Sometimes you get judged by the company you keep, and if China is treally trying to clear up its image problem, Mugabe is the wrong one to be hanging out with.
Riot police turned an urban township into a ghost town yesterday, rounding up the last residents in defiance of a U.N. call to halt a demolition campaign that has left 700,000 without homes or jobs.
After emptying the Porta Farm township — where 30,000 people lived just days ago — earthmovers were seen lumbering into the area to finish clearing debris from destroyed homes, cabins and shacks as part of what the government calls Operation Drive Out Trash. Police armed with batons and riot shields barred aid workers and residents from entering.
The latest demolitions came as President Robert Mugabe paid a state visit to China, which is building a track record of willingness to do business with African leaders others shun.
In a meeting with the country’s No. 2 leader, Wu Bangguo, Mugabe paid tribute to China as a “great friend, historical friend, brotherly friend.”
Mugabe is confident China will use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to protect Zimbabwe from any censure following the U.N. report denouncing the campaign as a violation of international law, a state-owned Harare newspaper, the Herald, reported yesterday.
China, which has expanded business and diplomatic contacts in African trouble spots such as Congo and Sudan, has not joined Western condemnation of Zimbabwe’s human-rights record.
In fact, China has become a key source of loans and supplies for Zimbabwe. Most recently, Beijing agreed to a loan to expand a power station and supply a third Chinese-made MA60 commercial aircraft to Zimbabwe, state media in Beijing announced yesterday.
It’s almost as bad as freedom-loving Bush courting Uzbekistan and Pakistan. But at least in those cases Bush can hide behind a cloak of respectability, because, after all, we’re only cozying up with them because they’re helping with our so-called war on terror. In the case of China and Russia and Zimbabwe, it’s just about money, plain and simple, the people be damned.
The new PR team had better get a move on with those image ads.
Update: I see that Will has covered this already, very well.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.