Why there are always innocent explanations
Excerpt from Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu’s Regular Press Conference on April 22, 2008:
Q: According to reports, China is selling weapons to Zimbabwe. Could you confirm? If it’s true, why is China doing so? It is also reported that Chinese soldiers are seen on the streets of Zimbabwe. Could you give us more details about this?
A: According to my knowledge, COSCO was contracted by a Chinese company to deliver some weapons to Zimbabwe, which are part of the normal arms trade between China and Zimbabwe. The relevant contract was signed last year and has nothing to do with the latest developments inside Zimbabwe. As far as I know, it is universal practice to deliver goods to inland South African countries through the Port of Durban in South Africa. Since the Zimbabwe side could not receive the goods as scheduled, COSCO could not unload at Durban Port and is considering shipping back the goods.
I’d like to stress that the Chinese Government always adopts a prudent and responsible attitude towards arms export and one of the important principles it adheres to is non-interference in the internal affairs of recipient countries. We hope relevant side not to politicize this issue.
On your second question, according to my knowledge, several Chinese professors are teaching at Zimbabwean military schools. What you mentioned might be some teaching activities conducted by the schools. [FMPRC]
So the presence of Chinese soldiers “in their full military regalia and armed with pistols” in Mutare has an innocent explanation. It was a bunch of professors and their students on a field project, for their course on M401 Advanced Crowd Control.
But were an uppity journalist ask Mr Jiang what the professors were teaching, he’d perhaps say “agriculture”. Before you roll your eyes, dear readers, do note that he wouldn’t be wrong. Good agricultural techniques require farmers to, well, farm. Putting errant farmers in their place is an area of agricultural studies routinely ignored by scholars outside China.