05 January 2011

China SignPost™ (洞察中国) #16–Southern Sudan Referendum: Potential security problems for China

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Southern Sudan Referendum: Potential security problems for China,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 16 (5 January 2011).

Key Points

• The independence referendum in Southern Sudan scheduled for 9 January 2011 is likely to test China’s non-interference policy.

• China increasingly faces: 1) assumptions by the global community that it will behave as a global stakeholder that engages with humanitarian and security matters beyond those of immediate national interest, and 2) nationalistic pressure from its own citizens who think that economic assets and PRC expatriate communities in volatile areas should be more robustly protected.

• If Southern Sudan gains independence, there is threat of renewed North-South fighting, as well as internecine conflict in the South. The vote may also inspire separatists in Angola’s oil-rich Cabinda province, fomenting instability in another African country where China has significant economic interests and a large worker presence.

Sudan is a case study because China has major commercial interests and a large expat worker presence in the country and will face tough choices regarding its “non-interference policy” if renewed civil war erupts between the North and South in the wake of a pro-independence vote by the South, which accounts for around 80% of Sudan’s roughly 490,000 bpd of oil production. …