China has reportedly said that it has “no plans to seize any Zimbabwean assets” despite the country failing to settle debt arrears.
According to the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, this came as China tried to downplay and reject “the oft-repeated charge that it is building a colonial empire in Africa in the same way European powers did in the 19th century”.
The report quoted a senior diplomat from the Chinese embassy in Harare as saying that the Asian powerhouse’s loan deals did not involve host countries mortgaging their resources to China.
He said the claims were being spread by the West as it feared China’s involvement in Africa and elsewhere.
“In the case of Zimbabwe, there is no mortgage of resources for now between China and Zimbabwe, and we never force any conditions on any country. We are equal, we are brothers and sisters,
“Zimbabwe has debts and arrears to China, have we seized any assets? We have never done that. I can tell you, we will never seize assets from Zimbabwe, although there are arrears to China. We provided loans to Zimbabwe and many other African countries. I admit the debt burden is increasing, but we never seize assets,” the diplomat was quoted as saying.
The report said that Harare owed Beijing up to $300m in arrears from previous loans.
Fin24 reported in May that China had written off Zimbabwe’s debt to the Asian giant’s institutions, paving way for more funding to the southern African country whose ability to access new funding had been crippled by among other things a huge debt overhang.
The decision was reached after meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Beijing, the report said.
The report said at the time that Zimbabwe owed international lenders more than $10bn in both principal debt and arrears.
This had seen the country struggling to get new funding from international lenders such as the IMF and the World Bank.
China itself had also been reluctant to fund Zimbabwe after the country failed to repay a $60m debt to China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, known as Sinosure, said Fin24.
According to AP, some African governments increasingly depended on loans from Chinese banks to finance ambitious infrastructure projects.
China was Africa’s largest trading partner and it also sought closer military ties.
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