"This is the thrust of assistance by the People's Republic of China to the Republic of Zimbabwe ... for us to sustain politically our sovereign right to be ourselves," Mugabe said at a ceremony attended by Jia Qinglin, a senior Communist Party official.

Economic crisis

Zimbabwe is struggling with a deepening economic crisis - inflation rate is more than 1,700 per cent and 80 per cent of people are unemployed - which critics blame on Mugabe's policies.

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Joseph Made, Zimbabwe's minister of agricultural engineering and mechanisation, said the equpment had been purchased under a $58m loan from the Chinese government.

"The total loan facility granted by the People's Republic of China is $58m. These items cost $25m as part of the first phase," he said.

In return, Zimbabwe will deliver 110,000 tonnes of tobacco to China over two years, Made  said.

The country has seen a drastic reduction in tobacco output in recent years, down from a peak of over 200 million kg in 2000, to about 55 million kg last year.

The Chinese delegation also promised to build schools and hospitals in Zimbabwe as the two nations cemented their close ties.

Mugabe started to forge stronger ties with countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia and India when he adopted a "Look East" policy after Western criticism of his policies and human rights record.