Oil Interests Tie China to Sudan Leader Bashir

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"Sudanese President Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide charges, will visit China confident he won't get arrested."

Washington Post with Foreign Policy, Andrew Higgins

Venturing outside Africa on his first official journey since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on genocide charges, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will visit China next week confident of one thing: He won't get arrested.

Oil has for years been the bedrock of China's warm relations with Bashir, who was first indicted by the ICC in 2008, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to murder, rape, torture, ethnic cleansing and other actions in Darfur. On a visit to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in 2009, shortly after the ICC issued an initial warrant for Bashir's arrest, Zhou Yongkang, the Chinese Politburo member responsible for law and order, toured a Chinese-funded refinery and declared himself "an old friend of the Sudanese president." A second arrest warrant for Bashir on three counts of genocide followed a few months later.

Today, however, roughly 75% of Sudan's oil wealth lies in the south of the country, an area that on July 9 will officially become a separate state.

This, said Yin Gang, a researcher at the Institute of West Asia and African Studies, means that China has to balance its previously wholehearted support for Bashir—the only sitting head of state indicted by the ICC—with a "close relationship with the south," a region "very abundant in natural resources." China has sent diplomats to the southern capital of Juba and, as part of its outreach to a secessionist movement it long shunned, recently funded a hospital in the southern town of Bentiu.

The shift is part of a broader trend in Chinese diplomacy as its oft-stated but increasingly frayed doctrine of "noninterference" in the internal affairs of other states clashes with China's determination to protect growing economic interests around the world.

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