China says 'friendly policy' toward Zimbabwe won't change

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Thursday its “friendly policy” toward Zimbabwe would not change, after the military said it had seized power and was holding President Robert Mugabe and his family safe while targeting “criminals”.

A street vendor reads a newspaper in central Harare, Zimbabwe, November 16,2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

China is paying close attention to the situation in Zimbabwe and hoped for stability and a peaceful, “appropriate” resolution, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

China’s cooperation with Zimbabwe was “all round” and benefited both peoples, he added.

“China’s friendly policy towards Zimbabwe won’t change. We will continue to develop friendly cooperation with Zimbabwe on an equal, mutually beneficial win-win cooperation principle,” Geng said, without elaborating.

Influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Thursday that Zimbabwe was unlikely to reverse its relations with China.

“Since Zimbabwe’s independence, there has been no anti-China faction in the country, and it is unlikely to appear in the future,” it said.

In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.

China and Zimbabwe have a close diplomatic and economic relationship and Beijing has stood with Mugabe’s government in the face of Western economic sanctions, investing in auto, diamond, tobacco and power-station projects.

BAIC Motor Corp Ltd 1958.HK, which has a joint venture making pick-up trucks in Zimbabwe, told Reuters there had been no impact on its operations.

Neither of two other Chinese companies - Tianze Tobacco and diamond mining Anjin Investments - responded to requests for comment on their operations in Zimbabwe.

In August, Zimbabwe’s government said a Chinese company planned to invest up to $2 billion to revive operations at Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO), which ceased production in 2008 at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown.

That same year, China vetoed a proposed Western-backed U.N. resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and 13 other officials, saying it would “complicate”, rather than ease, conflict.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Adam Jourdan and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Editing by Robert Birsel