The attack on Chinese oil workers and interests in Sudan comes as many international diplomats are hoping that China will influence its business partner, Sudan, to come to terms with rebel groups and end the six-year war in Darfur. While it is not clear who carried out the killings, the very proximity of Kordofan to both Darfur and to South Sudan – which had its own 21-year civil war against Sudan – is a sign that Sudan’s conflicts may widen and converge.
“This is very bad news,” says Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert at Harvard University. “The Chinese feel unfairly targeted by world opinion, and reasonably so, because they actually don’t have as much influence in Sudan as some people think. They can’t dictate what the Sudan government does.”
He says China might decided the risks are too great to continue oil operations in Sudan. “On the other hand … they need oil, and they are not as sensitive to losing people as the Americans or the British would be,” since they don’t have an open news media to criticize Chinese policy in Sudan.