News: China, the West and Darfur: Why Do We Still Buy This Shit?

April 8, 2007.

Warning: This piece is opinionated.

1. Darfur According to the Chinese State Media: "Stable and Natural"

Reuters Alertnet reports:
"A Chinese government delegation visited refugee camps and met officials in western Sudan's strife-torn Darfur province to "get acquainted" with the situation there, Chinese state media reported on Sunday.

More than 200,000 people are believed to have died in Darfur and some 2.5 million have been driven from their homes into squalid camps since ethnic tensions erupted into revolt in 2003.

The United States and other Western powers have sought to authorise U.N. peacekeepers to quell violence in Darfur, where government-backed militia have been fighting rebel forces. African Union troops have failed to stop massacres.

China, which buys much of Sudan's oil and wields veto power over U.N. resolutions, is facing rising criticism from Western governments and rights campaigners for having rejected U.N. forces without Khartoum's agreement.

On Saturday the delegation, lead by Beijing government envoy Zhai Juan, went to Abu Shouk Camp, in North Darfur province, and met provincial governor Youssef Kibir, Xinhua news agency said.

"Administrative officials said that life of some 50,000 internally displaced people (at the camp) was stable and natural," Xinhua reported.

Continuing their four-day official visit, the delegation also visited a refugee camp with 14,000 people in Nyala, South Darfur province, and met provincial governor Al-Haj Atta al-Mannan Idris.

Idris said the general situation was "stable and improving", but "sporadic fighting" had occurred between rebel factions and tribes in the recent period, Xinhua added.

Last week Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan offered visiting Sudanese Joint Chief of Staff, Haj Ahmed El Gaili, stronger military cooperation while also urging that Sudan consider a peace proposal put forward by the now retired U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

2. Sudan and China: an "OW"-relationship: "Oil out, Weapons in."
(Also called a "win-win relationship"...)

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, "China takes 64 percent of Sudan's oil exports". The same report states that "China has sold the Islamic government in Khartoum weapons and $100 million worth of Shenyang fighter planes, including twelve supersonic F-7 jets. Experts say any military air presence exercised by the government—including the helicopter gunships reportedly used to terrorize civilians in Darfur—comes from China."

China is one of Sudan's major sources of weapons, says a
BBC report.

3. So, we in the West, get good scores on this one?

Nah, don't think so.. The media reports cited above might be allied to the West and Western politics, and are all to happy to report China's debatable interest in oil import from and weapons export to Sudan. Because... well, because it is China who gets the oil and the business, and not the West... So let's relativate it a bit:

When last year, the UN Security Council is debated a US draft resolution on the Sudan crisis, based on colliding views whether a genocide is or is not happening in Darfur, the issue of Sudan's oil is became a key factor. If an oil export embargo was approved, China and India would have lost their influence over Sudan's vast oil reserves and a Khartoum regime change would open up these resources to the West. The US is in favour of sanctions (hey I wonder why!), China is against (surprise!).
The population of Darfur is presently, as the UN puts it, suffering from "the world's worst humanitarian crisis." It is well documented that the Khartoum government bares much of the responsibility for this suffering, which the UN calls "ethnic cleansing" and the US called "genocide". It is however also well documented that the US through its closest African allies, helped train the SLA and JEM Darfuri rebels that initiated Khartoum's violent reaction. (source:
Afrol News)
[Just something that crossed my mind: Remember the Taliban used to be backed by the US (through the Pakistani Secret Service) in their fight against the Mujaheddin and Russian influences... That one ran out of hand also, did it not?]

According to the "European Coalition on Oil in Sudan",
here is a list of the companies who have oil interests in Sudan. Or in a map format. Quite a few of non-Chinese (European, North-American) companies have interests also!

Still, China is fast emerging as one of the world’s biggest, most secretive and irresponsible arms exporters, according to a
report issued by Amnesty International.

4. So.. What is the conclusion?

So, what should we conclude? The US has Iraq, China has its Darfur for main oil supplies and everyone should be happy? Or should the conclusion be that if we would use more alternative energy sources, the world would be a better place, not only for the environment, but also for the refugees, terrorism and civil unrest? One thing is for sure: the situation in Darfur is "NOT stable and natural" as the Chinese and Sudanese media reported today... Unless if we all accept an ongoing genocide is "stable", because it has been ongoing since so long, and "natural" as... well... as it is in Africa of course... That's where people kill each other naturally, no?

Some excellent video footage by Philip Cox:

A more recent video by BBC reporter Jonah Fisher:

Pictures courtesy WFP


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