A report from a Geneva-based research group says China appears more willing to pressure Sudan over its policy in the troubled Darfur region and that the 2008 Beijing Olympics may be a factor. Yet the group cautions that rights groups should not declare victory yet. For VOA, Nick Wadhams has more from Nairobi.
The passage late last month of a U.N. Security Council resolution to send 26,000 United Nations and African Union peacekeepers to Darfur was seen as a sign that China was at last exerting its influence to get Khartoum to allow foreign troops.
Rights groups credited their "Genocide Olympics Campaign" with this victory and China's vote to approve the U.N. force. The campaign has suggested that the 2008 Beijing Olympics and China's image would be tainted because of China's support for Sudan.
But the author of the Small Arms Survey report, Daniel Large, argues that international advocates should not be quick to claim credit. China could just as easily change course once the Olympics are over.
"While Hollywood was quick to claim credit for China's apparent change of tack on Darfur, I think we should remember that signs of change were visible before the so-called 'Genocide Olympics Campaign' started in earnest," said Large. "So I think we should set these issues in context and we should be wary of having a short time frame in praising progress or success or failure."
China sells arms to Sudan and is heavily invested in its oil industry. As a result, Beijing has been seen as key in pressuring Khartoum to stop the slaughter in Darfur, where some 200,000 people have died in four years of fighting.
Sudan and China have been allies since the 1990s, and China had previously blocked international efforts to punish the Sudanese government over Darfur. The Small Arms Survey's report says China may be taking a more pragmatic approach now.
Large points out that Sudan is only one part of China's move to invest more heavily - both politically and economically - across the African continent.
And he says China's desire to play a bigger role on the global stage may also be a factor.
"When it's conducting its diplomacy we should remember that this is not a question entirely of economic interest or oil, China's political difference, politically with America matters and its economic interest in Sudan have not been the sole consideration behind its diplomacy," noted Large.
The Small Arms Survey concludes that international pressure on China may be a promising avenue to ease the continuing crisis in Darfur. Yet its policy is still officially one of non-interference.