established.
President Robert Mugabe has increasingly turned to the Chinese for a mixture of trade and investment deals cemented with barter deals as Zimbabwe has no hard currency, thanks to crippled agricultural and mining sectors.
In some deals land has been offered while in others mineral rights have been used, drawing sharp criticism from the opposition which says Mugabe is mortgaging the wealth of future generations for current expediency.
Some analysts have said the Chinese are accepting the deals well-knowing that Zimbabwe has no currency or wherewithal to pay for the Chinese technology, simply as a way of acquiring another geopolitical foothold on the African continent.
Official sources from the Chinese embassy said that Zimbabwe and its Asian ally had signed mining and energy deals worth 700 million pounds but could not disclose the breakdown of the economic agreements signed between the two countries.
"To date 700 million British sterling worth of deals have been signed between our nations, but I require clearance from the ambassador to show you the list of our Chinese companies profile in Zimbabwe and their business interests," said the source.
In June, China gave Zimbabwe's economy a lifeline with energy and mining deals, including the construction of three coal-fired thermal power stations to aid the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) which has been forced into load shedding due to a massive power deficit as a result of a cut in supply by South Africa and the DRC.
All parts of the capital are everyday at some point in the day in darkness, with people in high and low density suburbs cooking with firewood and paraffin stoves. In the smaller towns it can be the whole day without electricity.
Harare recently signed another agreement with Beijing during Vice President Joyce Mujuru's business trip, which will see a joint venture between Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and China's Star Communications to mine chrome, with funding from the China Development Bank.
Zimbabwe also plans to import Chinese equipment for telecommunications, roads, irrigation and farming. Government already relies on China for aircraft and weapons in the face of weapons sanctions for the West. Chinese equipment is also being used to jam democratic radio broadcasts into Zimbabwe and would be used to eavesdrop on e-mail and telephonic communication once the Bill allowing this has been passed in captive Parliament that rubberstamps Mugabe’s decisions.
There has been an influx of Chinese investors into country since the adoption of the Look East Policy by government. However, analysts say the so-called Asian investors are dumping cheap substandard products and crowding out local infant industries.
The effects of the deals signed, many of them under National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP), are still to be seen. NEDPP aimed to raise US$2.5 billion and the Reserve Bank Governor indicated in his monetary policy that the amount had been raised through cash and capital investment deals.
According to Chinese trade statistics, China's trade with Africa surged by 39% to £17bn in the first 10 months of 2005.