16 January 2015

China To Deploy Troops to South Sudan - First Time Involvement on the Continent

China is deploying peacekeeping troops to South Sudan, as reported by Reuters today (see below). This was reported back in September by Reuters and then picked up by the Wall Street Journal as an event happening, and then December as something upcoming by the New York Times, but I missed it (see article from the NY Times December blog below the Reuters article). This is the first deployment of troops by China to the African continent, so this is a significant event. Judging from the wealth of speculative reporting and false announcements, China is not being very clear about when, what type, and how many troops are deploying. Given what I know about China and information, from fellow researchers who have worked there, this is normal.

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?

Chinese peacekeepers start deployment in South Sudan

JUBA Fri Jan 16, 2015 10:07am EST

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(Reuters) - An advanced party of Chinese peacekeepers is in South Sudan and the rest of the 700-strong contingent is due to arrive by early April, a U.N. official said on Friday, part of a surge in a U.N. mission to protect civilians in a nation mired in conflict.
Fighting in the oil-producing nation, which is one of the world's poorest, has killed more than 10,000 people, driven more than a million from their homes and left many without enough food.
"We had an advanced party of 18 members of the incoming battalion arrive on Jan. 9 to begin preparations for delivery of contingent-owned equipment," said Brian Kelly, an spokesman for the U.N. mission in South Sudan UNMISS.
He said some of the equipment had already landed in Entebbe, in neighboring Uganda.
"Overall deployment of the 700-stong Chinese infantry battalion and its equipment will take more than two months to complete," he said, adding 180 troops would be in Juba by the end of February with 520 more arriving by late March or early April.
China is a major investor in South Sudan's oil industry.
Fighting erupted in December 2013 in South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan in 2011, after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and political rival, Riek Machar.
The conflict has reopened deep tensions among ethnic groups, pitting Kiir's Dinka against Machar's Nuer.
Some of the worst fighting in the nation of 11 million people has been in Jonglei state and the two oil producing states of Unity and Upper Nile.
Linda Etim, USAID deputy assistant administrator for affairs, said on Friday nearly half of the population in those three areas was projected to face a food security emergency.
"The malnutrition situation is classified as critical or very critical in more than half of the country," she said.
Although the warring parties have agreed to ceasefires -- the first deal reached in January 2014, a month after fighting erupted -- the deals have been regularly flouted. Fighting has picked up after a lull during rains that ended late last year.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the peacekeepers were "in the process of gradually being deployed," without giving more detail.

(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Nairobi and Michael Martina in Beijing; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

China to Send Its First Infantry Troops to U.N. Mission in South Sudan

Photo
Civilians in a United Nations-run camp for internally displaced persons in Juba, South Sudan. China plans to contribute its first infantry troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan next month.Credit Nichole Sobecki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
China’s first infantry contribution to a United Nations peacekeeping force will depart for South Sudan in January, the state news media has reported.
The move is widely seen as a sign of greater Chinese commitment to United Nations peacekeeping efforts and of Beijing’s wishes to step up protection of its commercial interests in the country.
The Chinese battalion includes 121 officers and 579 enlisted soldiers, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Monday. A first contingent is scheduled to arrive in South Sudan in January, and the rest will follow in March. The battalion will be equipped with drones, antitank missiles and other weapons “completely for self-defense purposes,” Xinhua quoted the unit’s commander, Wang Zhen, as saying.
“The 700 Chinese troops will be based in the national capital of Juba” and the surrounding state of Central Equatoria, Joseph Contreras, a spokesman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, said in emailed comments on Monday.
South Sudan remains one of the world’s most troubled regions as fighting between the forces of President Salva Kiir and the former vice president, Riek Machar, has killed and displaced thousands of people, as well as threatened the country’s economic lifeline, oil.
Since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, diplomats have pointed to increasingly active Chinese diplomacy to broker a cease-fire. China’s Ministry of National Defense first confirmed the planned deployment of the battalion in September. It will reinforce the 10,262 military peacekeepers currently stationed in South Sudan, who include infantry forces from India, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Of the dozens of countries that have contributed peacekeeping forces, however, China is the only one with major commercial interests at stake.
The state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s largest oil and gas producer, has invested billions of dollars since the 1990s in what are now South Sudanese oil fields. Before fighting disrupted production, those oil fields provided a rapidly developing China with about 5 percent of its imported oil.
China’s concern regarding South Sudan is not energy security per se, “but rather a corporate investment from a major Chinese national oil company in jeopardy,” Luke Patey, the author of “The New Kings of Crude: China, India and the Global Struggle for Oil in Sudan and South Sudan,” said in an interview.
“Since the conflict shut down half of its production, now roughly at 160,000 barrels per day, China only receives 1 percent of its oil imports from South Sudan,” he said.
The country’s main oil fields, and Chinese investments, are concentrated in states north of Central Equatoria, where the battalion is expected to be deployed. However, United Nations peacekeeping forces in South Sudan do now have a responsibility to protect employees of oil fields, after lobbying from China with support from other countries, the magazine Foreign Policy reportedlast summer. China also initially wanted peacekeepers to be deployed in the country’s northern states, according to the magazine.
In May, the United Nations Security Council changed the mandate of its peacekeeping mission from a focus on nation-building to the protection of civilians and ending civil strife. The new mandate, which has since been extended, included the first “mention of oil industry workers as civilians who might warrant protection” by the force, Mr. Contreras said.
China’s deployment of this battalion “runs parallel with its interest in ensuring billions of its oil investments in South Sudan stay out of harm’s way,” Mr. Patey, the author, said, adding that the South Sudanese government also wants United Nations peacekeepers to protect the country’s most vital economic assets.
On Monday, C.N.P.C. announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining to increase oil production in three oil exploration and production blocks, a move that “further deepens China-South Sudan oil cooperation,” the company said.
But Mr. Patey said the agreement was “a long-term goal,” rather than a concrete plan. It would require “large amounts of investment which undoubtedly will not start to flow into South Sudan until the civil war comes to an end,” he said.
China has contributed personnel for United Nations peacekeeping forces since the 1990s, including sending engineering, security and medical personnel to South Sudan. This will be the first time it has sent an infantry battalion, a step its foreign minister has suggested is in line with China’s expanding participation in peacekeeping.
In a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September, Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke of a greater role for China.
In addition to its first deployment of an infantry battalion, China is “considering” making helicopters and, for the first time, air force personnel available, Mr. Wang said.