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“We are confident in the cooperation with both sides based on equality and win-win,” he said.

In the Adar Yale and Paloich oil fields in Upper Nile state, production has not yet reached its peak. Iraqi engineers — Petrodar employees — are drilling 11 new wells. An AP reporter visited the Petrodar facility in Paloich with Mr. Diing, the Melut County commissioner and the top local official in Sudan’s most productive oil region.

Wang Jie, a Petrodar employee in charge of production, and Hago Bakhiel, the northern Sudanese field manager in charge of security, warmly welcomed Mr. Diing, who arrived with an escort of more than 40 heavily armed men.

The trip included a buffet lunch of rotisserie chicken, grapes from Cairo and sweet Middle Eastern pastries flown in to the company’s airstrip, a top-of-the-line luxury in a region where half the population relies on food aid.

Outside the facility the scene is grim. Thick black sludge tops a 3-mile-long pit filled with processed water, a byproduct of the pumping process that contains cyanide and arsenic. Mr. Diing shook his head in disgust when passing by. Several hundred feet away, Mr. Diing’s constituents — subsistence farmers wearing dirty, ragged clothes — live in mud huts.

“Is this the way you should treat the country?” Mr. Diing rhetorically asked.

Mr. Diing says he plans to improve his people’s lives after southern independence. That will involve negotiating better regulations and compensation with the oil companies who inked deals with the Khartoum government during Sudan’s two-decade-plus civil war that left 2 million people dead.

Earlier at his house — in a town mostly without electricity or running water — Mr. Diing raved about his October visit to Shanghai and Beijing. He showed photos of apartment buildings constructed for communities forced off their land in the Shengli oil field in Shandong Province. Mr. Diing hopes the oil companies might build the same for his people here.

The run-up to the south’s independence vote has seen a growth in diplomatic and business relations between Southern Sudan and China, which opened a consulate in Juba in 2008.

In October, a delegation of Chinese government leaders visited Juba, and multiple Southern Sudanese government ministers have been to Beijing in recent months.

Whether the south’s fledging ministry of energy and mining and local officials like Mr. Diing will be able to win more beneficial arrangements remains to be seen. Juba University professor Leben Moro said oil companies have done little to benefit villagers.

“There really has been a major shift in the way the Chinese have been dealing with southerners,” said Mr. Moro, who specializes in company-community relations in oil-producing areas. “Now the Chinese want to say, ‘We are really here, not only for our own good but also for your own good.’”