China is Sudan’s largest trading partner when it comes to oil, buying 60 percent of Sudan’s total production. Chinese oil companies are heavily invested on both sides of the Sudan – South Sudan border, and China has become deeply involved, behind the scenes, in trying to work out a solution to the boundary and revenue-sharing disputes these two countries are fighting over.
For China, getting involved in “internal” disputes is a relatively new game, and one that puts China’s hands-off reputation to the test. For many African countries, the attractiveness of Chinese investment is that it comes without lectures or strings attached. Unlike the United States and Europe, which tie future investment and donor aid to improvements in democratic freedoms and reductions of corruption and human rights abuses, China does business without lectures.
On April 22, South Sudan President Salva Kiir paid a short visit to Beijing to discuss his country’s dispute with Khartoum. If China does get more involved in conflict resolution between the South Sudan and Sudan, it will hope to demonstrate its diplomatic power without experiencing the entanglements that Western powers have experienced in the past.