China: Why did China veto sanctions against Zimbabwe?

Earlier this year China sent a boatload of weapons to Zimbabwe just following the country's controversial presidential election. Following accusations of political violence and then the re-election of President Mugabe, China teamed up with Russia at the United Nations Security Council last week to veto sanctions being placed against Mugabe and his supporters. [update below]

Indie blogger Ruan Yifeng has chosen to write about the veto on his blog, beginning with pointing out just how significant this incident has been internationally as evidenced by widespread Western media coverage, how the English-language news reports he was able to find were for the most part critical of China, and how unclear he is of just what it is that's happened, and what kind of place Zimbabwe even is.

Starting from there, he digs up some numbers on current inflation rates there, the cost of living, the economic situation, some background on President Mugabe, and a brief explanation of the reasons for the recent post-election violence, as well as posting a map:




It's not hard to see, Zimbabwe is a very, very messed up country. In fact, it's already on the brink of civil war.
Since the country has civil strife, why then would China not agree to ban arms shipments?

It's actually not as simple as the Foreign Ministry spokesperson puts it, because in fact China has very invested interests in Zimbabwe.

And further down:


在这里,我不去猜测,为什么北京会支持穆加贝。我只想引用Peking Duck的一段话,指出这两者之间有天然的吸引力。

From this you can see, China has already deeply vested itself in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs, completely violating the principle of ‘non-involvement in other countries’ domestic affairs’. Beijing is putting up money, guns and military training for the Mugabe government. Under these conditions, of course it would veto the United Nations sanctions resolution.
Now, I'm not going to speculate why Beijing supports Mugabe. I'd only like to quote one bit from Peking Duck, which points out the natural mutual attraction these two sides share:

[Ruan's translation into Chinese]

More-and-more China is being seen as a threat to the hopes and plans of democracies around the world.

Chinese politicians are viewed as attempting to spread the theory of economic success through a strong and autocratic central state, which could convince the leaders of poor states without strong rule of law to reverse fragile democratic laws and cement their rule with the excuse that it would make their economies better.



《圣经》里说:“惟愿公平如大水滚滚,使公义如江河滔滔。”(But let justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream! )中国这个国家,不仅自己国内没有公平和正义,还阻碍他国和世界上广大受压迫人民的公平和正义。我作为一个中国人,真的感到非常遗憾和无奈。

That's exactly how it is, dictators everywhere admire each other just as authoritarian regimes love one another. I think, from the bottom of my heart, that Beijing is far more inclined to deal with dictators that it is democratic governments. What you might not have seen during this Olympic torch relay is that that protests took place in all the democratic countries, yet in all the authoritarian countries, everything went smoothly.

What's more, while Beijing plays the role of “friend to the dictators” in negotiations with the US, it also stands to gain from the spoils. The North Korean nuclear crisis is a perfect example.

It's written in the Bible: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream!” China, this country, not only does lack fairness and justice domestically, but it even blocks fairness and justice in other countries and widely oppresses their people. As a Chinese, I feel extreme sorrow and helplessness.

Zhang wanted to see comments from the post translated, so:

…and Hitler and the USSR joined hands to carve up Poland.

No, we can't go forming good spheres of influence in places like the US or England, we have to go to a crappy place like Zimbabwe.

1,既然大家没有对武器禁运达成一致 那为什么中国不能卖武器?世界上第一大武器出口商是哪个国家 (你不会认为他既和平又民主吧),如果津巴布韦有能力购买武器的一方是亲美的,美国会投什么票
2 津巴布韦有自己国家决定自己国家命运的权利,如果没有武器斗争就结束了么,恐怕不会而且说不好还会持续更长的时间来决个胜负 死更多人 让一代人葬送在无畏的斗争里。如果你硬要这个国家按你的意志发展 不正是专制吗
1. Seeing as people weren't in unanimous agreement on banning arms shipments, why should China not be able to sell weapons? And which country is is that's the biggest arms exporter in the world? You don't think that it's peaceful and democratic now, do you? If those Zimbabweans with the ability to buy weapons were pro-American, which way would America vote?
2. Zimbabwe as a nation has the right to make the decisions for the fate of its own country. If there were no weapons, would the fighting then stop? I'm afraid not. This sounds bad, but if that were the case, things would just go on longer before either side won. More people would die and a generation would be lost to fighting. If you insist that this country go and do as you suggest, wouldn't that itself be totalitarian?

我不知道一个社会到底怎么发展是好,我不想讨论意识形态的问题 我压根就不关心 但是如果你真的关心津巴布韦 那你就去多了解一下他去真正做些能帮助他们的事 如果你只是google一下 把它当作一个论据 这并不能增加任何说服力 反而让你的那种知识分子的冷漠彰显无遗 真的意识形态挺没劲的 文化大革命在这上面浪费的时间还不够吗 有了一本圣经就能改变世界么 改革开放20年能有这样的成绩你还有什么不满足的 是吧


  • This is a general comment: John, thank you so much for your crossblogging. Your work is very very helpful for non-chinese-speakers interested in the chinese society, politics and culture. I wish there would be more like you.

  • Ben

    Why? People/organizations tend to befriend and support others like them. Besides, is there anything wrong with making some money off that?

  • zhang

    Hi, John. Hope you can translate some of the comments of chinese netizens under that blog. It’s more interesting.

  • Birds same feather flock together. Its nothing surprising.

  • Knights

    Sven, Don’t count on JK clans like for educational stuff on China.
    He only shows you the ugly sides of China, but that’s NOT the true China today.

    Do NOT count CNN either, do research on your own on multiple different sources if you want to learn about China’s ugly and beauties. . . .


  • @Zhang: Okay.

  • If in fact China is more interested in dealing with authoritarian regimes, they would be falling prey to the fallacy known as the “Lee thesis” – that authoritarian countries can grow faster through societal control than democracies.

    Very few academic believe this is a reality; China and Singapore as examples are not convincing enough because they are just two examples… hardly overwhelming evidence.

    Amartya Sen in “Development as Freedom” spends considerable time discussing this more eloquently than I can.

  • wgj


    Actually, in order to prove that something *can* be done (like “authoritarian countries can grow faster through societal control”), only one example is needed. If you have two, that’s additional validation through redundancy.

  • @wdj

    That’s a pretty flimsy argument, imho. What you are doing is drawing causation from one variable when, in fact, another variable might be the cause.

    I am wearing blue (X) and it rained today (Y). That doesn’t mean the blue caused the rain (X->Y). More likely, a third variable (Z) caused it to rain (Y).

    The question is to find that variable Z that explains China’s growth (population, geography, weather, luck, etc.)

  • wgj


    Thanks for the lecture, though it wasn’t really necessary to remind me that correlation doesn’t prove causation. I made no attempt whatsoever to establish causation since I saw it as already accepted — at least by you.

    In fact, you yourself are the one who suggested the causation in the first place when you called China and Singapore “examples” for the thesis, which is an implicit acknowledgment that the thesis — including the causation it states — is valid in those two cases.

    If you don’t believe that the causation exists in the cases of those two countries, why would you consider them examples for the thesis?

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