China is part of a group of countries rapidly projecting their geopolitical power in an expanded engagement with Africa. The extent to which this is imperialism is debatable among Africans, with some arguing that China is actually Africa's best ally when it comes to trade and development. Using Zimbabwe as a case study of local responses to China's expansionist geopolitics, the article contributes to debates on international development based new forms of imperialism and dependency perpetrated by rising economic powers in the Global South. The article innovatively analyses China's rapidly rising media and soft power in Africa as evidence of a new scramble for the continent and South-South imperialism. This is done in terms of what the Cameroonian anthropologist Francis Nyamnjoh regards as “eating and being eaten”, a form of dog-eat-dog “cannibalism” at the heart of global capitalism that has been evident in past enslavement, extractive colonialism and in today's exploitative neoliberal economic arrangements. The findings from the current Zimbabwean study build on the author's previous research on the media coverage of China in Zimbabwe that showed how for smaller and less powerful states, when dealing with China, there are mixed and complex responses within the emerging Sino-African relations. Using research from 2011–2020, including interviews and findings from the media, the Sino-Zimbabwean relations illustrate acceptance, resistance and negotiation as pragmatic strategies, in an attempt to “eat” whilst trying not be “eaten”. The current study contributes to work on media and geopolitical relations from the theoretical lens of new imperialism and dependency.