The Military Coup in Zimbabwe and the Role of Chinese Imperialism

By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 29 November 2017,




The recent military coup in Zimbabwe in which the faction around former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeded to depose long-time dictator Mugabe and the G40 faction of his wife Grace is a highly instructive episode. It demonstrated, among many other things, that Mugabe, whose capitalist regime has been praised by many pseudo-“Marxists” as “anti-imperialist”, had completely lost popular support. When Mugabe was about to fall, not a single mass rally took place on the streets to express support for him!


A few days ago, Reuters, one of the world’s major news agencies, published a special report about the inside story of Mugabe's downfall. (1) This report is highly interesting as it reveals the rotten nature of the capitalist Mugabe regime. It shows in detail the hatred and maneuvering of the two factions against each other. The report confirms, among other things, the assessment of our comrades in the RCIT’s Africa Secretariat that the coup was not a “popular revolution” but rather “a power struggle within the ruling elite. Both sides represent different sectors of the capitalist class but none represents the interests of the labouring masses. (...) Therefore socialists in Zimbabwe oppose the coup but neither can they support the thoroughly corrupt Mugabe regime.” (2)


The report also confirms another assessment of the RCIT: that China is an emerging imperialist Great Power that played an important role in this coup. (3) As we stated in a past article: “Mugabe became an increasingly instable ruler which led China as the dominating imperialist power in Zimbabwe to secretly support the coup of Mnangagwa and General Chiwenga.” (4)


The Reuters report supports our thesis with a number of facts. When Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa on 6 November the latter immediately went to China to meet the military chief and later leader of the coup General Constantino Chiwenga. Let us reproduce the paragraphs of the Reuters reports which also draw from internal reports of Mugabe’s intelligence agency CIO.


From Harare, he [Mnangagwa, Ed.] managed to escape over the border into neighboring Mozambique, where he caught a plane to China, according to one source familiar with his movements. There he met up with Chiwenga, the source said. Reuters could not confirm the account; but an intelligence report from Nov. 13 indicates that Mugabe suspected some of his generals of preparing to overthrow him from China. “A number of generals are now in China ready to plot Mugabe’s ouster with Mnangagwa,” the report said. It was not clear which generals, and whether their travel to China was authorized.


Mugabe’s spies suspected old allies had turned against the aging president. An intelligence report, dated Oct. 30, said Beijing and Moscow both supported regime change out of frustration at Zimbabwe’s economic implosion under Mugabe. “China and Russia are after change,” the report said. “They are after change within ZANU-PF as they are sick and tired of Mugabe’s leadership.” “The two countries are even ready to clandestinely supply arms of war to Mnangagwa to fight Mugabe.” (...)


China has long taken an interest in Zimbabwe, having supported Mugabe’s forces during the liberation struggle. After independence it developed connections there in mining, security and construction. Russia has also had ties to Zimbabwe since the early 1980s, and in 2014 a Russian consortium entered into a partnership to develop a $3 billion platinum mining project in the country.


Chiwenga’s trip to China culminated in him meeting Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan in Beijing on Nov. 10. Two sources with knowledge of the talks told Reuters that Chiwenga asked if China would agree not to interfere if he took temporary control in Zimbabwe to remove Mugabe from power. Chang assured him Beijing would not get involved and the two also discussed tactics that might be employed during the de facto coup, the sources said.”


In summary, both Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe new President, as well as General Chiwenga, the organizer of the coup, stayed in China in the days before the coup was launched and discussed their plans with the Beijing’s rulers.


Such a scenario is well known from various coups in the last decades when the plotters visited Washington before launching their operations. Today the U.S. (as well as the European powers) is not the only imperialist Great Powers anymore. This gang of robbers has been joined by Russia and China as new imperialist rivals.


