HARARE – China has extended US$2,5 billion in loans, investments and grants to Zimbabwe in the past few years, Beijing’s top diplomat in Harare said on Sunday. China’s Charge d’Affaires in Harare, Zhao Baogang, said at an event to mark Beijing’s spring festival that the US$2,5 billion was among the biggest such commitments in Africa, and reinforced the world’s second largest economy’s ambition to propel third world economies to stability.

Baogang is also China’s acting ambassador to Zimbabwe. He told reporters that China took its growing relations with Zimbabwe seriously, and would use its global influence to help the southern African country get out of sanctions imposed by western powers in 2002.

In the coming year, China and Zimbabwe would put into action bilateral relations, which were last year elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation-a vital signature of China’s commitment to work with a given country.

“Some US$2,5 billion of loans, investments and grants have been provided by the Chinese government, financial institutions and enterprises to Zimbabwe, (a) much larger share than most other African countries,” Baogang told reporters.

“(The) Kariba South expansion project has been completed, adding 300MW (megawatts) power generation capacity to the national grid. We have launched (the) ground-breaking ceremony for the Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Beijing in 2018. China says its investments and loans in Zimbabwe have grown to US$2,5 billion

We have launched the ground-breaking ceremony for the Robert Mugabe International Airport rehabilitation project. We have launched the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of (the) new Parliament building. Zimbabwe will have the capacity to export electricity to earn the much-needed hard currency very soon. The secrets and resources for Zimbabwe’s development can be found in China,” said the Chinese diplomat.

The US$553 million Kariba power plant expansion kicked off six years ago.

It was completed last year, in time to help Zimbabwe avert a deteriorating power crisis that had forced authorities to import about half of its electricity from the region to power its struggling industries.

Kariba Hydroelectric power plant

In June last year, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned the US$1 billion expansion and facelift of Hwange 7 and 8 power generation units, funded by the Chinese.

On completion, the units are expected to add 600MW to the power station and improve its capacity from the current 920MW.

The power deals represent several others signed between Beijing and Harare since 2005, when Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe turned to the east to spite western powers, which imposed sanctions following a spat over land reforms.

On Sunday, Baogang reinforced China’s stance against the embargo on Harare, and promised to fight in Zimbabwe’s corner.

Relations between Harare and Beijing have risen from obscurity to the development of multi-million projects in diamond and gold mining, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and other sectors.

Beijing has helped build from scratch a sprawling network of assets including a magnificent hotel on the fringes of Zimbabwe’s rich diamond reserves in the eastern city of Mutare, in addition to a top end shopping mall in Harare.

The Victoria Falls International Airport was expanded at a cost of US$150 million in 2016, while the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare is currently undergoing a US$153 million facelift.

Beijing and Harare have been at pains to portray their relationship as mutual.

But in Harare, many see China’s growing influence as a strategy to extract and export natural resources oil Beijing’s economy.

A South African Airways plane makes it maiden flight to Victoria Falls Airport in 2016. Victoria Falls International Airport was expanded with funding from China

Baogang said China’s role was to roll out strategies to help developing countries including Zimbabwe, to build economies.

“Great achievements have been made in China’s cooperation with other developing countries,” he said.

“At the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which attracted unprecedented participation, over 100 new cooperation measures under eight major initiatives were unveiled, with US$60 billion financing in place for African countries including Zimbabwe. In 2018, here Zimbabwe has gone through ups and downs and withstood the hardships. Every country has its own problems and headaches. No country has a smooth journey of national development and Rome was not built in a day. Let’s be patient and give the development a chance. China has strong confidence in the government and people of Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. It can be reflected in the Sunny Yi Feng Project built along the road to Norton with hundreds of local workers employed. Thousands of job opportunities will be created later. Here you have rich resources and talented young people. Zimbabwe will achieve development after unremitting efforts. Tomorrow will get better and better and better,” he said.

“In the coming years, China will import US$24 trillion worth of goods and invest US$750 billion in foreign countries. These figures speak volumes for the enormous business opportunities in China and the great potential for the China-Zimbabwe bilateral cooperation,” Baogang told reporters.E