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China in Africa: The Real Story

China's Role in Sudan-South Sudan Oil Diplomacy

Deborah Brautigam

In an interview with Foreign Affairs, Alex de Waal summarizes the Chinese role in the recent agreement between the two Sudans on resuming oil exports:
China has taken a very simple position with regard to both parties, which is that it wants to see oil production and export resumed by a fair agreement as soon as possible, and it has pressed both parties to negotiate seriously under the facilitation of the African Union. It has shown no interest in any other solution than utilizing the existing infrastructure, which was built by the Chinese for this purpose. So it has played a low-key but very consistent and firm role.
I agree with de Waal. As I have noted before, China has engaged in an unprecedented "shuttle diplomacy" in Sudan. At the same time, Beijing's diplomatic dance at the United Nations has been fairly nuanced. After first resisting US-led efforts to pass a Security Council resolution with teeth (i.e. threats with sanctions) to stop the growing violence between the Sudan and South Sudan, Beijing joined the other SC members in a unanimous resolution threatening sanctions, at the request of the African Union. The contrast with Beijing's response to regional efforts by the Arab League regarding the Syria crisis is interesting (and would make a useful research paper).

For a bit more background on this, see the Think Africa article by James Green,