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Dovish Beijing
China Plays Peacemaker in South Sudan

South Sudan only recently emerged from a civil war as the world’s newest country, now distinct from its northern neighbor Sudan. But it hasn’t been a smooth start for the fledgling state; first, squabbles over pipelines through Sudan shut down the country’s oil production—the single most important source of revenue for the new government—and now South Sudan is teetering on the brink of a civil war.

After three weeks of fighting between rebels and the government, peace talks in nearby Addis Ababa seem to be making halting progress. The talks are being brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a coalition of East African states, but may have been catalyzed by a player much farther away: China.

Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for the “immediate cessation of hostilities and violence.” This forceful declaration wasn’t made out of any love for the South Sudanese state, but rather for the state’s greatest asset: oil. South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil reserves, and China is one of the country’s biggest investors. The recent conflict has cut oil production by nearly 20 percent, which spurred Beijing’s “rare overt political intervention.”

It’s too early to tell whether the peace talks in Ethiopia will be successful, or whether their revival, which came just one day after China’s call for a ceasefire, can be credited to Beijing’s intervention. Still, it’s encouraging to see progress, as the conflict has already claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced more than 200,000 people. It’s also a good sign that China is actively involving itself in the peace effort. Beijing is becoming Africa’s newest broker for peace (and oil), which relieves some of the pressure on the United States to act.

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  • Corlyss

    Okay. I’ll be a booster if China didn’t fuel the war to winnow out who the strong horse was so they could back them. It would be a small sign that China is sliding into that role in the international system which the west has been waiting for it to do.

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