Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe has arrested 9,653 people in what the AP calls a "five-day blitz on street vendors, flea market stalls and other informal businesses." Needless to say, this has provoked protests, which in turn have been met with police violence.
Why the crackdown? Here's the opposition's theory:
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change…accused Mugabe of ordering the crackdown in response to pressure from newly arrived Chinese businessmen to stop secondhand dealers undercutting their cheap imports.
"The country has been mortgaged to the Chinese," Tsvangirai said in a statement. "How can we violently remove Zimbabweans from our flea markets to make way for the Chinese? The majority of Zimbabweans depend on informal trade to feed, clothe and educate their families."
Under Mugabe's "Look East" policy, the country has recently acquired airliners and jet fighters from Beijing, rejecting calls to make up with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Possibility number one: Tsvangirai's accusation is true, and this is not merely a case of a putatively populist regime crushing the people, but of a government given to black-power rhetoric eliminating black people's livelihoods on behalf of competitors of another race.
Possibility number two: The accusation is not true, and Zimbabwe's racial resentments have taken a strange new turn.
By the way, remember those white-owned farms that Mugabe seized a few years ago? An unconfirmed rumor—always the most interesting kind—says that some of them will be handed over to China's state-owned agribusiness combine.