January 31, 2008

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, examines the close relationship between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Sudanese regime responsible for the situation in Darfur that former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has characterized as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Arguing that “while Beijing’s ties to Sudan are predicated upon a complex series of political and economic considerations, it is nonetheless true that without mainland China, it is rather unlikely that President Umar Hassan al-Bashir would be in any position to pose much of a threat to Darfuris, South Sudanese, or any other of the peoples long-oppressed by his Arab-dominated Islamist regime,” the article goes on to detail the economic, political, and military links between the PRC and its African partner. Notwithstanding the claims of some U.S. officials that China has been “constructive” in its engagement with Sudan, some Sudanese have a very different interpretation of the relationship. Abdel Aziz el-Nur Asher, commander of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the Darfuri rebel forces, for example, declared recently that “China is complicit in the genocide being carried out in Darfur and the Chinese are here to protect their oil interests in Kordofan”—an understandable charge given that Beijing has become Khartoum’s largest arms supplier, selling or trading for oil a full array of goods from ammunition for 122 mm howitzers to armored trucks to T-59 tanks to Shenyang J-8 single-seat fighters and F-7 supersonic fighter jets, all of which the regime has turned on Sudan’s peoples.

Despite the current grim situation, Dr. Pham concludes:

Fortunately, this is one story that should have a happy ending, especially if the United States exhibits strategic vision and leadership to match the ideals exemplified in its moral outrage at the regime-driven violence in Darfur and other parts of Sudan in recent years. South Sudan has right to secession from the unitary Sudanese state that is enshrined in the [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] and…will likely to be exercised in three years, if not sooner. The nascent state of South Sudan will control vast natural resources. If Juba gets Abyei, as it is entitled to, it will control almost all of Sudan’s known oilfields (with an estimated proven reserve of 6.4 billion barrels) except for the unproven offshore blocks on the Red Sea; if it doesn’t, it will still hold around three-quarters of them. And if the South Sudanese succeed in striking out on their own on these terms, it will be very hard to convince other peoples of the country to voluntarily remain bound to the NCP regime, especially if they realize that Khartoum will lack the resources to finance its wars of oppression against them. In any event, the communist mandarins in Beijing can look forward to seeing the end of their lucrative and deadly partnership with the murderous thugs in Khartoum. That moment cannot come soon enough, for the peoples of Sudan, for their friends abroad, and for the national interests of the United States.

To read the full text of the article, “ Khartoum’s Partners in Beijing,” click here.