Sudan partition poses challenges for China
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Last Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011, 23:37
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 the conflict.

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 uninterrupted.


First Published: Friday, January 14, 2011, 23:37

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