The Reuters report demonstrates once more the correctness of RCIT’s analysis that China and Russia have become major imperialist powers. As we elaborated in a number of studies and pamphlets, they have become major political and military powers. Their monopolies – to different degrees – play a central role on the world market. China’s corporations in particular exercise massive influence in Africa. As the RCIT stated in a Manifesto adopted at its recent Africa Congress:


China has become the biggest trading partner of Africa and one of its three largest foreign investors on the continent. About 10,000 Chinese corporations operate in Africa. They control about 12% of its total industrial production.” (5)


Unfortunately most Stalinists and semi-Stalinists hotly deny the RCIT’s analysis. They claim, in different variations, that China is still a “socialist” country or that China and Russia are important opponents of “imperialism” (which they wrongly identify only with the U.S.). The misnamed “World Socialist Web Site”, one of several pseudo-Trotskyist cliques which claim the banner of the “Fourth International”, even published a long polemic against the RCIT with the title “Behind the designation of Russia and China as “imperialist”: A case study in theoretical charlatanry”. (6)


At this place it is not necessary to repeat our analysis and our replies to these critiques as they can be read in our numerous studies and pamphlets. (7) Today China is – together with the U.S. – the leading power when it comes to corporations dominating the world market or the number of billionaires. (8) Russia, while economically weaker than China, plays a major role in world politics thanks to its military strength (see e.g. its role in the Syrian civil war). (9)


As a result, those who deny China’s and Russia’s role as imperialist powers and claim that they would be something more progressive than U.S. or European imperialism, inevitablely become their defenders. In short, they become – irrespective of their “Marxist” (or even “Trotskyist”) phrases – social-imperialist supporters of the Great Powers China and Russia. In other words, they stand on the other side of the barricade. Hence, the pseudo-“socialist” lackeys of Putin and Xi are nothing but enemies of all fighters for the liberation of the working class and the oppressed masses.






(1) MacDonald Dzirutwe, Joe Brock, Ed Cropley: Special Report: 'Treacherous shenanigans' - The inside story of Mugabe's downfall, Reuters, November 26, 2017,


(2) See the following statements and articles which we have published in the past two weeks: RCIT and ELA (Zambia): Zimbabwe: The Fall of Mugabe – Victory for the Masses or for the Military-ZANU-PF Alliance? 22.11.2017,; RCIT: Zimbabwe: Down with the Military Coup! No to the dynastic Mugabe Regime! For Independent Workers’ and Poor Mobilisations! For Action Committees of the Workers, Poor Peasants and Soldiers to Advance the Struggle against All Factions of the Ruling Elite! 15.11.2017,; Michael Pröbsting: The Current Political Crisis in Zimbabwe and the Slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, 24 November 2017,


(3) See on this also other reports like e.g. Simon Tisdall: Zimbabwe: was Mugabe's fall a result of China flexing its muscle? The 21st century’s new global superpower is not just Zimbabwe’s ‘all-weather friend’ and top trade partner, close ties go back to the 1970s liberation era, 17 November 2017,; Tom Phillips: Zimbabwe army chief's trip to China last week raises questions on coup. General met Chinese military leaders and defence minister in Beijing on eve of move against Robert Mugabe, 16 November 2017,


(4) Michael Pröbsting: The Current Political Crisis in Zimbabwe and the Slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, 24 November 2017,


(5) Manifesto for the Revolutionary Liberation of Black Africa. Economic Freedom and Political Power for the Workers and Oppressed through Socialist Revolution! Document of the 2nd Congress of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) in Lusaka (Zambia), November 2017. This Manifesto will be published in the next days on the RCIT’s website


(6) Johannes Stern: Behind the designation of Russia and China as “imperialist”: A case study in theoretical charlatanry, WSWS, 14 April 2016, The WSWS published translations of this polemic against the RCIT in several languages.


(7) We have collected our studies and pamphlets dealing with Russia and China as emerging imperialist powers in a special section of the RCIT’s website:


(8) The most up to date analysis of China as an imperialist power can be read in chapter IV of the RCIT’s pamhlet: Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences. What are the background and the nature of the tensions between China and India in the Sikkim border region? What should be the tactical conclusions for Socialists and Activists of the Liberation Movements? 18 August 2017, See also China's transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power,


(9) On Russia we refer readers in particular to the following studies: Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014,; Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014,