Author: Jeremy Youde.
As part of its "Look East" foreign policy strategy, Zimbabwe has sought to strengthen its ties with China—a move that has alarmed many Western states. While not necessarily denying the pragmatism behind such a strategy, I examine how this policy represents an attempt by the Zimbabwean government and its leader, Robert Mugabe, to redirect the public imagination toward a different identity at the domestic and international levels. The government seeks to draw on its image as a freedom fighter and liberator to shore up its domestic legitimacy, while simultaneously reasserting its role as an important international actor. The rhetorical strategy used by Mugabe and his government has had material benefits, but its success in redefining Zimbabwe's identity has been decidedly mixed.