China welcomes Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe as 'old friend'

Media caption,
China's vice-president Xi Jinping held talks in Beijing with Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe

China's vice-president has held talks in Beijing with Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, whom he praised as an "old friend" of China.

Xi Jinping said the 87-year-old was "a famed leader of the national liberation movement in Africa".

Mr Mugabe has been widely criticised for perpetrating human rights abuses during his three decades in power.

The West has for years kept him at a distance, and he has increasingly relied on Chinese investment.

Mr Mugabe agreed to a power-sharing government several years ago in a bid to prevent Zimbabwe's economic collapse.

Some money from Western governments has begun to flow back into the economy, but Western leaders insist that their investment is channelled towards Mr Mugabe's power-sharing partners.

Chinese investment is often heavy-laden with conditions such as providing jobs for Chinese staff and profits for state-run firms, but Beijing makes no issue of human rights concerns.

"China is willing to join hands with Zimbabwe, enhance friendly exchanges, and expand practical co-operation," said Mr Xi after meeting Mr Mugabe.

Chinese state media reported that the two sides promised closer ties on infrastructure projects, agriculture, mining and trade.

But no details were given of any new deals that might have been signed.

Reuters news agency quoted Chinese official statistics as saying trade between the two countries was worth $717m in the first nine months of this year - a 62% rise compared with with the same period last year.

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