19 March 2018
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CHINA’S leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping called Robert Mugabe "an old friend of China" on Wednesday, as the Zimbabwean leader began an official state visit.

At a meeting between the two in Beijing, Mugabe – who attended his daughter’s graduation at Hong Kong’s City University on Tuesday – also said he appreciated China's support, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Calling Mugabe "an old friend of China", Xi, who is currently vice president, said Beijing wanted to co-operate further with Zimbabwe in "trade, agriculture, mining and infrastructure", the report said.

"China... supports Zimbabwe to explore its own development path in accordance with its national conditions," Xi – widely expected to take over from current President Hu Jintao in 2013 – was quoted as saying.

China has invested billions of dollars in Africa – including Zimbabwe – raising eyebrows in the West, but many African leaders have praised the rising Asian giant for not preaching about human rights and corruption.

Mugabe arrived in Hong Kong last Saturday, and attended his 22-year-old daughter Bona’s graduation with a degree in accounting on Tuesday. His delegation of about 20 people includes his wife, Grace, Foreign Affairs Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made.

China is not party to international sanctions on Mugabe, who is the subject of a Western travel ban and asset freeze.

During his meeting with Xi, the Zimbabwean President said he wanted to work more closely with China in agriculture, infrastructure and minerals, Xinhua said.

Zimbabwe – which has huge coal, gold, platinum and diamond deposits – suffered a decade of runaway prices and food shortages amid hyperinflation that saw people carry piles of cash in rucksacks to shop for ordinary groceries.

But the economy has stabilised after the government abandoned the worthless local currency in 2009, allowing trade in US dollars and other major foreign currencies.

A power-sharing government formed the same year by Mugabe and his opposition rivals has also brought stability to the economy, and eased political unrest that erupted during disputed 2008 polls.


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