Look East


Farming region map of Zimbabwe woven with a communications map of China, black thread

Image size: 77 x 88cm

Framed size: 90 x 98.6 x 4.5cm

JOHANNESBURG: His new 25-bedroom palace is covered with midnight-blue Chinese roof tiles. His air force trains on Chinese jets. His subjects wear Chinese shoes, ride Chinese buses and, lately, zip around the country in Chinese propjets. He has even urged his countrymen to learn Mandarin and nurture a taste for Chinese cuisine.

That President Robert Mugabe rules Zimbabwe is irrelevant. Tightening his embrace of all things Chinese, the 81-year-old Mugabe, Zimbabwe's canny autocrat for 25 years, arrived in Beijing on Saturday for six days of talks with China's leaders, led by President Hu Jintao.

Shunned by Western leaders and investors for his government's human rights policies, Zimbabwe has begun a determined campaign to hitch its plummeting fortunes to China's rising star.

Mugabe calls the policy "Look East" and has relentlessly promoted it as another way to thumb Zimbabwe's nose at its old colonial ruler, Britain, and Britain's allies, like the United States. The sheer intensity of the pro-China drive has stirred resentment among average Zimbabweans and raised eyebrows among the elite, some of whom question whether Mugabe is simply replacing British political domination with a more up-to-date Asian economic rule.

Students at all Zimbabwean universities will later this year be required to learn to speak and write Chinese, Zimbabwe's education minister has announced. The decision is part of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe's offensive to promote his "Look East" policy, minister Stan Mudenge said. There was a "compelling need" to bring the peoples of the two countries together, Mudenge was quoted as saying by the Johannesburg daily, The Star.

HOWZIT CHINA is a local expression for greeting a friend. "China" comes from the cockney rhyming slang "china plate" which means "mate".

2006 All rights reserved. Origination by Di Conradie.