Talking to reporters March 11, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that China could become “a negative force” in the Asia-Pacific region as result of its growing military and economic power. This was on the heels of the State Department annual country reports on human rights, documenting a rise last year in China’s domestic oppression.
Optimistic predictions over the last decade that increased Western trade and investment would promote liberalism in Beijing have been proven wrong. Trade has boomed, with the U.S. running a $201 billion deficit in 2005, but the high gains to China have been used by the communist regime to legitimize its dictatorship.
Reports on domestic abuses are useful indicators of how ruthless the elites in overseas despotisms are, a trait they may also exhibit in their foreign dealings. In the case of China, the results are very grim, as shown by Beijing’s involvement as a very “negative force” in the Sudan-Darfur genocide.
China has been involved in Africa since the 1960s, supporting rogue regimes and revolutionary groups in accordance with an “anti-imperialist” (anti-Western) theme. Beijing’s relations with Sudan escalated in the 1990s with development of large oil reserves. It has invested some $10 billion in Sudan. The state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. owns 40 percent, the largest share, in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. (GNPOC). State-owned China Petroleum Engineering and Construction (CPEC) has built a pipeline from the GNPOC fields to the Red Sea, and a refinery complex outside Khartoum.
CNPC owns most of a field in Darfur and 41 percent of a field in the Melut Basin. Another Chinese firm, Sinopec, is building a pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where CPEC is building a tanker terminal. About 70 percent of Sudan’s oil exports go to China, and account for 10 percent of China’s oil imports. In exchange for oil, Beijing provides weapons and diplomatic support. China has supplied Sudan with tanks, artillery, helicopters and fighter aircraft. China has flooded Darfur with antipersonnel mines. It is estimated as much as 80 percent of Sudan’s oil revenue goes to buy arms, while the general population remains one of the poorest in the world.
Beijing has also helped Sudan build its own factories to manufacture small arms and ammunition, the real weapons of mass destruction in Khartoum’s campaign of ethnic cleansing. Chinese-built helicopter gunships reportedly operate from airfields maintained by the Chinese oil companies.
It has also been reported that Chinese security forces have gone beyond just holding a defensive posture around the oil fields. They may be actively supporting offensive operations by Sudanese government troops and the murderous Arab militias to eliminate the non-Muslim black African tribes that inhabit the oil-rich southern parts of the country.
A report by the U.S.-funded Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, which investigates such attacks, asserted government troops have “sought to clear the way for oil exploration and to create a cordon sanitaire around the oil fields.”
The oil facilities are staffed and operated by Chinese “guest workers” who assure Beijing’s control. David Blair, a reporter for the London Telegraph has reported seeing “billboards in Khartoum that carry pictures of smiling Chinese oil workers and the slogan: ‘CNPC — Your close friend and faithful partner.’ ”
Since a new outbreak of civil war in 2003, at least 200,000 people have been killed by government or militia forces, and some 2 million people — half of Darfur’s population — live in refugee camps under constant threat.
Miss Rice told the House International Relations Committee Feb. 16 that genocide was continuing in Darfur, as she saw with her own eyes when visiting the country in 2004. Yet, the Bush administration has studiously avoided mentioning China and Sudan in the same breath.
Last July, Liang Guanglie, chief of general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army assured his Sudanese counterpart, Abbas Arabi Abdalla, that their close ties would continue, citing their “fruitful cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields.” Gen. Liang also thanked Sudan for its support of the “one-China” policy against Taiwan (which Beijing considers a renegade province as Khartoum thinks of Darfur), and Khartoum’s support for Beijing on human rights.
At the United Nations last September, the Security Council passed Resolution 1564, threatening Sudan with oil sanctions unless it curbed the violence in Darfur. China immediately threatened to veto any move to actually impose sanctions, so the threat was rendered useless.
The situation is Darfur is expected to get even worse in the next few months. International food aid for the refugee camps in lagging, with a high risk of famine by summer. The African Union peacekeeping mission has failed: Its troops cannot match the firepower or ferocity of the Chinese-armed government and militia forces. Proposals for a meaningful U.N. peacekeeping force will not get past Beijing’s objections.
The Sudan-Darfur tragedy confirms the Pentagon’s assessment in its annual report on Chinese military power that Beijing’s lust for overseas resources will be a “driver of strategy.” It also confirms the futility of trying to solve international problems perpetuated by China without confronting Beijing.
William Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.