China’s has a much celebrated policy of non-interference in the politics of the countries it invests in. North Korea is the prime example of the Asian Giant’s hands-off from internal politics, while Angola and Zimbabwe are the major African highlights. However, the country’s policy has come off stuck in South Sudan where its business interests have forced it to interfere in the new nation’s political crisis.
Shortly after the success of its communist revolution, China enumerated its five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. The most bandied of all was the principle of non-interference. It gave the governments of 3rd world countries, which China sought to reach out to, the confidence that the Asian superpower would not pokenose on internal sociopolitical affairs as did the West with its campaign of Human Rights and Democracy. For China it removed the worries of “whether to or not to” associating with unpopular regimes. The policy has been very good for chinese business, particularly in Africa where it has made the country the continent’s largest business partner.
But successful as the non-interference policy has been for China, analysts have long predicted that it would soon be put to a real test. Just as it has now happened in South Sudan. Today, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his country was “gravely concerned” about the conflict in the country that gained its independence four years ago. The fighting, between government and rebel forces, has shattered the hopes of the South’s development after decades of struggle to leave the north, and wrecked profits for countries who had rushed to take advantage of the abundant resources. China is a major investor in the South’s oil industry. There are reportedly over 100 Chinese enterprises currently operating in the country with at least $10 billion worth of deals with the South Sudanese government.
It is no surprise then that China, against its normal practice, is playing a very active diplomatic role in South Sudan. In 2014 the country sent peacekeepers as part of a U.N. mission to protect civilians. However, some analysts have argued that the main focus of the chinese was its oil assets. “They basically said that they wanted to be where the oil is,” the International Business Times cited Foreign Policy’s quote of one official. The IBT added that “the publication also noted that eventually China agreed to send people into regions where it didn’t have oil interests.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in its statement today, sounded its humanitarian concerns; “We call on the parties in South Sudan to use the fundamental and long-term interests of the people of South Sudan as a starting point, immediately stop military conflict to ensure the safety of South Sudan’s foreign workers and personnel working for the U.N., humanitarian and aid agencies.” But it could not also hide its business worries, as it pleaded with both sides of the conflict to protect the oilfields as it is “an important resource for the country’s development.”
China’s inability to stay of South Sudan’s political affairs ropes it in with Western countries who have long intervened in African politics to secure their economic interests. The Asian giant has already been accused of neo colonialism in Africa similar to that of Europe and North America. Some have titled its dealings in Africa as “a second scramble for Africa.” A 2007 article in UK tabloid the Telegraph reads; “With every day that passes, China’s economic tentacles extend deeper into Africa. While Europe sought direct political control, China is acquiring a vast and informal economic empire.” Now, with South Sudan, China seems to be going one further by seeking European-style political control.