Situating Tian Ze’s role in reviving Zimbabwe’s flue-cured tobacco sector in the wider discourse on Zimbabwe- China cooperation: will the scorecard remain win-win?

Situating Tian Ze’s role in reviving Zimbabwe’s flue-cured tobacco sector in the wider discourse on Zimbabwe- China cooperation: will the scorecard remain win-win?

The milestone 1998 land reform conference convened by Zimbabwe and major donors ended in a stalemate on how the country was to proceed thereon. In the aftermath of that landmark event, Zimbabwe proceeded unilaterally in implementing a fairly radical land reform programme that saw land owned by almost all white large scale commercial farmers being redistributed among indigenous people.

The West proceeded in unison in imposing economic sanctions on the country and the economy experienced a major slump. Leveraging on strong political ties between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) that date back to Zimbabwe’s protracted liberation struggle, Zimbabwe succeeded in courting the Chinese as alternative development partners in a wide range of economic sectors. The two governments have framed discourses and narratives on Zimbabwe-China cooperation as win-win engagements, while the West and Zimbabwe’s private media have been sceptical, intimating that benefits have been skewed in favour of China bearing in mind Zimbabwe’s vulnerability in the face of limited options post land reform.

A Chinese state-owned company, Tian Ze, has since assumed a prominent status in Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector through its contract farming scheme and purchase of the country’s crop. This paper draws on the knowledge encounters framework in discussing the basis for the evolution of enhanced economic cooperation between the two countries and critically considers the current activities and power of Tian Ze and what influence the company could exert in the continued resurgence of Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector.

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