Chinese President Hu Jintao is currently in Sudan, as part of an 8-nation tour of Africa. Hu’s visit to Africa follows quickly on the heels of November’s China-Africa Summit in Beijing, emphasizing China’s growing role in the region.
China, which purchases 60% of Sudan’s oil exports, has a huge influence in the region and has been widely criticized for blocking the UN Security Council from taking a more active role against the Sudanese government actions in Darfur. For the last several months, it has been unclear whether Sudan will be willing to allow 20,000 UN peacekeepers into Darfur. It is too soon to say what will come of Hu’s visit to Sudan this weekend, but some are optimistic that the Chinese will use their influence to promote an end to the violence and closer cooperation with the UN (largely due to increasing international pressure on China). Hu reportedly urged the Sudanese president to bring more rebels into the peace process (http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070203/NEWS/702030347/-1/State). However, Hu made no reference to Darfur in the statement he released after meeting with Sudan’s president. (http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/26864.html)
Before Sudan, President Hu visited Zambia where, according to the Chinese newspaper The People’s Daily, he announced an aid package that includes some debt relief, increasing the number of zero-tariff Zambian exports to China, and money for a stadium, hospital, and two schools (http://english.people.com.cn/200702/04/eng20070204_347422.html). However, western papers are quick to point out that not all Zambians are appreciative of this aid. According to the Economist, African governments like China because China’s aid money (which Hu has promised to double over the next 3 years) comes without any “political conditions”, i.e. insistence on reducing corruption or improving human rights improvements. But the Economist further points out that anti-Chinese sentiment is rising among the general populace:
“In Zambia, where China has big copper-mining interests, a candidate in last year’s presidential election promised, if elected, to chase out Chinese investors after lethal riots at a Chinese-controlled mine. In Nigeria, Chinese oil workers and engineers have joined Western counterparts in being kidnapped and ransomed by insurgents in the country’s Niger Delta region. And there have been protests in South Africa and Zimbabwe against cheap clothing imported from China.” (http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8649776)
Indeed, Zambia’s chief opposition party was prevented from attending any events associated with President Hu’s visit; the party has made no secret of its displeasure at increasing Chinese involvement in Zambia (http://somalinet.com/news/world/Africa/7201).