One government insider said: "The signing of the memorandum of understanding between Mugabe and Tsvangirai may appear to be a triumph for South African diplomacy under Mr Mbeki, but the power behind the curtain is China.
"China exerted diplomatic pressure on Harare for the protection of their own interests in this country, given the threat and risks of their economic investments under a new government. This explains the sudden change of heart by Mugabe. This is all choreographed."
The Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe is understood to have told Zimbabwean foreign affairs officials in Harare that his government expects Mr Mugabe's administration to "behave" and help dampen international outrage over the recent elections.
One diplomatic source said: "Mugabe was told in clear terms by his Chinese friends that he has to behave and act in a way that will silence the international community.
China does not want a situation in which the Olympics will be snubbed.
There has been plenty written on China's involvement in Africa of late so I won't belabor that point but I will point again to this list of Top 10 Misconceptions About Chinese Investment in Africa. Here is #4:
China will always help African leaders, including those with poor human rights records. China immediately distanced itself when the International Criminal Court indicted Slobodan Milosevic of crimes against humanity despite its previous promises of supporting the Serbian leader at all costs. In Africa, the Chinese government has already broken its promise of non-interference in the cases of Angola and Sudan when it “encouraged” leaders to change their policies with an eye towards fulfilling international trade agreements and ceasing the targeting of civilians. Moreover, China did not use its veto power to stop the ICC from investigating the crimes in Darfur.Aside: As usual Chris Blattman is asking very smart questions that no one else is asking, this time in regards to the sustainability of hit and run power sharing agreements.