As contemporary China’s involvement in Africa deepens via its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), debates swirl around the Asian country’s next step.
There have been increasingly substantive intricacies of Chinese involvement in both Sudan and South Sudan after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in January 2005, in which Beijing was a witness.
Unlike most other African countries, where Chinese companies or state-owned enterprises are present as construction contractors, China has a much more entrenched position in the South Sudanese oil industry. Sudan, after all, was China’s first overseas oil success story.
Running on South Sudanese oil
The discovery of oil in the 1970s furthered strains between Juba and Khartoum – with both cities wanting control of regional oil fields – and is inextricably linked to the armed conflict that later turned into a 38-year civil war, the longest-running one on the continent.
I may be biased, but my general impression is that China doesn’t care about South Sudan’s political process or stability
Estimated to contain the third-largest oil reserves in Africa, South Sudan was found to yield at least 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil.
This oil wealth has qualified South Sudan as a middle-income country despite its immense poverty and underdevelopment (the World Bank estimates that about half the population – 7.2 million people – face crisis-level food insecurity, with nearly 4 million people still displaced from years of conflict).
China first entered Sudan’s petroleum industry in 1995 in the thick of the second Sudanese civil war, despite American economic sanctions on Sudan. In 2008, it established a Consulate General in Juba and recognised South Sudan’s independence in July 2011.
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