Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday hailed the all-round ties between Zimbabwe and China, forged in the 1970s when he led a Chinese-backed guerilla war against British colonial rule in the southern African country.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, the veteran leader said China was a true and all-time friend of Zimbabwe, voicing the hope that the warm political ties between the two countries could be extended to economic fields.
China was the main supporter of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party in the 1970s when it waged an armed struggle to free the country from colonial rule, said Mugabe, adding that the ties between Harare and Beijing have since been ever-lasting.
Against the backdrop of western hostility toward Zimbabwe over the country's land policies, Mugabe praised China's policy of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, saying this laid a solid foundation for friendship and cooperation.
Zimbabwe has been under sanctions by western countries, led by former colonial power Britain, for allegedly undermining democracy and human rights. Mugabe denies the charges, saying they were only a smoke screen for London's opposition to his government's seizure of farms from white farmers for black resettlement.
The stand-off with the West, which is now in the sixth year, has prompted Zimbabwe to look elsewhere in the world for friendship, particularly trade and investment.
Harare has come up with a "Look East" policy, centered around renewed, broader engagement with China and other Asian countries, which Mugabe said could be an alternative economic cooperation partner to the West which Zimbabwe had lost.
"In most recent times, as the West started being hostile to us, we deliberately declared a Look East policy," he said.
The major reason for Zimbabwe to value its ties with Asia is that Asia is home to the most population in the world, Mugabe said.
"China and India put together, plus other states there (in Asia), they amount to the largest percentage part of the (world) population," he said.
"And secondly, we said these were the friends we relied upon during the liberation struggle and they will not let us down," he added.
Mugabe chronicled China's assistance, in various forms, to his country over the years, declaring: "For Zimbabwe, going to China is going to our second home. We regard China as a part of us."
In the twenty-six years after Zimbabwe's independence, China has financed a variety of infrastructure projects in the country, including construction of roads, hospitals and stadiums.
Just last week, China extended a 5-million U.S.-dollar loan to Zimbabwe to refurbish the nation's biggest stadium, built several years ago by a Chinese company.
Mugabe also spoke of China's military assistance to Zimbabwe after its independence, which he said had made Zimbabwe less vulnerable to manipulation by the West.
But he said the main focus now would be economic cooperation, noting China recently offered Zimbabwe 200 million U.S. dollars to finance agricultural production in the country, and Zimbabwe's acquisition of three MA-60 passenger planes from China.
"We have increased trade with China; we have increased our economic cooperation, we are going in the future on the basis of agreements like have been signed with the Chinese Eximbank to finance inputs such as fertiliser," he said, referring to the 200-million-U.S.-dollar farming loan.
China, keen to secure strategic natural resources to help sustain its mouth-watering economic growth of more than 10 percent, is investing heavily in agriculture and mining in Zimbabwe. Chinese investment in Zimbabwe is estimated to be billions of dollars.
Mugabe said such investment was welcome and lessened Zimbabwe's vulnerability to pressure and political manipulation by the West.
"We have had China across the board. The list goes on and on and on," he said.