BULAWAYO - From downtown shops that stock
cheap clothing and shoes that fall apart after one
wear, to mining concessions in platinum, gold and
diamonds - the Chinese finger is now in virtually
every Zimbabwean pie.
From city sidewalks
to low-income suburbs, the Chinese have become
part of the local population, and if some senior
government bureaucrats have their way, the country
could soon find itself adopting the yuan as its
For some influential
monetary policy czars, the massive assailing of
the Zimbabwean economy by the Chinese now only
requires the yuan to strengthen these economic
President Robert Mugabe as part of his infamous 2004
"Look East " policy to
participate in driving the economy and employment
creation, after relations with former traditional
investment partners the European Union and United
States soured, China has been able to create its
own little sphere of influence and establish an
ubiquitous presence in Zimbabwe.
despite being unpopular with Zimbabwe's industrial
and commercial players, and general members of the
public who accuse the Chinese of poor labor
practices and shoddy goods and services.
Late last year, Reserve Bank governor
Gideon Gono, seen by many as a close ally of
Mugabe, announced he was in favor of having the
yuan as the country's official currency. After the
Zimbabwean dollar was suspended in 2008, the
country has been using a multi-currency regime,
which includes the use of the US dollar, the South
African rand and the Botswana pula.
According to Gono, the yuan would be
introduced alongside the Zimbabwean dollar.
Mugabe's political supporters have been calling
for currency reforms to bring back the Zimbabwean
"With the continuous firming of
the yuan, the US dollar is fast ceasing to be the
world's reserve currency and the eurozone debt
crisis has made things even worse. As a country,
we still have the opportunity to avoid being
caught napping by adopting the yuan as part of
consolidating the country's "Look East" policy,"
Gono told state media in November last year.
"It's only recently when we had the
startling revelations with Angola offering to bail
out her former colonial master Portugal from her
debt crisis. This can also happen with Zimbabwe if
we choose the right path," Gono said.
continued: "If we continue with our "Look East"
policy, it will not be long when we will also be
volunteering to bail out Britain from her debt
crisis and I will not wait for my creator's day
before this happen. There is no doubt that the
yuan, with its ascendancy, will be the 21st
century's world reserve currency."
Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front officials see huge potential
in using the yuan, citing the growth of the
Chinese economy under BRICS, which brings together
emerging global economic powerhouses Brazil,
India, China and South Africa.
everyone is as upbeat about such prospects.
There are concerns that this could mean
"handing over" the country to the Chinese who
already have been offered huge mining rights by
Mugabe despite protests from his coalition
government partners. The country's Finance
Minister Tendai Biti has said that Mugabe is
forfeiting state resources to China, whom critics
are calling Africa's new colonizer.
Economist Eric Bloch told Inter Press
Service (IPS) "it is not practical" for Zimbabwe
to adopt the yuan.
"Zimbabwe won't have
any interaction with international markets as the
US dollar remains the standard currency in
international trade," Bloch told IPS.
China increasingly being touted to overtake the US
as the world's largest economy, the temptation to
embrace all things Chinese has proven too much to
resist for poor economies across the globe,
contends Tafara Zivanayi, an economics lecturer at
the University of Zimbabwe.
been false hope given to Chinese economic growth
with many African countries imagining they can
transfer this growth to their own economies,"
Zivanayi told IPS.
"Such decisions [to
adopt a foreign currency] as usually based on
international trade indices and monetary policies
of the country where the currency is domiciled.
Even if there have been projections that the
Chinese economy will surpass the US economy, this
won't happen overnight," Zivanayi told IPS.
"There are still concerns about Chinese
penetration of international, especially low
income, markets and creating wealth for itself and
not host countries," Zivanayi said.
traders who have long ridiculed cheap Chinese
products and have no grasp of international trade
intricacies find themselves offering opinions
about the prospects of adopting the yuan.
"As long as things have worked fine for us
using the American dollar, why change that
formula?" Thabani Moyo, a commuter omnibus driver.
His colleagues, who are struggling to handle
giving change in the varying currencies of the
dollar, the South African rand and the Botswana
pula, nodded in agreement
not have coins of the various currencies and shops
and retailers struggle to give their customers
Gono and other opponents of the
greenback cited this lack of change in coins as a
reason why Zimbabwe needed to adopt a single
currency or revert to its own, useless dollar.
However, during the presentation of the
national budget for the 2012 fiscal year, Biti
told parliament that Zimbabwe would continue using
the dollar until the economy stabilized.
Not everyone supports the introduction of
"We want real money, not
zhing-zhong," taxi driver Jourbet Buthelezi
told IPS, referring to the pejorative term
Zimbabweans use for sub-standard Chinese goods.