When Kiir Goes to China

With his country in the midst of renewed fighting with Sudan, the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, went on a trip. He did not go on vacation, nor did he go to Washington or Jerusalem to visit South Sudan’s historical best friends. Salva Kiir went to Beijing to meet with China’s President, Hu Jintao. Because of the presence of a significant amount of oil in South Sudan, China is a strategic partner. However, because China also must maintain friendships with allies of Sudan, if not with the Khartoum government itself–also an oil supplier–it is not in a position to help Juba act against Khartoum. In fact, China has been the primary supporter of “Shut up and go to your rooms!” the UN Security Council’s policy on the conflict, basically telling Sudan and South Sudan to ignore their conflict, stop fighting, and let the oil flow. What South Sudan needs is for China to support sanctions on Khartoum, but that is unlikely to happen. Right now, the best that can happen is for China to oppose sanctioning both sides of the conflict and for it to invest in developing the oil resources of South Sudan in the long term.

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