China should take lead mediating peaceful settlement of disputes in South Sudan

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/2 0:23:39

Many are greatly interested in the steps China may take to help tackle the famine in war-torn South Sudan. With US President Donald Trump giving a cold shoulder to foreign aid, Bloomberg said in a recent editorial that most of the effort to unmake the country's "man-made" famine "will have to come from China."

The UN's institutions predict that up to 5.5 million people, or almost half the population in South Sudan, will face food security threats by July, with at least $76.8 million in humanitarian assistance urgently needed in 2017. Apparently China is willing to provide aid to help South Sudan cope with the famine, but the issue cannot be fundamentally resolved amid political deadlock.

Conflicts in South Sudan have been ongoing since civil war broke out in December 2013. The turbulent political situation makes it hard to deliver humanitarian aid to villagers affected by the famine. Only a cease-fire talk could set up a foundation to help South Sudan address its problems. China played a role in the peaceful settlement of disputes between South Sudan and Sudan, and now people should consider allowing China to step in to mediate the involved parties or even engage in direct dialogue with opposition leaders.

China doesn't want to interfere in others' internal affairs but is sincere in promoting the peace process in South Sudan. The Xinhua News Agency reported recently that seven peacekeeping officers departed Beijing on a one-year mission in South Sudan.

Increasing investment could help in the fight against famine, and indirectly contribute to political and social stability. Oil-related sectors provide most income for South Sudan and Chinese companies have a large stake in the nation's oil industry. Although political instability has long been the main barrier for South Sudan to attract foreign investment, China should consider increasing its investment in infrastructure and livelihood-related sectors in exchange for oil imports.

Over the past several years, Chinese companies have rolled out a large number of infrastructure projects in Ethiopia, a country bordering South Sudan which has also dealt with famine. Ethiopia currently manages rapid economic growth and its experience is perhaps of some value to South Sudan.

China's support for South Sudan will be a beneficial supplement to assistances from the international community in its battle against famine, and Washington should not stay out. The US' strategy with Sudan and South Sudan adopted by Barack Obama's administration lies behind the current complicated situation in the region, and Washington now should pay the bills for it.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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