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Africa ‘s New Hegemon

ICC NOTE: China unapologetically arms Khartoum, who has currently murdered 500,000 people in Darfur and is dragging its feet in implementing the CPA with the Christian South. International pressure is substantially lessened when a ruthless regime is strongly backed by a emerging superpower like China.

by James Kirchick

03/05/2007 China , Sudan For the full story…(Weekly Standard) Hu Jintao, president of China , has just completed an eight-nation tour of Africa–a visit that comes on the heels of a meeting in Beijing attended by some 40 African heads of state. Both the recent visit and the Beijing summit on China-Africa cooperation in November reflect China ‘s determination to establish itself as the benevolent, non-Western continental hegemon, concerned about the plight of historically impoverished and exploited African lands. Through patient diplomatic, military, and especially economic overtures, a resource-hungry China with an eye on Africa ‘s oil has been extending its reach across the continent.

With all of the money China throws at Africa for infrastructure and general economic aid, its more modest military backing for African dictators is the least-noticed aspect of its involvement in the continent. Yet it is also the most unsettling, considering where this assistance has been directed.

China was an early supporter of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU) during the struggle against white rule in what was still Rhodesia in the 1970s. Indeed, China helped fuel something of an intra-revolutionary proxy war between ZANU and the Russian-backed Zimbabwean African People’s Union (ZAPU). Since Mugabe took control of the country in 1980, China –along with, to its shame, democratic South Africa –has been his leading military supplier.

The Chinese have exacerbated at every turn what is now the gravest military and humanitarian crisis in Africa, the four-year slaughter in Darfur . At the Beijing summit, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir thanked the Chinese government for blocking a U.S.-sponsored resolution in the United Nations Security Council that called for an international peacekeeping force to be deployed in Darfur, where Khartoum has abetted a genocide that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives. And that’s not all al-Bashir has to be grateful for: His country’s economy is expected to grow by a whopping 13 percent this year thanks in no small part to Chinese trade and infrastructure assistance. “Unless the international community–in particular China , host of the 2008 Olympics–finds the will to confront Khartoum over its intransigence, a savage genocide by attrition will continue indefinitely,” Eric Reeves, an American Darfur expert, recently told Reuters.

China also supplies arms to Khartoum in violation of the letter of a U.N. arms embargo and the spirit of countless U.N. resolutions calling on international actors to refrain from inflaming the crisis. The Chinese are unapologetic: In January the Chinese assistant foreign minister said, “With Sudan , we have cooperation in many aspects, including military cooperation. In this, we have nothing to hide.”

When Hu visited al-Bashir in Khartoum , all he had to offer the genocidal leader on the subject of Darfur was a polite request that the Sudanese president play a more “constructive role in realizing peace.” Just days earlier, a Sudanese government official had accused the United States of “dismantling the Sudanese government from within” and trying to spur “international pressure on Khartoum through human rights institutions and by bringing into the country elements opposed to the government.” As long as the Sudanese keep their oil spigots open, they will continue to reap Chinese rewards: During his visit, Hu bestowed on al-Bashir a $13 million interest-free loan to construct a new presidential palace and cancelled $70 million in debt. In return, China receives 60 percent of Sudan ‘s oil output and is the country’s largest foreign investor.