April 17, 2005

Sudan, China, Oil, Genocide

There's also a critical oil angle to Sudan that's worth sketching out. As has been noted often before, one of the reasons the UN Security Council can't agree to slap down crippling oil sanctions on Khartoum is China. China imports roughly 6 percent of its oil from Sudan, which doesn't sound like much, but in an era of tight global supply and surging Chinese demand, 6 percent is a lot. The flipside here is that China gobbles up 60 percent of Sudan's oil exports, putting Beijing in a rather unique position to influence Khartoum. Sadly, though, China hasn't shown any interest in using its leverage for good, although Chinese leaders do care about their international image and are loath to block any anti-genocide actions by the UN. Just don't take away their oil. Not the oil.

Now the U.S. could try to circumvent the UN and put down sanctions against Chinese companies that do business with Khartoum (China National Petroleum Corp., one of the three major Chinese oil companies, has a nearly 40 percent share in Sudan's biggest oil consortium), or blockade Sudan, or deny port access to ships carrying Sudanese oil. But that, of course, risks inflaming tensions with Beijing, which is already convinced that U.S. action in Sudan is nothing more than an excuse to constrain China's growing influence. As an alternate suggestion, the White House could, with a deft touch, reassure China that its interests in Sudan won't be harmed, while convincing Beijing to put increasing pressure on Khartoum to comply with a ceasefire over Darfur. But the key phrase here is "deft touch." Probably best not to leave it to this guy.
-- Brad Plumer 5:35 PM || ||