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


  • Zictor

    @Kevin and wgj

    One thing is to prove that something can or not happen in absolute terms. Another, totally different, is to say that it happens in RELATIVE terms.
    China is growing very fast economically right now. One of the tools used was that of liberalization. But one can’t compare the long term consequences of that development, because many of them haven’t happened yet. Especially on the long term.


    China already does great a great job of hiding its bad side and only showing its good side. I think showing a country’s bad side is more important than showing its bad side, so you can improve it, if the critique is fair.

    In this case, the critique comes from a very patriotic Chinese citizen that wants his country to be a good influence in the world. Very much like those brave Americans who have opposed the war in Iraq from the start.

  • Hope O B

    I’m not sure I need to follow your arguments on Lees hypothesis or figure out which of you is the more clever – all are clever. Still – I think that the Chinese goverment went for arms sales, the mining rights and the government contracts they get along with vast potential of working with a highly educated people in a fabulously rich country (potenially) once Mugabe and the JOC go. Russians – I don’t know about but I read a report today of mecernaries killing people with Russian guns.
    Whatever the reason – Mugabe stays in power and China dn Russia pretend they are thinking of humanity – ignoring the peoople who have been killed, the torture and beatings, the systematic pillage of its resources by a tiny elite few.
    The Chinese have many wonderful characteristics and an amazing land and history but this decision sullies it all.

  • China has been a supporter of Mugabe for a long time. During Zimbabwe’s war of independence Mugabe’s ZANU had Maoist links and ZAPU, Joshua Nkomo’s party was USSR-backed. Now China is making use of this historic relationship for purposes of business and influence.

  • @wgj – I think you are misinterpreting my use of “examples.” Perhaps I should have been more clear that it is others who use them as examples of support, not I.

    And, sorry to bore you, but the point made in the original post is that China is dealing only with authoritarian governments as it seeks investment opportunities (i.e. growth opportunities). Your original comment that all you need to prove something “can” be done misses the point: China is operating under the assumption that good investment opportunities _require_ authoritarian regimes.

    Obviously growth can happen in an authoritarian regime, but so can famine, oppression, etc (and those happen much more often).

  • Mugabe was helped by Kim Il Sung (North Korea) as well and North Korea is very much a puppet ally of the PRC:

  • It is pure hypocrisy to blame China for trading with countries with bad government. Every countries in the world do it, if they can make money. Nobody stops trading only because of bad governments. In how many of those countries that US sanctions, is US actually making money?

    Common people in a democracy do not make foreign policies. They are always thought up by think-tanks and then sold to the public as some humanitarian bull. Because foreign policy are made by only a few people in power, a democratic government cares about the welfare of the people in other countries just as much as an authoritarian government do.

    There are lots more examples of authoritarian government being better than democratic governments at economic development. South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan all went through spectacular economic growth when their government are still authoritarian. Unless I am wrong, S.K. and T. GDP growth actually slowed down when they turned into a democracy. Most of European countries went through their industrial revolution and the most incredible economic growth in human history under “authoritarian” governments. Another example is Nazi Germany when compared with the democracy before them. Under that extremely authoritarian government, German economy went from total crap to one of the strongest in the world. In fact, the democracy in slave-driven agrarian Southern states in US is an example how a democracy fail at economic development. People were doing fine, so they don’t feel the need to change their future-less economy, which result in the south lagging severely behind the north in economy development. Of course, the power in an authoritarian government can’t be concentrated on a few self-absorbed individuals for lee-thesis to apply.

  • wgj


    Obviously famine, oppression, etc. can happen in an authoritarian regime, but so can they do in a “democratically elected” one — like India or many (if not most) Latin American countries. Hell, I’m sure a lot of people would say that famine and oppression are happening right in the USA.

  • seomnoe

    Adding more after reading Kevin’s newest comments:
    The protectionist policy of more developed democratic countries shuts down China’s options. But the fact is China certainly do not prefers authoritarian gov. more than democratic gov. China have no preference. If you actually look at China’s trade with every country, they are about proportional to the size of the economy. Truth is every democratic government in the world trades with authoritarian governments, except the ones that got spit upon by western media. I only see countries that do not welcome foreign investments as the ones getting sanctioned.

    An educated authoritarian government can definitely perform better than a democracy at economy. China vs. India is another example I can think of.

  • Kai

    LoL, thanks, Kennedy.

    @ Knights:

    1. Kennedy translated a blog post by Ruan Yifeng.
    2. Ruan Yifeng’s blog post was composed of his research on China’s PRESENT-DAY foreign policies with Zimbabwe.
    3. So, how is this NOT the “true China today?”

    CHAN! Oh, dear chan, come to me! You’ve been beckoned!

  • isnotthatsimple

    Zimbabwe people have not have a easy path of development. Many obstacle prevent them to achieve a stable and properous society. This article by Ruan Yifeng is missing important past events that could explain the reason behind it poverty. My knowledge of history and current affair about this country is limited, but I will had what I know by finding it on the web.

    Zimbabwe have declare it independence in April 18, 1980. Before that it was in the state of civil war against a apartheid administration. Now Zimbabwe have to reconstruct it village, town, city, country into a modern society base in it populace culture. Because of the mismanagement of the resource by the previous apartheid administration, the majority of the people inherited a badly run country with few social benefit, few higher education and low life expectancy. To build the country, it need teacher, scientist, lawyer, doctor, civil servant, police, merchand, soldier, etc. All these types of people need times and resources to trains. What that means is that it must improve the economy. The alliance of imperialism countries is a big obstacle for the improving of Zimbabwe economy by their current embargo and future sanction.

    The veto of China and Russia on the sanction against Zimbabwe is a big help to the people of Zimbabwe for building their country. Zimbabwe have many enemy from the imperialism countries, so it need weapons to defend itself or it will end of like Iraq or Somalia. Zimbabwe is not a threath or attacking it neighbor country.

    I wish the people of Zimbabwe a properous, peaceful and happy life.

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