China's economic and development involvement in many African countries has been going on for decades - stepped up in recent years due to their overflowing current accounts (due in large part to the USA and Europe buying Chinese made stuff). I've eluded to Howard French's book on China in Africa previously, and would highly recommend a read of this book to familiarize with one person's take on the extent of Chinese presence in several, not all of course, African countries. (If you can stomach his blatant prejudice descriptions of people...) I remember a course I took a decade ago at the State Department that suggested there were 30+ economic zones in different African cities - think Chinatowns. The course was taught by Deborah Brautigam - you can read her extensive scholarship on the subject, as I recall she was unabashedly pro-China's presence and involvement in African development, citing a case of a hair dryer emergency in Nigeria, but I wont get into specifics. She also keeps an active, and well trafficked, blog called China in Africa: The Real Story, that covers current and related issues from around the continent. Dr. Brautigan has a place of researcher's voice looking at the entire picture, however most people are critics of the involvement. With this deployment, I'd say that China is stepping into an entirely new role and a natural progression of its place in the global arena. The landmark moment of modern China, many have suggested, started with the monumental Three Gorges Dam, which I've referred to in previous blogs on dams.
China's interest in South Sudan? Oil of course. Some speculate that at some point during the Sudan 25 year conflict, China received at least 65% of all petroleum products from Sudan. It has also been suggested that China was supplying weapons in exchange for the petroleum, keeping the actual numbers off of the books, fueling the conflict further. China has made similar bartering deals throughout the African continent - trading oil rights for development projects like roads and buildings (hospitals, schools), as cited in the Council on Foreign Affairs pages. Though China was, as well as Russia, known to supply weapons during the conflict, the link to oil is tenuous. Now, it appears that China has changed direction and would like to help restore peace in South Sudan, and secure their interests, though this is not an abnormal motivation for foreign troop involvement in a war-torn country. South Sudan's establishment as a state has been largely a USA project, though not altogether successful (to say the least). In this way, South Sudan may set a precedent for China and the US, the two present world superpowers, to work together toward responding to international unrest (as opposed to the typically useless UN deployments).
How do you think this will go?