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June 28, 2017

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Zimbabwe eyes China investment as Mugabe and Xi meet in Beijing

BEIJING -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was welcomed by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday as Africa's longest-ruling leader seeks more Chinese investment in his nation's stagnant economy.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan greeted Mugabe and his wife Grace — dressed in a colorful African-style outfit — with full military honors at the imposing Great Hall of the People fronting Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

A military band played the two countries' national anthems as a 21-gun salute was fired and the two presidents inspected a military honor guard, with Mugabe, 90, walking slowly but with no sign of trouble.

The former guerrilla fighter who led Zimbabwe to independence is on a five-day state visit, his 13th trip to China.

Zimbabwe's state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper at the weekend quoted his spokesman George Charamba saying he was "largely looking for investment of an infrastructure nature," with the focus on energy and transport.

Zimbabwe's relations with China and the Chinese Communist Party date back to the liberation struggle of the 1970s, when Beijing provided arms and trained some of the top guerrilla leaders.

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, his more than three decades in power starting amid optimism but eventually characterized by corruption and mismanagement, leading to hyperinflation and enduring economic crisis, along with brutal crackdowns against political opposition.

There was a partial recovery during a power-sharing agreement with the Movement for Democratic Change, which ended last year when Mugabe's Zanu-PF party won elections the opposition says were rigged.

Independent economists estimate that unemployment in what was once known as the breadbasket of Africa stands at 80 percent.

'Look east'

The EU and U.S. imposed sanctions against Mugabe and his allies as he turned into a Western pariah, while he adopted a "look east" policy, forging new ties and buttressing existing ones with East Asian countries including China.

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