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    China Business
     May 25, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Darfur: Forget genocide, there's oil
By F William Engdahl

To paraphrase the famous quip during the 1992 US presidential debates, when an unknown William Jefferson Clinton told then-president George Herbert Walker Bush, "It's the economy, stupid," the present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.

No. "It's the oil, stupid."

The case of Darfur, a forbidding piece of sun-parched real estate



in the southern part of Sudan, illustrates the new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China's oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of - ironically - dollar diplomacy. With its more than US$1.2 trillion in mainly US dollar reserves at the Peoples' National Bank of China, Beijing is engaging in active petroleum geopolitics. Africa is a major focus, and in Africa, the central region between Sudan and Chad is a priority.

This is defining a major new front in what, since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, is a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing over control of major oil sources. So far Beijing has played its cards a bit more cleverly than Washington. Darfur is a major battleground in this high-stakes contest for oil control.

China oil diplomacy
In recent months, Beijing has embarked on a series of initiatives designed to secure long-term raw materials sources in one of the planet's most endowed regions - Sub-Saharan Africa. No raw material has higher priority in Beijing at present than oil.

Today China draws an estimated 30% of its crude oil from Africa. That explains an extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives which have left Washington furious. China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa's vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington's typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?

In November last year Beijing hosted an extraordinary summit of 40 African heads of state. They literally rolled out the red carpet for the leaders of, among others, Algeria, Nigeria, Mali, Angola, Central African Republic, Zambia and South Africa.

China has just done an oil deal that links it with two of the continent's largest nations, Nigeria and South Africa. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) will lift oil in Nigeria, via a consortium that also includes South African Petroleum Co, giving China access to what could be 175,000 barrels a day by 2008. It's a $2.27 billion deal that gives state-controlled CNOOC a 45% stake in a large off-shore oil field in Nigeria. Previously, Nigeria had been considered in Washington to be an asset of the Anglo-American oil majors, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron.

China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank. In 2006 China committed more than $8 billion to Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique, versus $2.3 billion to all sub-Saharan Africa from the World Bank. Ghana is negotiating a $1.2 billion Chinese electrification loan. Unlike the World Bank, a de facto arm of US foreign economic policy, China shrewdly attaches no strings to its loans.

This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to "secure oil at the sources", something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.

Sudan's oil riches
Beijing's China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is Sudan's largest foreign investor, with some $5 billion in oil field development. Since 1999 China has invested at least $15 billion in Sudan. It owns 50% of an oil refinery near Khartoum with the Sudan government. The oil fields are concentrated in the south, site of a long-simmering civil war, partly financed covertly by the United States to break the south from the Islamic Khartoum-centered north.

CNPC built an oil pipeline from southern Sudan to a new terminal at Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where the oil is loaded on tankers bound for China. Eight percent of China's oil now comes from



southern Sudan. China takes 65-80% of Sudan's 500,000 barrels/day production. Sudan last year was China's fourth-largest foreign oil source.

In 2006 China passed Japan to become the world's second-largest importer of oil after the United States, importing 6.5 million barrels a day of the black gold. With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.

A look at the southern Sudan oil concessions shows that China's CNPC holds rights to bloc 6, which straddles Darfur, near the border with Chad and the Central African Republic. In April 2005, Sudan's government announced that it had found oil in Southern Darfur, which is estimated to be able to pump 500,000 barrels per day when developed. The world press forgot to report that vital fact in discussing the Darfur conflict.

Move to militarize Sudan's oil region
Genocide was the preferred theme, and Washington was the orchestra conductor. Curiously, while all observers acknowledge that Darfur has seen a large human displacement and human misery, with tens of thousands or even as many as 300,000 deaths in the last several years, only Washington and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) close to it use the charged term "genocide" to describe Darfur. If they are able to get popular acceptance of the charge of genocide, it opens the possibility of drastic "regime change" intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - read Washington - in Sudan's sovereign affairs.

The genocide theme is being used, with full-scale Hollywood backing from the likes of stars like George Clooney, to orchestrate the case for de facto NATO occupation of the region. So far the Sudan government has vehemently refused, not surprisingly.

The US government repeatedly uses "genocide" to refer to Darfur. It is the only government to do so. US Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey, head of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said during a USINFO online interview last November 17, "The ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan - a gross violation of human rights - is among the top international issues of concern to the United States." The Bush administration keeps insisting that genocide has been going on in Darfur since 2003, despite the fact that a five-person UN mission led by Italian Judge Antonio Cassese reported in 2004 that genocide had not been committed in Darfur but grave human rights abuses were committed. They called for war crime trials.

Merchants of death
The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia.

By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes. Eritrea hosts and supports the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the umbrella NDA opposition group, and the Eastern Front and Darfur rebels.

There are two rebel groups fighting in Sudan's Darfur region against the Khartoum central government of President Omar al-Bashir - the Justice for Equality Movement and the larger Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).

In February 2003, the SLA launched attacks on Sudan government positions in the Darfur region. SLA secretary-general Minni Arkou Minnawi called for armed struggle, accusing the government of ignoring Darfur. "The objective of the SLA is to 

Continued 1 2 


Beijing bends a little on Darfur (Apr 24, '07)

 
 



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