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When it comes to major events that have shaped the history of the world, the myriad of historians and pundits agree on almost nothing, except this: Africa had no role in any of them. This time, however, they are very, very wrong. In Africa today, we are seeing the test case for Communist China’s latest effort to build a global anti-American coalition. That test case is Zimbabwe, which makes it one of the most important countries in the world at this moment.
Zimbabwe has had a sad history. For years, as Rhodesia, it was controlled by a cruel apartheid regime much like that in South Africa prior to 1994. However, unlike South Africa, Zimbabwe had no Nelson Mandela. What it had instead was Robert Mugabe, who took the reins of the country (and gave it the name it holds to this day) in 1980.
For most of the first decade of Mugabe’s rule, the country limped along. During the 1990s, however, as he and his coterie continued consolidating power and wealth, the country became visibly poorer. Meanwhile, the usual intimidation tactics ensured that Zimbabwean “elections” were a complete sham. As Zimbabwe slid into poverty, Mugabe seemed destined to take his place in a long line of African dictators-for-life who ravaged their own nations for personal gain (Slate).
Then, in 2000, the people rose up and shocked him. A constitutional referendum that would have given Mugabe more power to seize land and “redistribute” it was defeated. Stunned by the outcome, Mugabe began railing against any and all opposition figures, who soon tried to build momentum from that vote by creating the Movement for Democratic Change.
In the 2002 elections, the MDC put up its own candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, to oppose Mugabe. Unfortunately, Mugabe pulled out all the stops – intimidation, use of food as a weapon, ballot-stuffing, etc. – to “win” re-election. He then proceeded to exercise the power voters denied him two years ago, and seize rich farmland wherever he could find it. As a result, acres of farmland have gone unplanted, and Zimbabwe has fallen from the breadbasket of southern Africa to a breadless basket case. Meanwhile, Mugabe has railed against foreigners supposedly out to get him (especially Great Britain, or as he called it, “the gay United gay Kingdom” – BBC), and the rest of the world began to ignore and avoid him. But Communist China didn’t. Where everyone else saw a pariah, Communist China saw an opportunity, and it reached out with both hands.
Granted, in light of Communist China’s support for anti-American terrorists, it is hard to consider Zimbabwe important, but in the context of the Second Cold War, Zimbabwe is vital. Robert Mugabe was at one point the most vulnerable dictator relying on Communist Chinese support to stay in power. That Communist help includes radio jamming (Reporters Without Borders), K-8 fighter jets (Daily Standard), and massive amounts of “investment” money. In exchange, the Communists are getting large tracts of the aforementioned fertile farmland, and Mugabe’s police state has trained its eye on “any (native) competition to Chinese traders whose shops have sprung up around the capital over the past few years” (Daily Standard).
However, Communist China is looking for a lot more than mere economic gains from Zimbabwe. If the Communist regime is able to keep Mugabe in power, it can use him to show the dictators of the world how it can also protect them from the wrath of their own people. The mullahs of Iran, who are battling an unshaped but very widespread resistance movement, have already clung to the Communists to help them develop nuclear weapons and other military technology that will enable them to terrorize their own people. Saddam Hussein was moving in the same direction before the U.S. military knocked him out of the box.
In Zimbabwe, however, the plan to make the world safe for dictators appears to be succeeding; that certainly cannot be said of Iraq and is at the very least uncertain in Iran. Should Mugabe be able to survive, the Communists are sure to use him as an endorser for their dictator-protection-service (in fact, he has already begun advertising for the Communists – BBC.
The democratic world must take heed. The “color revolutions” that brought freedom to Ukrainia, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia will be much harder to duplicate if Communist China can build on its anti-democratic success in Zimbabwe. In Cold War I, it was America’s willingness to support resistance groups in Soviet satellite states that helped accelerate the fall of European Communism. If the democratic world is to win the Second Cold War, it must be prepared to help those who fight from freedom in Communist China’s satellite states, including and especially Zimbabwe.