HARARE-- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa left Harare Sunday for Beijing on a four-day state visit to China where he is expected to seal crucial economic agreements and consolidate relations with the global economic giant.

The state visit, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping is in fulfilment of a pledge Mnangagwa made to make Beijing his first official destination outside Africa. China was one of the first countries to send a special envoy to Zimbabwe soon after Mnangagwa was inaugurated last November, signalling its intention to work with the new regime in Harare and to strengthen bilateral ties.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry website, President Mnangagwa will first hold talks with President Xi before meeting several top Chinese government and business officials.

During the visit, President Xi Jinping will hold a welcoming ceremony and welcoming banquet for President Mnangagwa. The two heads of state will hold talks and jointly attend the signing ceremony of cooperation

documents, said the Chinese government.

Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee Li Zhanshu will meet with President Mnangagwa on separate occasions. Besides Beijing, President Mnangagwa will also visit

Anhui and Zhejiang (provinces).

Last week, the Chinese embassy in Harare hinted that the visit could culminate in the announcement of a huge package for Zimbabwe.

During the talks, the Chinese President Xi Jinping will make an announcement on the new batch of assistance to Zimbabwe and that its assistance, a grant that would be a huge package, Chinese deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhao Baogang was quoted saying by the weekly Sunday Mail.

In an interview with Chinese media in Harare on Saturday ahead of his trip to Beijing, President Mnangagwa said he would use the visit to lay out his vision for Zimbabwe. It is now necessary that for us to be able to stand on our own, we want our elder brothers to extend their hand and say 'come up' and to do so we must have deeper economic relations," he added.

We know the road we need to follow to grow our economy. We have the priorities set out and we know the goals we want to reach. So we are going to China to say this is the vision we have as Zimbabwe and for

this vision, these are the targets we want to meet.

China, which has long-established economic cooperation with Zimbabwe, has funded various investment projects across different sectors of the Zimbabwean economy running into billions of dollars.

In December last year, the two countries signed agreements worth about 220 million US dollars for the development of key infrastructure in the country. The funding is divided into a 153 million USD concessional loan for upgrading and rehabilitating the Robert Mugabe International Airport while the remainder is made up of grants for the construction of a new Parliament building and upgrading the High Performance Computing Centre at the University of Zimbabwe.

The loan has a 20 year tenure and seven year grace period at two per cent interest per annum.

Apart from that, the Chinese government has also funded power projects in Zimbabwe including the 500 million USD Kariba South power plant upgrade which was commissioned last week by President Mnangagwa.

The new power plant generates 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Negotiations with the Chinese are also at an advanced stage to expand the Hwange Power Station by an additional 300 MW.