China has become the biggest investor
in Sudan's rapidly growing oil £8bn pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea;
taking advantage of Sudan’s rich new oil discoveries
as a result of Western companies being pressured to withdraw
because of the civil war, including that in Darfur....
China is Sudan's biggest customer.


Meanwhile, Beijing has fruitfully prevented the UN security council
from imposing serious sanctions in the face of Khartoum’s
clear crimes against humanity and
alleged genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

Enter the Africa's darkest nations
by Fred Bridgland, Sunday Herald, Aug 28, 2005

Top representatives of 46 African countries are this weekend returning from the annual China-Africa Co-operation Forum (CACF) in Beijing with fresh promises of Chinese help in developing their nations. The CACF, which is worrying the European Union and the United States, has become the main mechanism by which China is co-ordinating its expansion into Africa in a large-scale campaign for access to natural resources – especially oil, but also gas, copper, manganese, iron, fish, timber and a host of other primary products that Africa has in abundance.

Alongside new commercial enterprises, China has been solidifying its strongest and longest partnerships with two oppressive African oligarchies, Zimbabwe and Sudan. “What is disconcerting is the willingness of China to not only help but to defend rogue regimes,” said Princeton Lyman, a former US ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria. Testifying in Washington before the US-China Economic and Security Review Committee, Lyman added: “China [with its membership and veto on the Security Council] has in effect inhibited the United Nations from imposing sanctions on Sudan and, in Zimbabwe, is helping to bail out a regime that is repressive and is destroying the country.”

Although Chinese infrastructure projects such as stadiums and railways were carried out in the 1960s and 70s, Chinese influence waned in Africa in the 1980s because Beijing was unable to keep pace with increased Western aid programmes. What has changed since the late 1990s, however, is China’s emergence as a powerful player on the global economic stage powered by its own need for oil, iron ore and other natural resources. With its reformed economy – rampant capitalism replacing communist commandism – China has returned to Africa in the 21st century with cash to play the big game effectively and spectacularly. The value of China’s trade with Africa in 2003 stood at about £6 billion. This year it will top £18bn as Chinese goods flood African markets.

China has become the biggest investor in Sudan’s rapidly growing oil £8bn pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where it is refurbishing harbour facilities. Beijing has been able to take advantage of Sudan’s rich new oil discoveries as a result of Western companies being pressured to withdraw because of the civil war, including that in Darfur. Sudan is the most dramatic and unambiguous example of how China is coming to Africa with the “complete package” – money, technical expertise and influence in such crucial bodies as the UN Security Council to protect its friends from international sanctions. China, together with its close Asian partner Malaysia, replaced Western countries and enabled Sudan to become a net exporter of crude oil, with China itself becoming Khartoum’s biggest customer. Meanwhile, Beijing has fruitfully prevented the security council from imposing serious sanctions in the face of Khartoum’s clear crimes against humanity and alleged genocide in Darfur.

China has also become active in Nigeria and Angola, the two big West African oil producers. Angola, with huge offshore oil deposits being found on almost a daily basis, illustrates how China mobilises its assets to gain a foothold and cement its presence. To win the right to explore one of Angola’s lucrative ocean blocs, China gave Angola a £1.2bn soft loan as part of a longer term aid package: the concessional repayments will be made in the form of a 10,000 barrel-per-day oil allocation over 17 years. These are more favourable terms than anything offered by the West. They will make minimal profit for Beijing but the deal cements Chinese ties to Angola and its oil.

Not only is it China’s protection from strong Western punitive measures that is attractive to African leaders, but Beijing’s investments come with no conditionality related to “good governance”. In Angola, as with Sudan, China’s arrival reworks the international equation. The West and the International Monetary Fund have been pressing Angola’s deeply corrupt administration to improve the transparency of its huge oil deals and to make other reforms as a preface to a planned Western donors conference. But, following signals from China about huge unconditional help to come, Angola now seems blasé about meeting Western conditions. Meanwhile, China relishes the West’s difficulties. China’s deputy foreign minister Zhou Wenzhong recently said: “Business is business. We try to separate politics from business. You [the West] have tried to impose a market economy and multiparty democracy on these countries which are not ready for it. We are also against embargoes [on African states], which you have also tried to use against us.”

The pattern of business is the same elsewhere – Zambia, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Libya, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, where the Chinese have designed President Robert Mugabe’s new 25-bedroomed mansion and provided the cobalt-blue tiles for its sweeping roofs.

It is alarmist to say that Western interests are yet substantially threatened by China’s new thrust into Africa. But the West has to come to terms with the fact that Beijing is now a permanent big boy on the bloc. Lyman believes the best way forward is to engage China on Africa and explore areas where there can be a win-win set of circumstances for both the West and China. “Is there room for developing some common objectives, some ways in which Chinese economic gains for Africa and itself can come side by side with building more stability and democracy there?” asked Lyman. “It is better to explore these possibilities than start down the path of trying to limit Chinese influence, for the odds are against that happening any time soon.”

China in Africa: Developing ties. BBC, Dec 4, 2007
...Outside I notice that all the materials from bags of cement to scaffolding poles have been imported from China. Apart from the security guard at the gate and two Angolan women employed to wash vegetables and clean the latrines and bathroom, I see no local people here. Since 2004, Angola has taken out $8-12bn in loans from China. Thanks to its huge oil deposits in the Gulf of Guinea, the former Portuguese colony has become China's biggest African trading partner. In exchange for Angola's oil, energy-hungry China is helping to repair the country's infrastructure. Although Beijing insists its credit comes with no strings attached, the deal in Angola is that 70% of tenders for public works must go to Chinese firms. That means tens of thousands of jobs here for Chinese workers, engineers, planners - and even doctors...But the lack of jobs for Angolans in Chinese firms is causing increasing resentment in a country suffering from chronic unemployment after nearly three decades of war. Because of its oil and diamonds, and a projected economic growth of 24% this year, Angola looks rich on paper. But most people live in abject poverty. Fernando Macedo of the Association for Justice Peace and Democracy, a Luanda based human rights group, accepts that because of the war a whole generation of Angolans are poorly educated. "But why do we need to import unskilled labour from China," he says."It doesn't make any sense."

World rallies for Darfur action (UN won't impose sanctions). BBC, Apr 29, 2007. Go to 5.Disputed Territories & 7.Systems


China's Oil Safari. Forbes, Oct 9, 2006
China’s practice of exporting legions of Chinese laborers to Africa to build oil pipelines and refineries has also been criticized for taking away the potential to create new local jobs. However, some argue the concomitant arrival of Chinese merchants and the flood of cheap Chinese imports could benefit the local population in ways that foreign oil money, typically pocketed by corrupt local officials and politicians, often fails to do. As well as an energy source, Chinese companies see Africa as a new market for their low-cost consumer goods (including weapons) and as an opportunity to get around U.S. and European quotas on Chinese textiles by investing in textile factories there. Investing in Africa’s oil “is a brilliant stroke of Chinese diplomacy. In one fell swoop, it wins strategic and economic gains,” says the London School of Economics' Alden.

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~