Peace-building in South Sudan tests China’s influence

By Chen Chenchen Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-24 0:33:02

China's 12th peacekeeping engineering detachment to South Sudan was formally established Wednesday by the Ji'nan Military Area Command. These new peacekeepers will be sent to the crisis-ridden African country in mid-March.

Doubts over China's "non-interference" principle continue, although the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has clearly stated that this principle is firmly upheld and that China is committed to playing a constructive role in boosting world peace and development.

To domestic analysts, Beijing's latest mediation being in the limelight is good news anyway. In fact, Beijing has to make such a choice. The era in which China could stay silent and exempt itself from crises on remote continents has gone. While economic fabrics in different regions interweave with each other at an unprecedented level, ensuring stability and security becomes a global common role. Among Chinese observers, there is even an argument that if there is one mediator that can help to achieve South Sudan's internal reconciliation, it has to be China.

China is the largest foreign stakeholder in South Sudan, with about 100 large-scale enterprises vigorously working in sectors like oil, architecture, roads, bridges, and telecommunications. To the Chinese, the unrest in South Sudan is reminiscent of Libya in 2011. The blitz of the Libyan evacuation of Chinese citizens was not able to outshine the plight and huge losses facing Chinese enterprises in Libya. The lesson was clear: Besides crisis management by Chinese companies, the government has to be involved more in global security issues so as to protect its overseas citizens and assets.

While Beijing does not seek to copy the US style of intervention, which has led to its predicament in recent years, it still has to carefully craft its policy adjustment of greater engagement with other regions.

At the moment, many regional  and world players are getting involved in South Sudan. While East Africa's regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, seeks to launch formal negotiations between South Sudan's warring parties, Uganda has deployed troops to help restore peace in the world's youngest country.

The regional dynamics are apparently complicated for the Chinese: Profound cleavages among South Sudan's ethnic groups, conflicts between central and local authorities, as well as a lack of collaboration among regional stakeholders. While urging a cease-fire remains a common goal and China has to have the courage to play a positive role in this process, it also has to carefully figure out the regional situation and pursue a cautious approach.


Posted in: Observer

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