A demand by China that the Zimbabwean government “behave” in the run-up to the Olympics lies behind Robert Mugabe’s surprise decision to open negotiations with the opposition.
Beijing put pressure on Mr Mugabe to begin talks because of fears that the continuing crisis in Zimbabwe risked overshadowing the Olympics, according to government and diplomatic sources.
China’s leaders, who have have long enjoyed a close relationship with Zimbabwe’s beleaguered president, feared growing protests in the run-up to the Games and so leaned on Mr Mugabe to agree to the historic talks which began on Thursday.
Their move came after Russia and China together infuriated the West by blocking a United Nations Security Council attempt to impose sanctions on members of the Zimbabwean regime.
“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.