Zimbabwe's army chief General Constantine Chiwenga visited Beijing shortly before the political crisis erupted in Harare.
Hard cash but also the intangible ties of history have kept Europe in pole position as Africa's main partner.
China involvement in volatile countries like Myanmar and Zimbabwe is thrusting Beijing towards a more assertive global role.
China piled pressure on Botswana over a scheduled visit to the southern African country by the Dalai Lama, who it considers a dissident separatist threat.
Botswana's President Ian Khama announced on Wednesday he would meet the Tibetan spiritual leader during his visit to the country next month, prompting a stern response from Beijing.
"China's stance is clear...," said a statement from Beijing-based foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang issued by the embassy.
The rise of China will be a source of global stability not conflict, major oil supplier Saudi Arabia said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday January 17th. "As China gets integrated into the world, and into the world financial and economic systems, it has a tremendous interest in stability of those systems," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. "And so I think the rise of China should be one that is welcomed, not one that is viewed as a source of a threat," he told a discussion in the Swiss resort, where 3,000 members of the political and business elite gathered for annual talks. Asia is the number one market region for Saudi Arabian oil.
Taiwan protested Thursday after Nigeria asked it to shut down its trade office in the capital, in what it said was an attempt by Beijing to push it out of Africa's largest economy.
The island's foreign ministry said Nigeria had asked Taiwan to move its trade office out of the capital Abuja in a show of support for Beijing.
Chinese leaders see the self-ruling island as a renegade province which is still part of "one China".
China signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations with Sao Tome and Principe, just days after the small African nation announced it had cut ties with Taiwan.
With contracts across Africa running into billions of dollars, Morocco is placing business at the heart of its strategy to win support for its re-entry into the African Union.
Across Africa, the approaching presidency of Donald Trump has provoked deep uncertainty over how the United States will pursue policies.