Peace and Freedom
February 3, 2007
Despite almost universal world condemnation of the government of Khartoum in Sudan over the starvation and human rights abuses in the Darfur region of that nation, China continues to very publicly send the world the middle finger.
President Hu Jintao made his first visit to the Sudan Friday. Some had hoped that President Hu and China might speak out against what the U.S. has called the "genocide" in Darfur.
"I am confident this visit will facilitate a strengthening of the traditional friendship between China and Sudan and bring cooperation between the countries to a new level," President Hu said in a statement upon his arrival. He also mentioned strengthening economic ties.
President Hu made no public remarks about Darfur.
Zhang Dong, China's ambassador to Khartoum, told Xinhua news agency on Thursday that China "never interferes in Sudan's internal affairs".
Even thought the war in Sudan ended in 2005, the conflict in Darfur is estimated to have caused the deaths of some 200,000 people and made more than 2 million homeless.
Billions of dollars of Chinese investment, particularly in the oil sector, have provided crucial support to President Omar al-Bashir's regime, enabling it to join the ranks of oil exporters and improve decaying infrastructure.
But the Associated Press said: "Chinese President Hu Jintao urged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Friday to work harder to bring more Darfur rebels into the peace process, according to a Sudanese official. Hu is said to have raised the issue at a closed-door meeting during his landmark visit, the first ever by a Chinese president. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Hu told Bashir that his "government should work more earnestly to get the rebels who did not sign the Darfur peace agreement to join the peace process."
Chinese workers living in Sudan to help build Chinese projects like the huge hydro-electric plant and oil terminal lined the streets to greet their president.
Thousands of Chinese expatriates live in Sudan, working on construction projects including a giant oil refinery.
When President Hu visited the oil refinery, around 47 miles north of Khartoum, hundreds of uniformed Chinese workers wearing yellow and blue hard hats lined the streets to greet him.
The refinery processes around 100,000 barrels of crude per day.
Sudan's Islamic government, under U.S. sanctions, has relied on its Asian ally to expand oil production to 330,000 barrels per day and build key infrastructure like dams and roads.
Sudan's economy, which is expected to grow at a rate of 13 percent this year, has benefited from Chinese investment.
Sudan is China's fourth-largest source of crude oil imports, behind South Africa and Angola.
China's "no strings attached" aid policy throughout Africa runs counter to U.S. policy and has raised concern in the West. U.S. officials told us it could undermine efforts to link good government, accountability and protection of human rights to financial aid and cooperation, which is U.S. policy.
China's approach has raised special concerns in Sudan.
More than any other nation the United States in has pressed China to use its economic muscle to persuade Khartoum to end atrocities in the Darfur region, where four years of war have killed about 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes.
Sudan sells much of its crude to China. Chinese arms are used by all sides in the Darfur conflict, despite an arms embargo on the region.
China also provides diplomatic protection for Sudan on the U.N. Security Council, which is engaged in a standoff with Khartoum over a U.N. peacekeeping mission for Darfur.
Hu's statement made no mention of Darfur or the violence in Sudan's western desert region and few believe Hu will use his first visit to Sudan to press his hosts on rights abuses.
"The blunt truth is China hasn't begun to use any of the irresistible diplomatic, economic and political leverage it has with the Khartoum regime," said U.S. Darfur expert Eric Reeves.
"And until it does, there will be ... no halt to the intolerable deterioration in security for civilians and humanitarians."
China will host the 2008 Olympics, and human rights activists are campaigning for a boycott of the Games if China does not use its permanent seat on the Security Council to put pressure on Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
Hu is on an eight-nation tour of Africa to strengthen ties in a period marked by huge Chinese demand for raw materials for its rapid industrial expansion.
China has been offering low interest loans, debt relief and other incentives to increase its influence on the world's poorest continent in return for access to the natural resources it needs to feed its booming economy.
"China and Africa have developed mutually respectful and beneficial relations over the years," Hu said at a banquet thrown by President Paul Biya of Cameroon, in a speech broadcast on state television and radio this week.
"China and Africa have never tried to impose their social and economic development models on others," Hu added.
Hu, who also toured Africa last year, met Biya to discuss social aid programs for clean drinking water and cheap housing.
"Through you, I invite Chinese companies to come and invest in Cameroon, especially in hydrocarbons such as gas and oil, mineral exploitation and forestry, where numerous opportunities exist," Biya said at a working session with Hu.
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