China has agreed to give Zimbabwe $25m worth of farm equipment to help revive the country's ailing tobacco industry.
But Beijing wants something in return – large quantities of Zimbabwe's tobacco.
Jia Qinglin, a senior Chinese Communist party official, presented the equipment, including 424 tractors and 50 trucks, to Robert Mugabe, the country's president, on Saturday in a deal to replace equipment damaged when Mugabe's government seized white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
But China wants all the tractors to go to tobacco farmers and expects Zimbabwe to deliver 30 million kilograms by the end of the year, Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said in Harare.
While the West is trying to pressure Mugabe into lessening his brutal crackdown on the government's opposition parties, China is offering aid. And the only strings attached are financial ones: the equipment given by China has to be used for cash crops. This in a country experiencing widespread hunger and poverty.
So at the end of the day, Beijing is showing Mugabe that even if he flagrantly violates human rights and the pitiful charade that passes for democracy in Zimbabwe, the Chinese will be there to offer assistance. So long as the price is right, of course.
So are we really surprised that Beijing is financially and diplomatically underwriting Khartoum's genocide in Darfur?