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Zimbabwe's Mugabe visits China looking for aid; China's Xi calls him 'renowned leader'

A guard of honor forms up before a welcome ceremony for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

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A guard of honor forms up before a welcome ceremony for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING, China - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday on a visit to China hoping the long-time ally and economic giant can help the African nation's ailing economy.

Mugabe, who has been criticized by Western nations for human rights violations, was welcomed with a 21-gun salute at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"Your Excellency is a renowned leader of the African national liberation movement," Xi said in remarks to Mugabe in a meeting in front of journalists who were briefly allowed into the room. Xi hailed him as an old friend of the Chinese people.

"The traditional friendship between China and Zimbabwe was forged in the glorious years when we stood shoulder to shoulder against imperialism, colonialism and hegemony," Xi said.

The leaders oversaw the signing of a number of agreements, including on economic, trade and tourism co-operation and emergency food donations and concessional loans from China to the southern African nation. No details were immediately released.

Mugabe told Xi that Zimbabwe, being the smaller country, benefited more from the relationship, but said his government would do its best to "reciprocate your friendship."

Zimbabwe, a once-prosperous nation of 13 million people, has struggled since 90-year-old Mugabe defeated rival Morgan Tsvangirai in a 2013 vote marked by allegations of irregularities. Mugabe's victory ended an uneasy power-sharing deal, but foreign investors have been deterred by concerns about corruption and government policies to force foreign-owned and white-owned businesses to cede 51 per cent of their shares to black Zimbabweans. Hundreds of manufacturing companies have closed in the past year.

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