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LIDC Expert Highlights China-Sudan Oil Links on BBC’s Panorama

A LIDC member and expert on Asian and African affairs has reiterated

China’s interests in Sudan’s oil during an appearance on the BBC’s Panorama programme. Dan Large, Research Director of the Africa-Asia Centre (a new research collaboration between the Royal African Society and the School of Oriental and African Studies), appeared on the television documentary which accused the Chinese of breaking an arms embargo and fuelling the war in Darfur.


Sudanese Oil

He emphasised the importance of China’s involvement in Sudan’s oil production during China’s Secret War broadcast on 14 July. Large told Panorama: "China is the most significant foreign oil partner in Sudan's oil industry. Today Sudan does supply roughly seven per cent of China's total oil imports. It also has a majority share in Block Six, which is an oil block that extends into southern Darfur."


Sudan has five billion barrels of known oil reserves and Panorama reporter Hilary Anderson also referred to the role of oil in maintaining the close relationship between China and Sudan. She added: "Most of Sudan's oil goes to China. China has a cosy relationship with a government accused of genocide and the reason is oil. China has a great thirst for oil."


The War in Darfur

The programme revealed evidence that China had broken the 2005 UN arms embargo by supplying Sudan with Dong Feng army lorries and training pilots to fly the Chinese A5 jets used in Darfur. About 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since 2003 in Darfur due to fighting between the Sudanese government, the government-backed Janjaweed militias and the rebels. The US government has described the Sudanese government’s campaign in Darfur as "genocide". On the same day as the Panorama broadcast the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accused Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.


China in the Spotlight: Beijing 2008

China’s role in matters including human rights and commerce across the globe, from Tibet to Africa, has come under intense scrutiny in the run-up to the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing. China’s economy has been growing rapidly at around nine per cent a year during the last three decades. This has had widespread implications for China and the world. China is investing heavily in Africa to source fuel and raw materials from the continent.


Speaking after the Panorama programme, Large said the role of China has a tendency to polarise opinions and that its expanding presence across the African continent was more complex than often presented.


Large said: "Sudan remains the most high-profile case of Chinese engagement in Africa today. Led by the China National Petroleum Corporation, Chinese oil companies, together with those from Malaysia and later India, led the development of Sudan’s oil sector during the war in the 1990s. Asian oil companies now dominate the sector, accounting for over 90 per cent of production, and Sudan’s foreign economic relations have notably shifted toward Asia.
"The Africa-Asia Centre was established to conduct in-depth research into the expanding relations between Africa, China and other countries such as India and Japan with a particular interest in questions of development. While currently prominent, the subject is marked by knowledge gaps in a number of key areas. The emerging Asian dynamic has become ever more important and consequential in Africa, underlining the need for academically rigorous and policy-relevant research."
Article by Guy Collender, Communications Officer at LIDC
Further Reading

Alden, C., Large, D. and De Oliveira, R.S. (2008) China Returns to Africa, London, C. Hurst & Co.