Calling on China: The China-Darfur Connection

Roberta Cohen
Roberta Cohen Former Brookings Expert, Co-Chair Emeritus - Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

August 5, 2004

The United States should press France to act on Darfur as a July 25 editorial advocated, but it also should seek action from China.

China is Sudan’s largest trading partner and the main foreign investor in Sudan’s oil industry. China National Petroleum Corp. has a 40 percent share in the international consortium extracting oil in Sudan, and it is building refineries and pipelines, enabling Sudan to benefit from oil export revenue since 1999.

Although most Western oil companies have withdrawn from Sudan under pressure from human rights organizations, Chinese companies have turned a blind eye to the brutal way in which Sudan forced 200,000 to 300,000 of its citizens from oil-rich lands without compensation. Nor have these companies shown concern that Sudan uses oil revenue to purchase arms for its wars against its black African population.

As a member of the U.N. Security Council, China should be called upon to dispatch its foreign minister to Darfur to join international expressions of alarm at the unfolding genocide. It also should consider reducing its oil purchases from Sudan, should the Security Council decide upon sanctions.

Were China to use even a small part of its leverage to call Sudan to account, it would go a long way toward saving lives in Sudan.