China is expanding its economic and political ties with countries across Africa, resulting in a rapid rise in influence here that has sparked concern from the U.S. government.
Beijing's investment and aid to African countries aims to tap both natural resources and a growing middle class. As China burrows into local economies, leaders from South Africa to Ethiopia have been touting its model for development—one that stresses state-led growth, validates tight-fisted political control and offers a powerful counterpoint to the free-market democracy mantra promoted by the U.S.
The embrace of China in Africa's capitals stands in contrast with complaints also voiced around the continent about Chinese firms' treatment of workers and concerns over some companies' environmental records.
"China's model is telling us you can be successful without following the Western example," said deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara, a member of an opposition party locked in awkward coalition with Mr. Mugabe, who has deep ties with Beijing.
The U.S. is the largest foreign donor to Zimbabwe, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which doesn't count China as a member. The U.S. funnels much of its assistance through nongovernmental organizations, some of which are critical of Zimbabwe's government. That hasn't gone down well with many officials. "China is my favorite country," said Mr. Mutambara a 45-year-old politician who attended U.S. universities. read more