China builds military base in Zimbabwe

A United States panel on Africa has been told of China building a military base in eastern Zimbabwe, raising alarm in Washington which is increasingly worried about Beijing’s growing influence in Africa.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with former Chinese Premier Hu Jintao

The issue came up for discussion last week during a hearing on Zimbabwe by the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

California Congresswoman Karen Bass sought clarification on the issue from U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Shannon Smith, who had just returned from a visit in Harare.

“In recent years Zimbabwe has strengthened trade and military ties with China, including the construction of a Chinese military base in eastern Zimbabwe.”

“What if any, if you could speak to that, I think there are obviously security implications for the United States. What do we know about that development?” Bass asked.

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Dr. Smith did not provide a direct answer, only commenting that ties between China and Zimbabwe had deepened over the years.

“The countries clearly enjoy a close relationship; China is active in much of Africa as you’ve seen in many places I know,” Smith responded, adding that the Chinese investments were mainly in mining.

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