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Chinese military-industrial complex arming Mugabe, profiting privately

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By See-Dubya  •  April 29, 2008 01:10 PM

The Times of London has done a bit more peeking into the 77-ton shipment of arms from China to Zimbabwe that was turned away at the docks recently, and finds an interesting twist on it. Apparently Mugabe was a little short of cash, and China’s a little short of food, so they had arranged a guns-for-food swap. The beneficiary on the Chinese side wasn’t the public treasury, but rather a company held by the PRC elite:

Company documents show that Poly Technologies, the manufacturer of the weapons on board the ship, is ultimately controlled by a clique from China’s preeminent military clans with close ties to the Communist party leadership and army.

Major General He Ping, the company’s chairman, is the son-in-law of Deng Xiaoping, the former Chinese leader; its president, Wang Jun, is the son of a vice-president and a Deng ally. Its upper ranks are stuffed with military veterans and their offspring, who have greatly enriched themselves with arms sales to some of Africa’s bloodiest trouble spots….

Analysts of Chinese financial affairs say, however, that Poly is actually a front for an elite within the country’s military-industrial complex and that it reports to the general staff department of the People’s Liberation Army.

“People call it the supreme headquarters of the China princeling party,” commented one analyst. “It’s a power centre beyond civilian control.”

Here’s an interesting detail:

In 1996 Poly was named by prosecutors in connection with an attempt to smuggle 2,000 AK47s into the United States.

Note that the links between Harare and Beijing go deeper than just this abortive arms shipment. Chinese troops have been spotted patrolling the streets with local troops, and a delegation armed with pistols checked into the Holiday Inn in Mutare.

I didn’t know that Mutare, Zimbabwe had a Holiday Inn. Was the Howard Johnson’s full?

Anyway, between this and the ongoing Olympics/Tibet protests, the PRC is sure getting some bad PR this year.

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UPDATE: MM.com readers remembered the 1996 AK-47 smuggling plan as “Operation Dragonfire”. Some familiar names pop in the investigation, including Reno, Gorelick, and Clinton–though there doesn’t seem to be a direct link.

Details on Dragonfire, courtesy of commenter John Ansell, here. Both companies involved in the Zimbabwe deal, Poly (the manufacturer) and Cosco (the shipping company), were behind the Dragonfire shipment as well–which was destined for…the collector market? No, no: Newsmax (citing that VRWC stalwart Vanity Fair) says they were full-auto rifles destined for LA’s street gangs.

All of which leads me to conclude that all the criticism directed at China this year–from the Left and the Right–may have some important political consequences. Interesting that the Obama campaign hasn’t tried hitting Hillary harder over her China connections.

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{Post by See-Dubya}

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