Juba: The looming partition of
Sudan after this week`s independence vote in the south poses
challenges for China, which faces dependence for nearly five
per cent of its oil imports on a new country long suspicious
of its ties with Khartoum.
A full 80 per cent of the oilfields in Sudan, which
the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has
pumped billions of dollars into developing, lie in the south.
Beijing`s arms deals with the Khartoum regime and its
dogged defence of it in international forums have resulted in
the former rebels who are set to lead the new state having
much closer relations with Western countries that provided aid
during the 1983-2005 civil war and spearheaded efforts to end
China did open a consulate in the southern regional
capital Juba in 2008 three years after the peace deal.
But it has only been in the past few months that it
has fully woken up to the imminent prospect of independence,
sending a delegation of senior Communist Party leaders to the
south last October and upgrading its representation to
ambassador level the following month.
"The Chinese, supported by CNPC, have mounted a charm
offensive in the south which has consisted of bringing several
dozen political leaders... to China to visit CNPC and view the
Chinese economic model in general," a Western diplomat in
south Sudan said.
"CNPC has also built a computer lab at Juba University
which cost several million dollars," the diplomat added.
"That has had some success in changing the atmosphere
in the south towards them."
But southern leaders are not without fears of their
own. They rely on income from oil output, the lion`s share of
it by CNPC, for 98 per cent of government income, and
desperately need the Chinese production to continue