HARARE, Aug. 23-- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday left for China on a five-day state visit that is expected to boost bilateral ties.
The nonagenarian president did his last state visit to China in 2005, though he had been to China on private visits and to attend the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2006 and the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
Mugabe is accompanied by his wife Grace, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made and Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi. Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Obert Mpofu are already in China, state media said.
There has been so much expectation on Mugabe's China visit as the country struggles with a slowing economy and rising unemployment. Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party drafted a five-year blueprint to turn around the 13-billion-U.S.-dollar economy, but officials confess that the plan's implementation requires 27 billion dollars investment, way beyond the cash-strapped government's financial capacity.
Responding to Xinhua in two separate occasions prior to his visit, Mugabe said he will seek more Chinese investment to fund infrastructure development and value-addition industries in Zimbabwe through various projects.
"We will be talking about how we can together once again now in our socio-economic program so the fruit of what we fought for together can be yielded by yet another joint struggle, a peaceful and economic struggle that we shall be waging with our natural recourses so we can produce necessary wealthy for our people," he said.
In recent years China has emerged as Zimbabwe's top source of foreign direct investment. Chinese investments are concentrated in mining, construction, telecommunication, and agriculture sectors.
According to figures released by China's Minister of Commerce, Chinese investment to Zimbabwe in non-financial sectors topped 602 million dollars in 2013, leading Chinese investments to any other African country in that year.
In addition, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Lin Lin said China Exim-Bank over the years has provided 1 billion dollars preferential, concessionary and commercial loans to Zimbabwe for projects including the National Defence College, Harare water project, medical equipment for hospitals, Victoria Falls Airport expansion and Kariba South hydropower station expansion.
"China is ready to work hand-in-hand with Zimbabwe to lift our bilateral relations to a new high," he said.
Lin said as China develops itself, it will continue to "do what it can to support and assist its Zimbabwean brothers and sisters" in terms of financing, technology transfer, human resource development, poverty reduction, humanitarian aid, etc.