The president of newly independent South Sudan is lobbying China for investment in his country’s oil industry and diplomatic support in an escalating conflict with Sudan that's threatening to become an all-out war.
Sudan and South Sudan, which broke away from its neighbor and became independent last year, have been unable to resolve disputes over sharing oil revenue and determining a border. Talks broke down this month, and a Sudanese military bombing in South Sudan killed at least two people Monday.
China's energy needs make it deeply vested in the future of the two Sudans, and Beijing is uniquely positioned to exert influence in the conflict given its deep trade ties to the resource-rich south and decades-long diplomatic ties with Sudan's government in the north.
Both have tried to win Beijing's favor, but China has been careful to cultivate ties with each nation. Like others in the international community, China has repeatedly urged the two sides to return to negotiations.
President Salva Kiir is making his first visit to China since taking office. He opens a new embassy and meets Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday, and sees Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday.
The Financial Times on Sunday quoted South Sudan's lead negotiator Pagan Amum as saying Kiir would be seeking Chinese financing for a long-planned oil pipeline that would bypass Sudan. The report said Beijing has already pledged technical assistance for the pipeline, which would allow land-locked South Sudan an alternative export route for its large oil reserves.
Jiang Hengkun, a professor with the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, said that if the pipeline happens, China would contribute heavily, from labour to loans.
"China will surely participate in the construction," Jiang said. "Chinese construction companies or oil companies can join the bidding for the project, while the Chinese government may provide development aids or loans to South Sudan government." Jiang said the project was likely to take three to four years, or longer.