China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has arrived in Zimbabwe to start a five-nation tour of Africa, amidst reports the two nations have signed a $10-billion trade deal.

Yang also agreed to give Zimbabwe’s government a 50 million- yuan ($7.6 million) grant and called for sanctions against the country to be lifted.

Yang described Zimbabwe as a good friend to China, ahead of meetings with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

China is ready to work with Zimbabwe to further enhance political mutual trust, expand mutually beneficial cooperation and steadily elevate our friendship and cooperation, Yang told reporters at his arrival in Harare. China sets store by its relations with Zimbabwe and regards Zimbabwe as a good friend, good brother and good partner.

China has reportedly exported $159-million in goods to Zimbabwe last year.

The Zimbabwean Ministry of Industry and Commerce stated that last year Zimbabwe’s trade with China totaled $520 million. China’s purchase of Zimbabwe’s tobacco alone earned the African country more than $300-million.

“We are happy that there are Chinese companies here operating in the mining sector and civil works like roads,” Mugabe was quoted as saying.

According to comments made by a Zimbabwe government official a few weeks ago, The China Development Bank is set to invest the aforementioned $10-billion in Zimbabwe's mining, agriculture and infrastructure industries.

“There is great potential to enhance cooperation in the fields of water, infrastructure, mining, tourism and so forth,” Yang said. “Let me be frank, we believe there should be the lifting of sanctions by some countries.”

The weekly newspaper Zimbabwe Independent reported last week that China is seeking access to the country’s vast platinum and diamond reserves.

China has longstanding relations with Zimbabwe – its veto powers in the United States have protected Mugabe’s government from even more punitive sanctions from the West.

However, as with many other parts of Africa, China’s presence is not widely welcomed. In recent days, police arrested several Zimbabwe youths (ironically, allegedly connected to Mugabe's Zanu-PF party) who attacked foreign storekeepers, including Chinese, Nigerian and South Africans.

There have also been murmurings that China is taking advantage of Zimbabwe, a country that is economically battered, broke and desperate.

The United States, meanwhile, remains extremely wary of China’s activities in Africa.

According to Wikileaks, US diplomats in Africa are closely monitoring the Chinese on the continent.

A cable from last February quoted a senior US official in Lagos, Nigeria as describing the Chinese as aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. The Chinese are dealing with the Mugabes and Bashirs of the world, which is a contrarian political model.”

China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons, he added in the cables. China is in Africa primarily for China. A secondary reason for China's presence is to secure votes in the United Nations from African countries.