Four months after the ousting of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, one of the world’s longest-ruling dictators, his successor is set to arrive in Beijing on Monday(today) in a bid to ensure Beijing’s continued political and economic support.

Zimbabwe, which despite its rich and diverse mineral resources is one of the poorest countries in Africa, must forge deeper economic relations with Beijing to end its decades-long political isolation under Mugabe, Mnangagwa said ahead of his visit.

“I will say thank you not only to the president of China but also the people of China for standing and supporting Zimbabwe during the hard times,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

“The issue is not only about attracting capital into Zimbabwe. It’s an issue of leapfrogging after 18 years of isolation so that we catch up with the rest of the developing countries,” he said.

The 75-year-old former vice-president and erstwhile guerilla leader was sworn in as leader of the southern African nation in November after Mugabe’s 37-year reign ended in a bloodless military coup.

Like his predecessor, Mnangagwa has deep ties with Beijing, Xinhua said. These possibly date back to the 1960s when he received military training in China during Zimbabwe’s fight for independence from colonial, white-majority rule.

The circumstances surrounding the downfall of 94-year-old Mugabe, whom Beijing often described as an old friend, are unclear, although China has categorically denied it played any part in the military takeover.

Beijing had for decades been one of Mugabe’s most powerful allies and was a major trade partner, especially after the dictator was shunned by the West over human rights violations, and years of economic and political chaos.

However, just days before the coup, Zimbabwe’s army chief, General Constantine Chiwenga, visited Beijing, prompting speculation on whether China had played a role in the power transition.

Pundits generally agreed that China stood to benefit from the ousting of Mugabe – who had increasingly become a liability for Beijing – and the installation of a new government led by Mnangagwa.

The popular opinion now is that in view of its political isolation and stricken economy, Zimbabwe has few options other than to continue to rely on Beijing, at least in the near term.

Just days after the coup, Xi, who last visited the African country in 2015, sent his envoy and assistant foreign minister Chen Xiaodong to Harare to pass on his congratulations to Mnangagwa, according to Chinese state media. In the note, Xi promised to maintain Beijing’s all-weather friendship with Zimbabwe. The South China Morning Post