By Li Xiaokun and Hu Yongqi
'Old friends' to boost cooperation on infrastructure and agriculture, says Xi
China vowed on Monday to deepen infrastructure and agricultural cooperation with Zimbabwe, the first foreign country to adopt the Chinese yuan as its primary international currency.
President Xi Jinping and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reached the agreement when they met at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
"China will never forget old friends," Xi said, adding that Beijing cherishes the friendly ties with Harare that have stood the test of time.
Aside from cooperation on infrastructure and agriculture, he said China will also encourage enterprises to invest in the African country.
In November, Mugabe opened the upgraded Victoria Falls International Airport. Expansion of the airport was done by China Jiangsu International and financed through a $150 million loan from China Export Import Bank.
Mugabe said completion of the airport project was a major milestone in the country's development efforts, and he described China as "a great partner and friend".
The airport is the gateway to Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Monday's meeting was a follow-up to President Xi's late 2015 visit to the African country, whose economy is complementary to that of China, said Chen Fengying, a researcher in global economies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
Also in late 2015, Zimbabwe became the first foreign country to adopt the Chinese yuan as its primary international currency.
Zimbabwean officials said it was the natural progression of Mugabe's Look East foreign policy.
In response to increased economic isolation from Western powers, Mugabe announced his Look East policy in 2003. Under the policy, Zimbabwe pivoted economically toward the Asia-Pacific region, with an emphasis on closer trade relations with China.
"China's heightened ties with Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe's adoption of the yuan are the culmination of more than three decades of consistent cooperation between the two countries," the Tokyo-based magazine The Diplomat said in January last year.
"Should these linkages inspire ... recovery of the Zimbabwean economy, they could be a harbinger for profoundly expanded Chinese influence in Sub-Saharan Africa," it said.
Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com