The fall of Robert Mugabe has dominated the global coverage of Africa in recent weeks. In the Western coverage of the first week after the coup in Zimbabwe there was speculation about what China knew beforehand and whether Beijing played an active role in pushing for it.
The mention of China stifles other notable external actors such as the United Kingdom and the USA. UU , South Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU). And it almost threatened to eclipse the domestic dynamics that led to the change.
There are reasons to draw a direct parallel between China and recent events in Zimbabwe. The most obvious is the fact that the army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, visited Beijing shortly before the tanks arrived in Harare. The moment of the visit was certainly striking. It led to speculation that Beijing was informed in advance of the coming coup. There were also rumors that other external stakeholders, especially South Africa, had been informed.
But some coverage underestimated the distinction between knowing that the coup was underway and actively lobbying for it. In some reports, China was accused of encouraging regime change. The reason is that relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years due to Beijing's concerns about loan repayments. There was also the issue of Chinese investments in the face of a Harare indigenization campaign.
Western fixation on a possible Chinese exchange rate scheme discounts African agency. A decrease in the "special friendship" between Mugabe and China is well documented. It is a relationship that goes back to the time of Mao and also involves Emmerson Mnangagwa, now president, who received military training in China. But simply by jumping from these facts to the implication that China actively lobbied or orchestrated the fall of Mugabe, it omits some important facts.
The conspiracy theorists
First, China has vigorously denied any involvement in the change of government. It is worth noting this, although it is unlikely to convince those who seek a conspiracy.
More fundamentally, there is little evidence that China in the post-Mao era drives regime change in Africa. This includes countries in which it has larger economic interests than in Zimbabwe, and where these are in much greater danger than in Zimbabwe. South Sudan is an example.
For all of Mugabe's many crimes, Zimbabwe during his reign was relatively stable and predictable. No matter how cold the relationship between Harare and Beijing has become, Zimbabwe seems to be an unlikely candidate for such a big change in tactics. This is especially true after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, an event that pushed China even further away from support for interventionism.
Second, as the young Zimbabwean scholar Innocent Mutanga argued, the Western fixation on a possible The plot of Chinese regime change has the effect of discounting the African agency. This is doubly problematic because it also wastes the ability of African governing bodies, such as SADC, to enforce rules in their own backyard.
In fact, the careful choreography that accompanied the overthrow of Mugabe clearly aimed at appeasing the AU. The objective was to avoid any invocation of the mandatory suspension of the UA of the unconstitutional changes in the government. This was such an important concern for the Mnangagwa faction as to appease the interests of external powers.
The panorama is missing
The argument of regime change loses a broader point: that Chiwenga's visit can be interpreted as a sign of China's new role on the global stage. The fact that China was probably previously informed about the coup in fact makes clear its changing geopolitical position. Receiving a prior warning shows that China is gaining recognition along with the US. UU And the United Kingdom as a great power in its own right.
China is gaining recognition along with the US UU And the United Kingdom as a great power in its own right. This perspective should lead us to focus on the details of Chinese investments in Zimbabwe, not because they can point to direct Chinese participation in Mugabe's downfall, but because they raise questions about how various Chinese actors interact with anti-liberal governments throughout the country. global south.
Since 2006, the relationship between China and Zimbabwe has been rooted in collusion between the military and party elites on both sides. This led prominent Chinese companies to lucrative mining contracts in collaboration with companies owned by the Zimbabwean army. One of those Chinese companies is the arms manufacturer Norinco. President Mnangagwa and the possible Vice President Chiwenga have been enriched through joint agreements.
In addition, large loan packages have been followed and possible investments in infrastructure have been made, expanding ties between sectors and society.
driven by the fall of Mugabe tends to assume that the China-Africa relationship is a unique and isolated phenomenon. We argue that the situation in Zimbabwe requires a broader look at how several Chinese actors act globally.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has begun to press more explicitly for the status of great power, and for a leading position in world politics. The events in Zimbabwe strongly suggest that it is time for the world – and particularly Africa – to begin to reflect on this new role and focus on what kind of global power China will be.
This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article.
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