It’s no secret that genocide is an ongoing reality for people of
the Darfur region of Sudan. And it’s no secret that the government
in Khartoum condones and even supports this genocide. The
international community — led by the Bush administration — has
collectively shaken its head at the problem, but thus far proved
unable to stop the killings. What could account for the prolonged
international inertia? Increasingly, the answer can be found in
China and its deepening roots in the African continent.
On the basis of shared Cold War ideology, China first began to
court several African nations back in the 1960s. And while much of
that ideology has melted away in the past 40 years, China’s
economic presence in Africa is more pronounced than ever.
in Pambazuka News, Stephen Marks points out that
Chinese-African trade is, by some estimates, nearing the $40
billion a year mark. For an economically burgeoning China, Africa
offers a virtually untapped wealth of natural resources and raw
materials — not to mention an expanded global supply chain and new
foreign markets. Additionally, Marks notes, unlike Western powers,
China has been less encumbered with the political fallout from
trading with corrupt regimes and human rights violators.
As economic self-interest at any cost becomes the Chinese
standard in African trade, some analysts, Marks included, warn
that, far from its ‘ideological’ roots, China’s relationship with
many African countries now leans toward classical imperialism. But
in a continent still reeling from the effects of Western
imperialism, African governments are largely embracing China’s
trade overtures. The reason this trend occurs is as simple as the
genocide in Darfur is obvious: In exchange for Africa’s markets and
resources, China provides infrastructure and, more enticingly,
James Forsyth writes in The New Republic Online (free
registration required) that for Sudan, China’s ‘most enthusiastic
client’ and a significant oil supplier, the eastern power not only
manufactures the arms that find their way into the hands of
government-backed militiamen, it also runs political interference
whenever the United States or the UN Security Council probes into
the Darfur genocide.
Forsyth, attempting to appeal to ‘foreign-policy realists,’
responds to this impasse with the contention that beyond the
standing moral imperative posed by Darfur, the Bush administration
should rally the world to intervene based on national interest.
‘The United States must push harder … for a meaningful military
response to Darfur,’ Forsyth argues, ‘not just to save the lives of
innocents, to atone for sitting on its hands during the Rwandan
genocide, and to live up to its ideals, but also to thwart the rise
of its strategic competitor in Africa — an ascendance that could
undermine US interests on the continent.’
Go there >>
in Africa: The New Imperialism?
Go there, too >>
Realism and Darfur: Area of Interest
Related Links from the Utne
Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor
Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne