China is increasingly investing in African oil producing countries, including Sudan – which has one of the worst human rights records on the continent. Khartoum is accused of backing genocide in its western Darfur province – where government-linked Arab militias continue to attack mostly black civilians and anti-government armed rebels.
China purchases about 60 percent of Sudan’s exports of high-quality “light-sweet crude” oil -- about five percent of China’s oil imports. In addition, 13 of the 15 most important foreign companies in Sudan are Chinese.
Unlike many Western countries, Beijing does not link aid, trade and investment to improvements in good governance, cutting corruption, or improving Khartoum’s human rights record. Human rights activists criticize China for selling weapons to Khartoum – and helping the government to build arms factories that produce weapons for government backed forces in Darfur.
Beijing also uses its clout to weaken the drive toward sanctions against Sudan by the UN Security Council.
Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is the chairperson of the Sudan Social Development Organization, SUDO, a human rights non-governmental organization based in Khartoum. English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked Mudawi what he thinks of China’s decision not to link trade and investment to good governance or human rights. He said, “Do the Chinese themselves respect human rights in their country? You don’t expect from somebody who is not overseeing human rights and good governance his own country to link it to investment when he is working in a foreign country.”
Mudawi says the Sino-Sudanese relationship “… is not for the benefit of the people...only for the benefit of the [Sudanese] government, especially dictatorships.” He says the Chinese will continue to support the government, while the people suffer and the economy declines, “because even the country’s small business sector gets flooded (with Chinese goods)…..And the bad thing about the Chinese, when they come to invest, they bring all the workers – even the sweepers and the guards. The Sudanese can not find job opportunities…. Now even the very low class jobs have been brought from China, and they are not buying Sudanese food, so they are not increasing the market economy, even for vegetables.”
Mudawi says he has expressed his concerns to the Chinese authorities, but they say they are merely doing business [in the manner that has been] approved by the Sudanese government. So he is calling on western countries to rethink their policy on sanctions. He says although they are intended to encourage liberalizing political reforms on governments, they end up hurting innocent – and powerless -- citizens.