Chinese projects in Sudan face uncertainty due to local tensions
Published: Oct 26, 2021 08:37 PM
Sudanese people take the streets after the 'military coup' attempt in Khartoum, Sudan on October 25, 2021. Photo: CFP

Sudanese people take the streets after the 'military coup' attempt in Khartoum, Sudan on October 25, 2021. Photo: CFP

Chinese companies operating in Sudan are facing a sudden and unexpected suspension of work and production, and they've summoned their workers to their base offices in response to the escalating situation in the country Monday.

Tension and risks of uncertainty linger, especially after the cut-offs of internet service and mobile networks, as well as a reported backlog of containers at Port Sudan. Analysts said that the potential disruption to Chinese businesses could be big.

PowerChina, a leading player in global electricity generation, has 31 workers in the country and all are safe, but in order to deal with the fluid situation, the company established an emergency response team to reassure the workers, an employee with the investment relations department told the Global Times Tuesday.

The company has two projects related to hydropower and water supply in Sudan. One has been completed, while the other is still under construction -- but work is now halted.

A manager at a Chinese company told Phoenix TV Monday that he had problems contacting the local Chinese community and embassy due to the internet and mobile service suspension. Amid the political instability, he has stockpiled enough items to live off for about two weeks.

The Sudanese military detained key officials of the transitional government, significantly increasing the risk of political unrest in the country.

Internet service and mobile phone networks have also been interrupted, and bridges were closed by the military, Sudan's Ministry of Information and Communications said Monday.

The information department of the Sudan transitional government said Monday that soldiers detained the Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and several ministers and non-military members of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council.

After the detention, the Chinese Embassy issued a safety alert requesting that all Chinese-funded institutions in the country should immediately activate contingency plans, gather their personnel and temporarily suspend production, the embassy said in an exclusive statement to the Global Times Monday.

The embassy also prepared necessary emergency supplies as part of the contingency measures.

China has a wide range of cooperative projects in Sudan, ranging from energy and mining to infrastructure, agriculture and transport.

Over recent decades, cooperation between the two sides in the fields of petroleum, infrastructure, agriculture and mining have been progressing. The Sudan Petroleum Project is one of China National Petroleum Corp's largest overseas projects and a major upstream and downstream integrated project, media reports said.

However, the sudden change of the situation may affect Chinese businesses there, and the political uncertainty might persist, depending largely on whether the US cuts off aid, Zeng Aiping, research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Tuesday.

The Biden administration announced Monday that the US will suspend the provision of $700 million in emergency economic assistance to Sudan.

Meanwhile, hundreds of trucks packed with goods stand idle in Port Sudan, and dozens of container ships lie anchored in seas, France24 reported on October 20. 

"If the blockade continues, it will definitely affect oil exports to China," Zeng said.

Port Sudan, the major port of Sudan and the region, has 21 berths and a 100,000-ton oil terminal, and the country supplied about 5 percent of China's imported oil, media reports said.

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