The COVID 19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted negatively on world economies. Since the outbreak of the pandemic many countries have initiated lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. The wisdom behind these lockdowns is that it is people who carry the virus .The lockdowns left only essential services allowed to operate for a greater part whilst majority businesses had to close or adopt work at home strategies. The tourism and mining sectors were amongst the most affected sectors in Zimbabwe. Towards the end of 2020 there was the gradual opening up of public spaces. However with the second wave wreaking havoc many countries have once more resorted to stricter lockdown measures. For countries like Zimbabwe and China, the quest for recovery is of major concern. One is tempted to draw inferences from the post second world war. The post war era saw the United States of America initiating a European Recovery Program known as the Marshall plan. This has been argued to have boosted the growth and economic recovery of Europe within a very short period of time despite the devastating effects of the war.
In the same vein one would now look up to China to take an active leadership role in the post COVID 19 recovery program. China is the world’s second largest economy. The re-emergence of China as a major economic power has taken center stage in the global economic arena over the years with China asserting its dominance in the 21st century. It has resulted in a significant shift in the world economy’s center of gravity to East Asia, with China set to overtake the USA by 2026.
In 2020 China came up with its 14th 5 year plan which runs concurrently with Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy (2021-25). The key pillars of the Chinese plan are technology and innovation, agriculture, finance and environmental technologies. These pillars are no less different from our own national development thrust and present huge opportunities for mutual cooperation. The most central theme is innovation and technology in which China is emphasizing the role of technology in bringing about transformation. Over the years China has been establishing research and development centers across the world. Zimbabwe could tap into such an opportunity by engaging in partnerships with Chinese firms. Already Zimbabwe has laid out the foundations as president Mnangagwa commissioned a number of innovation hubs in higher learning institutions like the University of Zimbabwe. As such partnering in technological research would assist Zimbabwe in acquiring technologies for revamping our local manufacturing and agricultural industries among others.
Over the years critics of Chinese activity in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa have accused China of becoming a new imperial power. They argue that china is only interested in satisfying its appetite for natural resources hence the heavy presence in the commodities and extractive sectors. As such to them China is simply perpetuating the underdevelopment of these regions by exploiting their resources and challenging their manufacturing industries by its cheap exports. As such China has become the metropolitan core whilst the countries in these regions remain in the periphery.
These critics however have been left wanting during the COVID 19 era, where China made significant contributions to the world in the fight against the coronavirus. Chinese masks amongst other items even reached the cynic European nations. In Africa the Jack Ma foundation gave donations to all the 54 African countries. This has helped to bolster the narrative of South -South cooperation versus the view of center periphery relationship.
The COVID pandemic presents huge opportunities for China to take leadership. Its efforts to assist in the acquisition and distribution of the much needed Corona vaccines especially in the developing world will put it a step ahead in its diplomatic relations with the global south just as the US emerged leader of the free world after the Second World War. In Zimbabwe amongst other countries COVID testing has presented huge challenges and resulted in a lot of fraudulent documents being produced as many sought to resume cross border trading activities. One will notice that at the present moment COVID testing is mainly being carried out by private laboratories. As such there is a need to harmonize and computerized testing systems to curb such activities. There is a need for collaboration to acquire vital technologies needed for COVID 19 testing. There is also a need for a cheaper comprehensive testing system which caters for all citizens despite their economic backgrounds. Considering the Chinese advancement in such areas it would be critical for African countries to take lessons from the Chinese.
The 14th 5 year plan comes in the face of COVID 19. The resurgence of the virus in the form of a second wave threatens the objectives for 2021. However looking beyond these, the post COVID arena presents huge investment opportunities for China in the health and tourism sectors. The virus has shown the gaps and weaknesses that exist especially in the global south. As the world gears for recovery after the pandemic has subsided one can hope for China to take the center stage in steering global recovery.
INNOCENT KAGODORA MSc in International Trade and Diplomacy student at the University of Zimbabwe. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org