Having the Olympics in China may end up with saving African’s lives.

By hosting the Olympics and seeking a huge foreign audience to “show off” the brand new China, that country is making itself vulnerable to boycotts and protests.

Some, like those for free Tibet, will be ignored (with the large influx of Han Chinese, China figures that in a hundred years, Tibet will be integrated into China again).

And it is unclear if boycotts by those worried about internet censorship will have much effect.

But pressure on China to save the people of Dafur has already led to that country pressuring Sudan to allow international peacekeepers.

But China’s relationship with Mugabe is based only partly on economics (Zimbabwe does not have oil, but does have chrome and other rare minerals). Their relationship has to do with Mugabe’s revolutionary background, as a Marxist liberator against the rogue racist government of Ian Smith.

As late as 2005, China not only was providing much needed manufactured goods into Zimbabwe, but supplying much of their military equipment.

But now things are changing, and the reason is: Follow the money:

Sidney Masamvu, a researcher on Southern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said China has simply weighed its diplomatic imperatives and decided Zimbabwe can easily be sacrificed. He said the Chinese are no longer benefiting that much economically from Zimbabwe and there was more for them to gain from siding with their partners on the UN Security Council. China has also changed its stance on the conflict in the Darfur region. They reportedly helped to pressure the Sudanese government to allow peacekeeping troops in the region.

The Chinese are now being realistic. Mugabe’s government can’t pay the bills for all the cheap Chinese manufactured goods. The Zimbabwe economy is collapsing. The Chinese had hoped that they could pick up mining and other valuable properties, but with Mugabe threatening to take over all non Zim owned businesses, even this is no longer a secure investment.

And revolutionary ties don’t pay the bills, especially when the revolutionary will soon die of old age or be replaced by other means, leading to someone who might be annoyed at China’s assisting in Mugabe’s oppressive policies that have caused much of the educated middle class to flee elsewhere for jobs.

AfricaBeatBlog summarizes:

At the very least, they can smell change in the air.  Zimbabwe’s no longer bankable, no longer a country in which to make long-term investments in industries or in people. Politically, I get the sense that things could turn in any number of directions at any moment.

This isn’t the Cold War anymore….. But it was never about ideology.  It was about strategic interest.  And for whatever reason, China’s decided it’s no longer in its interest to throw its weight behind Robert Mugabe.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs about Zimbabwe at Makaipa Blog.

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