The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) pledged to launch a global campaign this week against Chinese involvement in Zimbabwe if Beijing fails to force its investors to respect labor rights.
The ZCTU wrote to the Chinese ambassador in Harare, Guo Shaochun, following a recent incident in which Chinese businessman Zhang Xueun shot and injured two employees, Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona, over a heated wage dispute.
“We would like to warn you that if these abuses by Chinese investors continue, the ZCTU will have no option but to launch a global campaign against any Chinese investors who come not only to Zimbabwe, but Africa,” ZCTU Secretary General Japhet Moyo wrote.
Moyo argued that although Guo was swift to condemn the incident, such action was not enough because the embassy had not punished similar incidents in the past. She added that although the abuse predominantly came from privately-owned businesses, it was still the responsibility of the Chinese state to control and sanction their foreign investors.
“There is no doubt that your compatriots are a law unto themselves and act with impunity knowing that they have protection from someone in the higher offices,” she said. “Why is it that of all investors coming to Zimbabwe, the Chinese investors have proved to be the most abusive?”
The letter concluded with an ominous warning about Zimbabwe’s anti-colonialist past, whereby citizens took up arms against the British Empire: “This is the same behavior that led Zimbabweans to take arms against white oppressors. Sooner rather than later, workers are bound to retaliate.”
In comparing the Chinese to their former “white oppressors,” Moyo touched on a theme much discussed in recent years about China’s seemingly imperialist ambitions across Africa and other parts of the world.
The core of these ambitions centers around the “Belt and Road Initiative,” a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese Communist Party in 2013 aimed at building Chinese influence around the world through ambitious infrastructure projects from which Beijing is given greater political clout in return for economic investment.
As well as greater political influence, China also seeks to benefit by setting aggressive debt traps for countries such as Kenya to fall victim to. When countries are unable to pay their debts, China takes over the collateral, thus increasing its economic and potential military advantage across the region.