Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sudan split drags oil-hungry China into the middle of a poisonous feud

JUBA, South Sudan: At a restaurant along the River Nile offering crocodile and ostrich meat, officials of the world's newest - and desperately destitute - nation hosted a lunch this month for Liu Guijin, China's visiting envoy for African affairs.

Mr Liu's visit to Juba, the dirt-track capital of South Sudan, which split from Sudan in July, came at a tense time: Sudan had just bombed a refugee camp, militias were mining roads, and troops were clashing in disputed border areas.

The Chinese envoy, however, came mainly to talk about oil. China, which gets nearly a third of its imported crude oil from Africa, has invested billions of dollars in the past 15 years to pump crude from this war-scarred land. But the division of what until five months ago was a united country has pushed Beijing into a political minefield in defence of its assets.

China's involvement revolves largely around the interests of a single company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), a state-owned giant that has dragged the usually risk-averse Chinese diplomats into one of Africa's most poisonous feuds. Read More