China’s envoy to the strike-torn Sudanese region of Darfur on Thursday accused western media and non-governmental groups of stirring up anti-Chinese feelings among opposition groups in the African country.
China has faced widespread Western criticism that it has not used its oil, arms and business stakes in Sudan to press for an end to deadly havoc in the vast, arid Darfur region.
Last year, the rebel Justice and Equality Movement attacked a Chinese-run oil field in Sudan as part of a campaign to force Chinese oil companies to leave, and has previously demanded China pull its peacekeepers out of Darfur.
China’s Darfur envoy, Liu Guijin, said such groups did not understand what Beijing was trying to do in the region.
“Some important opposition groups have some views on China, but it’s hard to simply call them an anti-Chinese force,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a forum on Darfur in Beijing.
“Because of the western media, and especially the stirring of some non-governmental organizations, China’s role has been distorted in their eyes. Some important opposition groups have been influenced by this,” Liu added.
“But generally speaking, various sides in Darfur welcome China’s positive attitude in getting involved in solving the Darfur issue. At the same time, they see China’s contribution.”
International experts estimate some 200,000 have died and 2.5 million have been forced to flee homes in Darfur since conflict erupted in 2003, when rebels took up arms against the central government. The government has mobilized mainly Arab militias to quell the revolt.
China’s role has come under renewed attention since film director Steven Spielberg quit as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying China had failed to use its sway in Khartoum to seek peace. China is a big investor in Sudan’s oil and its largest weapons supplier. Liu has met opposition groups in Darfur in a bid to find a peaceful solution.
“I think our contribution has been positive, constructive and seen by everybody. Of course this is not a problem that China can solve by its hard work alone. It needs the hard work of the international community, including China,” he said.
Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun added that China was perhaps not being forceful enough in getting its message about its role in Darfur across to the outside world.
“People who are dissatisfied probably don’t really understand what China has done. We have not said enough. We should say more,” he said.
More from Reuters:
China has made significant changes to its policies in Sudan within the past year and a half, appointing longtime diplomat Liu as a special envoy to the region and sending 140 engineers to help prepare for the arrival of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers. The efforts have earned kudos from the United States.
While China’s ties to the Khartoum regime have long drawn scrutiny, they have taken on additional sensitivity amid a campaign to spur Chinese leaders into action by threatening to tarnish the image of the Beijing Olympics.
“We have done as much as we can do,” Zhai [Ed: Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun] said. “China remains committed to resolving the Darfur issue and has made unremitting efforts.” […] “The armed rebel groups and government forces have exchanged fire constantly, which frustrates the security and humanitarian situation of the region,” he said. […] Zhai reiterated Beijing’s stance that sanctions on the Sudanese government would be counterproductive to resolving the Darfur issue. Zhai said China has worked tirelessly to bring all sides in the conflict toward a negotiated solution, while also spending tens of millions of dollars on water and power projects in Darfur.
For some background on the latest NGO activities regarding China’s role in Darfur, see this previous CDT post. The Center for Strategic and International Studies also recently published on iTunes a conversation with Liu Guijin, which provides some interesting information about his role as China’s special representative on African affairs.