Did China force Mugabe’s hand?

China’s role in Africa is much maligned, sometimes justifiably. But the reliable Africa Confidential reports that China has been playing a positive role in the Zimbabwe crisis:

A close ally of South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki said that subtle pressure from Beijing – and promises of more economic help after a deal – persuaded Mugabe to relent enough to bring in Tsvangirai. Both China and South Africa argue that everyone’s leverage on Mugabe is extremely limited – despite the economic free-fall.

If true, that’s a big improvement over shipping Mugabe new weapons.