China’s New Diplomacy Faces Test on Hu’s Africa Visit

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrahndt and Andrew Small write in the International Herald Tribune about a crucial shift in China’s diplomacy, as seen in their recent actions toward Sudan and North Korea:

China’s foreign policy transformation has been a while in the making. Its long-standing protection of the Sudanese regime was already unraveling during the China-Africa summit meeting in Beijing in early November when Hu raised the issue with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. China’s ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, then made crucial interventions at the November meeting in Addis Ababa to secure Sudan’s agreement, albeit temporary, to replace the African Union contingent with a larger hybrid AU-UN force. These moves earned the praise of the American special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, who recently affirmed that Washington and Beijing were largely working in concert on Darfur.

Hu’s visit to Africa reinforces the impression that China’s forceful stance following the North Korean missile and nuclear tests last year was more than a tactical shift. By supporting the imposition of UN-endorsed sanctions, and stridently denouncing North Korea’s behavior, China finally indicated that even its closest friends cannot expect quiescence if they cross certain lines. [Full text]

In the Asia Times, Kent Ewing also writes about the diplomatic test Hu will face on his visit to Sudan, the first by a Chinese head of state in the 48 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries:

But Hu faces a substantial diplomatic challenge when he lands in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Friday. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wants the president to use his rising influence to help bring peace to Sudan’s western Darfur region. More than half of Sudan’s oil exports go to China, and Beijing is the country’s leading arms supplier.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.5 million displaced during the four-year conflict between local rebels and government-sanctioned militia in Darfur. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has thus far opposed efforts to force the government of President Omar al-Bashir to accept a UN peacekeeping force. [Full text]

The DPA also has a related report here. Human Rights Watch published a letter to President Hu in which the group outlined several steps China should take to improve the situation in Sudan. Meanwhile, The Sudan Tribune reports that, “Sudan sees Chinese President’s coming visit ‘historic,'” and People’s Daily writes that, “Trade between China and Sudan is at an all time high and the Sudanese, who want even closer ties with China, are annoyed at attempts to drive a wedge between the two countries.”

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